Tag Archives: temporary autonomous zone

Beyond Zuccatti

An interesting analysis of foundational place the Temporary Autonomous Zone of Hakim Bey has within the the Occupy movement can be found in “BEYOND ZUCCOTTI” a recent post over at Global Guerrillas.

“Over the last couple of months, Occupy had gone beyond a reliance on a specific place like Zuccotti. It developed a recipe for how to set up a temporary autonomous zone (what’s often called a TAZ).

What is a TAZ? A location that is outside of the control of the nation-state and global marketplace. Specifically, in the context of Occupy, the TAZ is

  • the modern equivalent of a nomadic village (a mobile, temporary community)
  • community that is self-governed (typically democratically)
  • a counter cultural hot spot (from music to visual arts to deep discussion)
  • a media hub and wireless communications network
  • a source of limited amounts of shelter/power/prepared food/etc.
  • simple security and a means of defense (this will get more elaborate)
  • a launching point for protest

What does all of this mean?

Here are some conclusions. I’ll refine this list as we progress.

  • The TAZ will be attractive to younger people (from the unique atmosphere to the element of danger involved).
  • Much of the technology that is being developed for the Occupy TAZ (energy, communications, etc.) is useful for building resilient communities
  • If passive TAZ defense tech/techniques are developed and deployed, these communities will be very difficult to eradicate

There are also a number of interesting links to other posts at that blog to further explore the nature of TAZ as a part of resistance, such as GLOBAL GUERRILLAS AND TEMPORARY AUTONOMOUS ZONES and The Occupy API and Open Source Protest

In the comments to that blog post, there’s mention of the need for some kind of permanent solution, which of course reminds me of some of the other resources at the library, such as The Periodic Autonomous Zone and Permanent TAZs to name just two. You may want to check out more at Hakim Bey and Ontological Anarchy.

The Occupy Movement and Millennial Politics

Mention of the philosophical connection between the Temporary Autonomous Zone of Hakim Bey and the Occupy movement can be found in “The Real Battle of St Paul’s Cathedral: The Occupy Movement and Millennial Politics” a recent post over at Christianity & Contemporary Politics.

“But there is also a striking contrast between those who gathered at St Paul’s Cross in 1066 and those who are encamped around it today. In 1066 there was a clear enemy and a clear set of demands. Many complain that the Occupy movement lacks any such clear programme. Yet this is to misunderstand the nature of the Occupy movement for whom the process is the programme. Demands are formulated but these are secondary. What matters is the transformative experience of participation.

What is created around the Cathedral and in other Occupy sites can be characterised as ‘temporary autonomous zones’ or TAZ’s. These TAZ’s are meant to give people an experience of direct democracy, including not only the experience of autonomy, but also of the free exchange of ideas and a spontaneous social order in a space free from control by capitalist corporations or state authorities. The primary point of focus is the daily General Assembly where all matters are decided, anything can be proposed and anyone can take part.” [via]

The Situationists and the Occupation Movements

Ken Knabb has posted a new essay “The Situationists and the Occupation Movements” over at The Bureau of Public Secrets. If you’ve been following my posts about the attention that the Hakim Bey and Ontological Anarchy section and specifically T. A. Z.: The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism have been getting, this is an essay that may also be of interest. In a previous post, I pointed out that the Situationists should also be considered as a resource and an inspiration for the Occupy movement, not just, to extend that a bit, for Parkour and Dark City; and, here’s a great essay that speaks to that very connection.

“One of the most notable characteristics of the “Occupy” movement is that it is just what it claims to be: leaderless and antihierarchical. Certain people have of course played significant roles in laying the groundwork for Occupy Wall Street and the other occupations, and others may have ended up playing significant roles in dealing with various tasks in committees or in coming up with ideas that are good enough to be adopted by the assemblies. But as far as I can tell, none of these people have claimed that such slightly disproportionate contributions mean that they should have any greater say than anyone else. Certain famous people have rallied to the movement and some of them have been invited to speak to the assemblies, but they have generally been quite aware that the participants are in charge and that nobody is telling them what to do.

