AUTONOMY: A Reading Group

The group will run on four  Tuesdays, 7-9pm, throughout July and early August. Tuesdays 5th July,  12th July and 26th July and 2nd August. 

Venue: The Free Hetherington, 13 University Gardens, Glasgow University, Glasgow.

Autonomy is a concept much discussed, but perhaps less well understood. This may well be due to the relative neglect of autonomist thought in the UK compared to other European countries such as Italy, France and Greece. This reading group aims to make inroads into that neglect by exploring in detail four classic texts from the movement of Italian Autonomist Marxism; a movement widely considered as the most advanced expression of autonomist thought in the 20th century.

The reading group will explore key selections from Mario Tronti, Antonio Negri, Mariarosa Dalla Costa and Sergio Bologna. We introduce a broad sweep of theoretical innovation from 1964 to 1977, covering such key ideas as the mass worker; the refusal of work and the autonomy of the class; the critique of the Keynesian planner-state; feminism, reproduction and the social factory, and class composition as a mode of radical research and transformative activity.

The group is not afraid to be caught learning: our aim is to encourage an open collective learning process for working through some of the fundamental texts of autonomism and autonomia. The group aims to develop deeper critical engagement with some of what we regard as the most important revolutionary writing of the last century. To make the discussion more participatory, reading the texts before each session is encouraged, but this is not mandatory. The group is open to all.


Week 1 Tuesday, 5th, July, 2011, 7.00-9.00pm:

Mario Tronti, The Strategy of Refusal, Italy: Autonomia. Post-political politics. Ed. Sylvere Lotringer and Christian Marazzi, Semiotext,1980,pp. 28-35.
Week 1_Tronti_1965_ Strategy of refusal

Week 2 Tuesday, 12th July, 2011, 7.00-9.00pm:

Toni Negri, Keynes and the Capitalist Theory of the State Post-1929, Revolution Retrieved: Selected Writings on Marx, Keynes & New Social Subjects, 1967-1983. Ed. Ed Emery, London: Red Notes, 1988.
Week 2_Negri_1967_Keynes

Week 3 Tuesday, 26th July, 2011, 7.00-9.00pm:

Mariarosa Dalla Costa and Selma James. The Power of Women and the Subversion of the Community, Bristol: Falling Wall Press, 1972. With an introduction by Selma James (optional).
Week 3_Della Costa & James_ 1972_The power of women

Week 4 Tuesday, 2nd August, 2011, 7.00-9.00pm:

Sergio Bologna, The Tribe of Moles, Italy: Autonomia. Post-political politics. Ed. Sylvere Lotringer and Christian Marazzi
(New York: Semiotext, 1980), 36-61.
Week 4_Bologna_ 1978_Tribe of moles


Sylvere Lotringer and Christian Marazzi, eds. Italy: Autonomia. Post-political politics. Ed. Sylvere Lotringer and Christian Marazzi, New York: Semiotext, 1980.

Harry Cleaver. Introduction, Reading Capital Politically, Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1979, pp.3-66.

Steve Wright, Storming Heaven: Class Composition and Struggle in Italian Autonomist Marxism, Pluto Press, 2002.

The Empty Plan

3:30pm, Saturday 2nd July, Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA), Glasgow.

The Strickland Distribution host a special screening of The Empty Plan (2010) by Anja Kirschner and David Panos. The screening is public and will be followed by an open discussion.

Shifting between documentary, historical reconstruction and melodrama, The Empty Plan interrogates the relationship between theory and practice in the theatre of Bertolt Brecht. The film contrasts scenes from Brecht’s exile in Los Angeles (1941 to 1947) with productions of his 1931 play The Mother in the late Weimar Republic, New Deal America and post-war East Germany, exploring different modes of performance and their relation to changing historical and political circumstances.

The title of the film is taken from Brecht’s Messingkauf Dialogues, an unfinished theoretical work written during his exile, which considers the possibilities of ‘committed art’ and its practical, theoretical and formal limits at a time when revolutionary mass movements had been defeated and theatre was supplanted by Hollywood cinema as the dominant form of popular entertainment.

