Europe’s new Janus face: Between compassion and solidarity and how fighting for the commons can avoid an anthropological catastrophe.
Over the last three decades, the promise for a better environment and a better life turned from a collective affair into a private affair. When Bush, Blair, Sarkozy, etc. promised better environment, education, housing, and health for all, the real promise was one of enabling everybody to become deeply indebted in order to purchase their future welfare credits. It was a promise which enrolled livelihoods, bodies, and the future labour of whole nations into global financial speculative mechanisms, and turned millions of people across the globe into Indebted Wo/men (Lazzarato 2007), a new bio-political subject whose future depends on the performance of global financial markets. The paper focuses on two movements: the PAH (Barcelona, Spain) and SOSte-to-nero/136 (Thessaloniki, Greece) that questioned this process. The movements instituted radical processes of subjectivisation which took citizens outside the cadre of defining themselves as indebted subjects whose sole option is to sell their commons to global speculators. This radical gesture opens up a politics against a pending ‘anthropological catastrophe’ (Castoriadis 1987), i.e. of establishing the indebted wo/man as the inevitable anthropological category for financial capitalism.
Maria Kaika holds a PhD in Human Geography from Oxford University, and an MA in Architecture from the National Technical University of Athens. She is Professor at the University of Manchester, Honorary Fellow of the Manchester Architecture Research Centre, and co-Editor in Chief of the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. In 2013 she was elected Professor of the City of Vienna, and has taught at the Universities of Oxford (tenured appointment), Paris Est (LATTS), KULeuven, and University of London. Her research focuses on urban political ecology, urban radical imaginaries, cities and crisis, and land financialization. She is author of numerous academic articles and of: City of Flows: Modernity, Nature and the City (2005; Routledge, New York) and (co-editor with N Heynen and E Swyngedouw) of In the Nature of Cities: urban political ecology and the metabolism of urban environments (2006; Routledge, London).