Since the 1970s, capital’s encounters with the crisis of profitability has led it to seek out new strategies of accumulation, notably, in shifting its focus from sites of production to the conduits of circulation. No longer able to generate substantial profit from the mechanized and labor-saving technologies of factory manufacturing, firms began to experiment with increasing the speed and efficiency through which commodities could circulate across the globe. Thus the rise of business logistics: the management of complex networks that coordinate the stocking, distribution, and transportation of services and commodities in international space. In the process, logistics has led to a profound reorganization of the global working class, fragmenting sites of production far from their sites of consumption, and stretching the industrial working class far across the globe. Yet, in anti-capitalist and anti-colonial struggle across the deindustrialized North, activists and organizers have repeatedly found ways to interrupt these intensifying circuits of distribution, responding to the rapid spatial expansion of logistics with their own strategic seizures of the chokepoints of capital flow. Chokepoints – the concentration of the circulation of commodities at certain key sites along the supply chain – might thus present the possibility for resistance to be waged not only symbolically but also materially, by literally grounding capitalist circulation to a halt. Can we understand the highway takeover, the port blockade, and the storefront die-in as connected instances of disruption, revealing an arena of struggle that capital’s turn to accumulation through logistical circulation has made available? What do they teach us about the possibilities of disrupting capital’s circuits as a whole? In short, why occupy chokepoints, and why now?
Charmaine Chua is a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at the University of Minnesota and visiting instructor at Macalester College. She works on the rise of logistics capitalism in the context of labor along the U.S.-China supply chain, and is part of the Empire Logistics collective.