John Holloway

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John Holloway is a lawyer, sociologist and philosopher, whose work is closely associated with the Zapatista movement in Mexico, his home since 1991. It has also been taken up by some intellectuals associated with the piqueteros in Argentina, the Abahlali baseMjondolo movement in South Africa, and the Anti-Globalization Movement in Europe and North America. He is currently a teacher at the Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences at the Autonomous University of Puebla.

During the 1970s, Holloway was an influential member of the Conference of Socialist Economists, particularly in his support of an approach to the state as a social form constituted ultimately by class struggle between capital and the working class. This approach led him and Sol Piccioto to publish “State and Capital: A Marxist Debate”, an anthology of texts from the German state derivation debate with a critical introduction. This conception of state, social form and class struggle ultimately gave rise to the Open Marxism school of thought, in which Holloway remained a significant participant. This current rejects traditional Marxist ideas of state monopoly capitalism, and affirms the centrality of the class relation between capital and working class as a struggle.

His 2002 book Change the World Without Taking Power has been much debated in Marxist, anarchist and anti-capitalist circles, and contends that the possibility of revolution resides not in the seizure of state apparatuses, but in day-to-day acts of abject refusal of capitalist society—a so-called anti-power, or ‘the scream’, as he puts it. Holloway’s thesis has been analysed by thinkers like Tariq Ali and Slavoj Žižek. Critics and supporters alike consider Holloway broadly Autonomist in outlook, and his work is often compared and contrasted with that of figures such as Antonio Negri.

His 2010 book Crack Capitalism carries on with the political ideas developed in Change the World Without Taking Power: “Demonstrations all over the world proclaim that the capitalists are the cause of the crisis. And yet all our argument so far tells us that this cannot be so. We, not the capitalists, are the cause of the crisis. Capital is a relation of subordination, it drives towards the subordination of every aspect of our lives to the logic of capital.” Holloway’s idea of how to change the world radically is to crack capitalism; break it in as many ways as we can and try to expand and multiply the cracks, and promote their confluence.

Cracking Capitalism vs. The State Option

Cracking Capitalism vs. The State Option

“We met with John Holloway in the city of Puebla, Mexico, to ask him if, after everything that has happened in the past decade, from the progressive governments of Latin America to Podemos and Syriza in Europe, along with the problems for self-organised practices to exist and multiply, he still thinks that it is possible to “change the world without taking power”.