Through the figures of Brecht, his collaborator Ruth Berlau and his wife, the actress Helene Weigel, the film reflects on conflicting personal, artistic and political ambitions, raising questions about the nature of art and the unrealised dream of its supersession through revolutionary practice.

Funded by Arts Council England through Film London Artists’ Moving Image Network, co-produced with City Projects and supported by Focal Point Gallery, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart and Kunsthall Oslo.

Next victim please or how to be a human being

Next victim please or how to be a human being

Saturday 12th February 2011
CCA, 2pm-4pm


The Interview / Die Bewerbung
(1997, 58min, subtitles: English)

Harun Farocki’s The Interview fixes a wry, critical gaze on interview training courses for the unemployed. The objective is to teach them how to put ‘the soul at work’ (Berardi). Farocki’s typically lucid film gains a crucial insight into the involuted processes through which potential employees make themselves ‘labour-ready’, examining how interview training scenarios teach people how to ‘correctly’ think and feel, and how the subject is disciplined for the realm of work.

“In the summer of 1996, we filmed application training courses in which one learns how to apply for a job. School drop-outs, university graduates, people who have been retained, the long-term unemployed, recovered drug addicts, and mid-level managers – all of them are supposed to learn how to market and sell themselves, a skill to which the term ‘self management’ is applied. The self is perhaps nothing more than a metaphysical hook from which to hand a social identity. It was Kafka who likened being accepted to a job to entering the Kingdom of Heaven; the paths leading to both are completely uncertain. Today one speaks of getting a job with the greatest obsequiousness, but without any grand expectations.” Harun Farocki


The Strickland Distribution will screen Farocki’s The Interview and facilitate a discussion of the film afterwards in relation to labour and welfare. The search for a new social subject in the neo-liberal age has led to a series of new terms to designate labour: ‘affective’, ‘immaterial’, ‘precarious’, ‘cognitive’, ‘non-productive’, ‘creative’, ‘playbour’, ‘the knowledge economy’. In the context of a low-wage economy and the most severe welfare cuts since the post-war consensus, The Strickland Distribution want to open up these categories to critical discussion through a close reading of The Interview.

The Strickland Distribution is an artist-run group supporting the development of innovative and independent research in art-related and non-institutional practices. Art-related includes research forms that directly implement artistic practice as a means of research method. Non-institutional includes forms of grass-roots histories, social enquiries and projects developed outside of academic frameworks and by groups and individuals normally excluded from such environments. The research will be developed through commissioning of new projects, dissemination in publications, exhibitions and events, networking to build links between groups and practitioners internationally, and evaluation through public discussion and peer review. The Strickland Distribution will operate in the public sphere and seek to stimulate and contribute to public education, discourse and debate around the topics and themes addressed through its projects.

free but ticketed, available from CCA Box Office : 0141 352 4900

Comparison via a Third / Harun Farocki
Wednesday 16 February – Thursday 3 March 2011
11:00am – 6:00pm: FREE
Venue: CCA 1 / CCA 2 / CCA 3
Ages: all

More info:

Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA)
350 Sauchiehall Street
Glasgow G2 3JD 


Eliminating Labour: Aesthetic Economy in Harun Farocki – Benedict Seymour, MetaMute

‘The Flexible Personality’, Brian Holmes, 2002.

The Precarious Reader, Mute magazine, Vol 2, 2005.

Proposal for an inquiry in Call Centers – Kolinko
hotlines – call centre | inquiry | communism

Beyond Aspiration: Young People and decent work in the de-industrialised city
Discussion paper, June 2009, Andrew Cumbers, Gesa Helms and Marilyn Keenan

To Banker, from Bankies
Incapacity Benefit: Myth and Realities
Chik Collins, with Janice Dickson & Mary Collins (Clydebank Independent Resource Centre)

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