Jaleh Mansoor: The General Strike

SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement and the Audain Gallery present this talk by Jaleh Mansoor

The General Strike, the organized refusal to work among a critical mass of laborers, has been attendant upon and responsive to the Capitalist form of accumulation since the latter’s inception. Having variously emerged and receded as a broadly recognized means of resistance since the mid 19th C, the potential of a general strike to precipitate capitalism’s inherent tendency to crisis was recently forcefully expressed by the anti-austerity movement in Greece and in Spain. A general strike interrupts the availability of labour foundational to the production of value which enables capitalism to valorize things over people, and to press other life processes (politics, love, art, science) into the service of itself – that is, profit maximization.

Over the last forty years, the general strike has come to be recognized as a constellation of strategies and tactics that ramify in areas of social life not immediately bound up with value production. Early to arrive at the insight that the strike could cross social categories historically developed for the express purpose of capitalist reorganization of all life, yet ideologically couched as natural and self-evident – social categories such as the nuclear family, the modern home, the organization of public versus private life — the feminist movement in Italy in the late 1970s recognized the relevance of a “strike” as a revolutionary force more elemental than a bid for mere reforms within the system.

Jaleh Mansoor completed her PhD at Columbia University in 2007. She has taught at SUNY Purchase, Barnard College, Columbia University, and Ohio University before coming to the University of British Columbia.

With responses from Randy Lee Cutler and Jeff Derksen

Moderated by writer and critic Kathleen Ritter