This puts the media in an awkward and unaccustomed position. They are used to relating with leaders. Since they have not been able to find any, they are forced to look a little deeper, to investigate for themselves and see if they can discover who or what may be behind all this. Since the initial concept and publicity for Occupy Wall Street came from the Canadian group and magazine Adbusters, the following passage from an interview with Adbusters editor and co-founder Kalle Lasn (Salon.com, October 4) has been widely noticed:

We are not just inspired by what happened in the Arab Spring recently, we are students of the Situationist movement. Those are the people who gave birth to what many people think was the first global revolution back in 1968 when some uprisings in Paris suddenly inspired uprisings all over the world. All of a sudden universities and cities were exploding. This was done by a small group of people, the Situationists, who were like the philosophical backbone of the movement. One of the key guys was Guy Debord, who wrote The Society of the Spectacle. The idea is that if you have a very powerful meme — a very powerful idea — and the moment is ripe, then that is enough to ignite a revolution. This is the background that we come out of.

Lasn’s description is a rather over-simplified version of what the situationists were about, but the Adbusters at least have the merit of adopting or adapting some of the situationist methods for active subversive use (which is of course what those methods were designed for), in contrast to those who relate to the situationists as passive spectators.”

I encourage you to check out the rest of that essay.

Occupy Wall Street and the Poetry of Now-Time

Recent article “Occupy Wall Street and the Poetry of Now-Time” by Aaron Gell at the New York Observer links to CHAOS: THE BROADSHEETS OF ONTOLOGICAL ANARCHISM from T. A. Z.: The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism in Hakim Bey and Ontological Anarchy

“In his 1985 cult anarchist treatise T.A.Z., Hakim Bey, aka the poet Peter Lamborn Wilson, described what he dubbed the temporary autonomous zone: ‘a guerrila operation which liberates an area (of land, of time, of imagination).’ Which is as good a description of Occupy Wall Street as any.

Such zones have flourished, however briefly, around the world, often in secret, Mr. Bey wrote, but in in contemporary America he thought such a space would most likely emerge after three conditions were met. First, people needed to understand not only how the State (Wall Street, the One Percent, whatever) had enslaved them but also ‘the ways in which we are ensnared in a fantasy in which ideas oppress us.’ When the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek showed up in the park a few weeks back, he compared this process of awakening to the John Carpenter movie They Live, in which the protagonist, Nada, finds a pair of special sunglasses which reveal that the advertising billboards all around him carry hidden messages: submit, stay asleep, conform, consume. The dollar bill? This is your god. (And spoiler alert: the rich are all aliens.)

The second condition was that the internet would need to evolve into a useful tool of dissent and organization.

And third, Mr. Bey wrote, ‘The State must progress on its present course in which hysterical rigidity comes more and more to mask a vacuity, an abyss of power.’

Check, check, check.”

and also suggests

“If you really want to understand Occupy Wall Street, you have to talk to the poets.”


occupancy” is a recent post over at The Rosewater Chronicles which links to The “Temporary Autonomous Zone” from T. A. Z.: The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism in Hakim Bey and Ontological Anarchy

“I’m still thinking. But, like a treasure hidden in plain sight, I do find it surprising that few commentators and critics are talking or writing about the concept that has helped to organize so many: occupancy. The original call to “occupy Wall Street” signified, on a basic level, putting bodies in a certain space as a metaphorical squatting (“bring tent,” the original flyer says). The term also has militaristic connotations of property seizure and violation of ownership. Even the term “occupation,” now metonymy for one’s profession or even class-identification, derives from a person located in a particular space. Unlike the Tea Party movement, which seemed to organize an inchoate swirl of rage, xenophobia, and classic “American” paranoia, the Occupy Movement started as a political gesture of space. This marks it as something more—or perhaps something other than—a politics of spectacle.

Occupancy harkens to street marching politics of old in a way that flies in the face of theories of digital mobilization or virtuality. What the Occupy Movement seems to be harnessing, however paradoxically, is a strange, postmodern politics of invisibility made possible by postmodern regimes of publicity. What I mean by this harkens to Hakim Bey’s conception of the Temporary Autonomous Zone, in a sense: insurrection occurs in spaces that have gone “unmapped” by the state. Or to use Henri Lefebvre’s notions of representation, the Occupy Movement seems to be pointing up the distinction between “representations of space” (which serve the dominant class) and “spaces of representation,” the latter concerning how people actually occupy the world with their bodies, often in ways that do not comport with dominant conceptions of space. The territory of lived lives—the structures of feeling and being in the world—exceeds what is capable of being represented.

For example, consider how long it took the MSM to get around to representing the Occupy Wall Street protest: it took almost two weeks for screen-time to reflect what New York citizens were experiencing in Manhattan. This “lag” time in “mapping” the movement represents in a homologous way the “lag” between representations of the experiences of “everyday folks” and what is perceived as consensus-reality on our many screens. My point is that Tea Party mobilization was conducted largely on the terrain of virtuality (despite some modest rallies and a Fox-News sponsored DC thing), whereas it appears that the Occupy Movement is manifesting quite differently—adding a spatial component to the temporally bound logics of publicity and circulation. In other words, occupancy is the central tactic, and the image politics of the tactic is secondary. Of course, this was the strategy of uprisings in the Middle East, presumably in countries with less sophisticated technologies of mediation and representation; clearly, however, a number of those involved in the Occupy Movement believe the spatial tactic is crucial. Those who study social movements in postmodernity would do well not to lose sight of occupancy as a strategy.

Evidence enough that the Occupy Movement is engaging in a territory map struggle are the attempts of those “on the right” who would force it into a state-sanctioned map.”

and finally

“Isn’t the reduction of social struggle to the ballot precisely the mechanism occupancy seeks to combat?”

Hakim Bey and the Occupy Wall Street movement

In the past few days there was a big increase in traffic to Hakim Bey and Ontological Anarchy, especially to the T. A. Z. The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism and Part 1 – T. A. Z. The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism pages. Presumably, this is due to these pages being referenced by people talking about the Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Together movements around the country.

For example, some tweets I’ve seen with links have suggested the Occupy Wall Street movement is a “peaceful temporary autonomous zone (TAZ), pirate utopia, encampment of guerrilla ontologists” [via]. I’ve also seen suggestions that the Hakim Bey material is a “key” [via] to Occupy Wall Street, or that that in Bey’s work can be found the “ideological roots of the Wall Street Occupationists” [via].

While I always encourage people to check out material on the Hermetic Library site, and I think it’s great that people are talking about the materials; there’s certainly a couple other things that come to mind for me, which I wanted to mention. Certainly a never ending list of recommendations could be made, but I’ll limit myself to a small handful.

I’d like to suggest that people check out the work of John Brinckerhoff Jackson, especially because of his work around discovering the “vernacular landscape”. When I was reading his work I also posited the existence of an “imaginal landscape”, so you may be inclined to check out one of my personal papers, Sigils of Imagination.

For me, I find myself also thinking about Rebecca Solnit’s Savage Dreams: A Journey into the Landscape Wars of the American West, and want to suggest that to you. The struggle over who and what ideology controls landscape is not a new one to the United States, and this work is for me an interesting and powerful exploration of that.

I’d also highly recommend checking out a variety of other resistance movements, both in the US and Europe. One could look at the history of strikes in the US, the history of the Diggers and Levellers in the UK, or at the history of peasant revolts generally in Europe.

But, I also wanted to recommend to you another online repository of texts which I think may be of interest to those checking out the works of Hakim Bey as possibly influences on the Occupy Wall Street movement. Ken Knabb’s Bureau of Public Secrets is a pretty extensive collection of Situationist International materials, both in France and elsewhere. You can also may find Ken Knabb’s published works interesting, such as Situationist International Anthology and Public Secrets: Collected Skirmishes of Ken Knabb.

Of course, you may also be interested in the Marxists Internet Archive, which is a venerable online repository of materials of possible interest.

Update 2011nov15 @ 4:36pm:

I note now that according to a tweet by @OWSLibrary and confirmed by the history page of their blog the first book entered into their catalog was, in fact, Hakim Bey’s T.A.Z.: The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism.