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This is a book review of Randall Amster's Anarchism Today that will give me an opportunity to discuss anarchism in further detail.  The idea that anarchism actually "is" something fills me with a desire to deconstruct it as a concept, suggesting that people don't have to call themselves anarchists but that anarchism is nonetheless valuable as a utopian form of freethinking.  Amster's book provides a good vehicle for this meditation.

Anarchism, like conservatism, is another one of those political words which deserves revision in the era of late, late capitalism.  Nowadays I would argue for a definition of "anarchism" as the set of philosophies held by that species of freethinker known as "anarchists."  Anarchists, in turn, are people who are labeled publicly as such, and it doesn't matter much (to me at least) if everyone or nobody is labeled as an anarchist.  What matters is the result: a social order inherent in a world society living on a planet Earth.  The idea that some freethinkers self-identify as "anarchists" appears to me as a sort of secondary thing, a conceptual trend that will (if all goes well) minimally interfere with important tasks of freethinking.

I know this isn't the way the word "anarchism" is typically defined.  Merriam-Webster Online: "a political theory holding all forms of governmental authority to be unnecessary and undesirable and advocating a society based on voluntary cooperation and free association of individuals and groups ."    This is fine, except when you dig too deeply into what counts as "governmental authority."  "Governmental authority" is wrapped up in a number of social structures which make "rule" possible and so "governmental authority" is to some extent part of us, our behavioral tendencies and so on -- Foucault discusses this in terms of "governmentality."

I would argue that a critical term for understanding what might count as "anarchism" would be the term the 20th-century Italian thinker Antonio Gramsci used to describe the voluntary consent of the masses in their own rule by powerful elites: hegemony.  "Anarchism" suggests a voluntary participation in a world outside of governmental order; "hegemony," in Gramsci's terms suggests a voluntary consent to being governed.  The point I'm trying to make here is that freedom can go either way.  Freedom can be freedom to organize an anarchist commune and to organize massive protests of injustice, or self-sufficient co-operatives, or freedom can be freedom to serve in police auxiliaries and spy on dissenters.  So using a definition of "anarchism" that pivots on "freedom" can confuse the issue of what "anarchism" is.  A better tactic, then, would be to identify anarchism as a belief that it's more fun to pursue a utopian social concept in which people form "voluntary" societies in which horizontal (rather than hierarchical) social relationships predominate.

The word anarchism, then, denotes a specific philosophy with a specific utopian content (and here I'm using "utopia" in the good sense of the word).  I've defended this philosophy in a previous diary, against the rubes who conflate anarchism with breaking windows.  But it's just a philosophy.  Sure, it would be great to belong to a society of equality in which everyone belonged to a freely-chosen co-operative which satisfied her or his every need.  The realistic question is one of how it can happen.  The immediate question is one of what anarchism is in real life.

My perspective on anarchism is congruent with my perspective on politics as delineated in this diary.  As we live in a conservative age, sandwiched between the decline of capitalist growth and the vast increase of inequities in wealth and power between the rich few and the rest, so little of what we do politically is actually consequential.  Anarchists can either be another ineffectual species of utopian, or they can find new ways of thinking "outside the box" to create new reserves of meaningful political creativity.

Randall Amster's (2012) book Anarchism Today addresses anarchism both in theory and in real life, voting for the latter of the two options spelled out in the paragraph above.  Its first chapter (pages 1 through 22) suggests a series of mental moves that can be performed in order to make "anarchism" come together as a term.  I suppose the first one is "suspending our disbelief" simply because it's so difficult to imagine an anarchist utopia actually becoming a viable option.  The next seven of these moves, anti-authoritarianism, voluntarism, mutualism, autonomism, egalitarianism, naturalism, and anti-capitalism,  establish the philosophy that is aptly described as "libertarian socialism."  Dynamism, pragmatism, utopianism, and decentralism establish a balance -- anarchist activity needs to be dynamic and utopian, yet establish a presence in the real world.

There is a brief examination here of "anarchist institutions" -- Amster gives Food Not Bombs, CrimethInc. (a publishing collective) and Indymedia (pages 38 through 41) as examples.  (I did feel that this section could have been longer.)  There is a chapter on anarchist questions of violence and a section on eco-anarchism.  There is a chapter on anarchist collectives -- this is important, as anarchism will go nowhere without collectives.  There is a chapter on "from the local to the global," which discusses anarchist networks (across national boundaries), and a chapter on "anarchism's impact," trying to suggest that anarchism has an impact (although this is largely confined to discussions of impact in the world of ideas).  The conclusion probes the possibility of an anarchist future, and mentions representations of anarchism in science fiction.

Overall, this is a brief and meaningful overview of anarchism as a type of freethinking, situating it in the current era and placing its concepts in a way which will no doubt stimulate discussion (especially if this book can make it into paperback publication).  Amster seems to understand that thought without action is of no consequence, and that action can itself be of no consequence if it's not successful.  Amster's attitude is appropriate: "I have attempted to depict a productive, proactive, and positive view of anarchism that indicates its simultaneous capacities for contestation and construction (161)."  Perhaps David Graeber's list of activities for "laying a working (and no-prescribed) foundation for an anarchist society" is a good one:

cooperatives, infoshops, prisoner support networks, pirate radio, squats, independent media, community gardens, bicycle collectives, co-operative bookstores, Copwatch programs, homeless and immigrant rights campaigns, and Food Not Bombs chapters (Graeber, pages 218 and 236, qtd. on page 37)
This sort of thing looks more consequential to me than any protest.  The problem is that the police state apparatus has gotten so sophisticated in this era that it can easily co-exist with "free speech," and certainly with "free elections," and so the framework of public sphere, civil society and state that was the backdrop of Jurgen Habermas' celebration of late 19th century society in the (1962) masterwork Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere is no longer entirely relevant to social change.  

Instead, what happens in the 21st century world is that people take their relationships to society and to planet Earth into their own hands:

In communities, towns, and cities, people are mobilizing to regain political and environmental power, working in locales everywhere "to regenerate local food systems, develop locally controlled, renewable energy systems and, sometimes, to build solidarity with kindred movements around the world." (page 86: quote is from Brian Tokar's Toward Climate Justice)
In all seriousness, I think that when the Powers That Be descend to a certain level of ineptitude, most of us become anarchists after a fashion, and we join local community efforts in complete indifference to the hierarchies that dominate "normal life."  I went to a talk recently held by Rebecca Solnit in which she described her research into the "extraordinary communities that arise in disaster" with respect to 9/11/01 and Hurricane Katrina.  At a certain level of total disaster, Solnit argues, many people are motivated by a strong tendency to help their fellow human beings, and to organize for collective survival.  This is indeed what the anarchists are doing now, and so we might legitimately expect more people to join their ranks as catastrophes accumulate with continued capitalist "development."

You can see, then, that there are a number of concepts in this book that are left "up in the air" (do anarchists really have to call themselves anarchists?), but that Amster has written a thoroughly thought-provoking overview book.

Originally posted to The Rebel Alliance on Sun May 06, 2012 at 07:12 PM PDT.

Also republished by Readers and Book Lovers and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I like Noam Chomsky's Definition of Anarchism (10+ / 0-)
    According to Chomsky, "...anarchism isn't a doctrine. It's at most a historical tendency, a tendency of thought and action, which has many different ways of developing and progressing and which, I would think, will continue as a permanent strand of human history."
    http://www.spunk.org/...
    For a more detailed definition and description by Chomsky please watch this video:

  •  Great Diary by the way. Forgot to mention that n/t (4+ / 0-)
  •  So... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    palantir, Cassiodorus

    What about you? Would you call yourself an anarchist?

    Everywhere you will find that the wealth of the wealthy springs from the poverty of the poor. - from The Conquest of Bread by Peter Kropotkin

    by ZhenRen on Sun May 06, 2012 at 08:22:43 PM PDT

  •  Rec'd for daring to mention the term. (6+ / 0-)

    Everywhere you will find that the wealth of the wealthy springs from the poverty of the poor. - from The Conquest of Bread by Peter Kropotkin

    by ZhenRen on Sun May 06, 2012 at 08:23:54 PM PDT

  •  amusing (3+ / 0-)

    Anarchism has already prevailed; it's just a matter of getting there.

    As Buenaventura Durruti said: "We are going to inherit the earth; there is not the slightest doubt about that. The bourgeoisie might blast and ruin its own world before it leaves the stage of history. We carry a new world, here in our hearts. That world is growing this minute."

    And those uncomfortable with the term "anarchist," can try "free human being, alive on this earth."

  •  Monty Python's anarcho-syndicalist peasants (7+ / 0-)

    "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold...The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity" -W.B. Yeats

    by LucyandByron on Sun May 06, 2012 at 10:05:42 PM PDT

  •  Free thinking takes courage / confidence (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus, Kristina40

    It seems that a significant portion of the population is authoritarian by nature.  For whatever reasons, they need to be led.

    I personally do not care to associate with these people, but I recognize that this is a fundamental aspect of human nature, and ,as such, cannot be ignored.    

    Anarchists should ponder how to successfully integrate persons with this psychological need into social / collective forms that meet their needs as well.

    The Fail will continue until actual torches and pitchforks are set in motion. - Pangolin@kunstler.com

    by No one gets out alive on Mon May 07, 2012 at 05:54:22 AM PDT

  •  I have some questions in general; don't answer (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus

    them if you'd like this to be a discussion on the book and not anarchism as practiced or conceived.

    1. Can anarcho-syndicalism exist when sharing land borders with states or territories that do not have the same type of organization?

    2. Could there conceivably be clashes over resources between opposing syndicates?

    3. Is there a currency within a large syndicate or is it barter still?

    4. Does the syndicate "own" the territory its members cover? Can a member simply no longer participate yet remain in the vicinity?

    5. How would a syndicate deal with an internal issue of one or a group of members consolidating physical force in an attempt to sway decisions or membership?

    Thanks!

    •  All of your questions are practical ones. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      GoGoGoEverton, joey c, LucyandByron

      When confronted with problems such as those your questions pose, anarchists will doubtless rely upon the usual repertoire of actions: dialogue first, defensive armament if that doesn't work.  Anarchists are just normal folk (apart from the whole style points thing, which in my opinion has to do with late 1970s and early 1980s music more than anything else) -- the difference is mostly in the utopian vision and the effort to be collectively self-governing rather than to place trust in the government, the corporations and the rich.

      "I've seen the flame of hope among the hopeless/ And that was truly the biggest heartbreak of all" -- Bruce Cockburn

      by Cassiodorus on Mon May 07, 2012 at 06:54:56 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks; it pretty much blows for all utopian (0+ / 0-)

        concepts that humans are involved.

        •  World society in the present day (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          joey c

          is very heavily informed by the utopian vision of the Marquis de Condorcet, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and other such byproducts of the 18th-century Enlightenment -- Anarchism is itself significantly a byproduct of William Godwin's (1794) Enquiry Concerning Political Justice.

          Even earlier, More's Utopia suggested (from within its fictional scaffolding, and from the early 16th century) a significant critique and a meaningful proposed alternative to the political and economic practices of his time.

          I wouldn't argue that we would be better off without it.

          "I've seen the flame of hope among the hopeless/ And that was truly the biggest heartbreak of all" -- Bruce Cockburn

          by Cassiodorus on Mon May 07, 2012 at 07:11:57 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I wasn't saying the theory wasn't valuable (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Cassiodorus

            I was saying the possibility of achieving all or most of the vision's aims are terribly restrained by our humanity.

            •  Well, Condorcet's utopian vision -- (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              joey c

              though not anarchist, was significantly fulfilled by the Golden Age of Capitalism...

              "I've seen the flame of hope among the hopeless/ And that was truly the biggest heartbreak of all" -- Bruce Cockburn

              by Cassiodorus on Mon May 07, 2012 at 09:25:38 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  i consider myself to be an anarchist. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              JayRaye

              i don't, however, think that the state of a functional organized anarchy is anywhere close to happening, because we're not ready for it yet as social animals, and it could be 100 centuries off. it's a very long range developmental goal, and it doesn't work to try to take short cuts to get there as the history of the 20th century has shown us. it simply doesn't work to skip developmental steps along the way.

              so, i disagree with your statement as written. i think humanity can get there. i would agree if it read ".. terribly restrained by the present state of our humanity."

              blink-- pale cold

              by zedaker on Mon May 07, 2012 at 05:58:03 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Poppycock. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              joe wobblie, Cassiodorus

              Anarchism is a reaction to existing humanity.

        •  The notion that greed is the primary human (5+ / 0-)

          motivation which we must use and harness plays into the themes of Ayn Randian social Darwinism. It's the old notion that if we aren't at each others throats in struggle and competition, we're doomed.

          Except that humans demonstrate a willingness to act collectively for the common good in countless examples. It's a matter of which you want to prevail. When every child is deliberately taught to compete and beat down fellow humans to succeed from the first entry into school, it is no wonder people can't conceive of a society based on a cooperative model.

          Everywhere you will find that the wealth of the wealthy springs from the poverty of the poor. - from The Conquest of Bread by Peter Kropotkin

          by ZhenRen on Mon May 07, 2012 at 09:03:46 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  I don't quite agree. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        zedaker

        Anarchists are a bit more romantic than normal folk.

        What about my Daughter's future?

        by koNko on Mon May 07, 2012 at 08:08:33 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I think that's true of those of (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Cassiodorus

          us who are openly and vocally anarchist, but I've known many terribly practical people who would consider themselves anarchish but would never outright identify as anarchist, mainly because there are so many connotations attached to the term.

          There revolution will not be televised. But it will be blogged, a lot. Probably more so than is necessary.

          by AoT on Mon May 07, 2012 at 10:18:11 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  asdf (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      joe wobblie, Cassiodorus

      1. No.  Syndicalism can, but it's not Anarchism.

      2. Conceivably, yes.  The goal is to minimize them.  They fact that the question is "would they exist?" rather than "how do we stop them?" (as is the case in contemporary society) is already a good sign.

      3. Neither.  Anarchist communities, collectives, and society  would (and, where they exist, do) operate on Gift Economics.

      4. If by "Syndicate" you mean "community or collective", then yes.  The way to think of Anarchist property relations is that it is a social rather than moral system- specifically, rather than Title (a piece of paper saying something is owned by a particular person or organization), there should be use-based ownership; what you use, alone or with others, you own; what you do not personally take part in, use, or rely on, you don't own (and therefore have no say over).

      5. Organization and rededication to Anarchist principles of autonomy and solidarity.

  •  Anarchism (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Frank Knarf

    Is roted in a basic human instinct for autonomy, as is narcism.  

    But as a modern philosophy, it is an idealistic utopian concept incompatible with collectivist civilization, which depends, ultimately, on consensus and compromise, and the rule of law.

    Thus, my conclusion (after several years of being a self-professed anarchist), is that, while it has a natural appeal, it is incompatible with the human construct we call civilization.

    Something that is lost on many anarchists until they become parents and learn the degree to which this idealistic autonomy is unworkable on a practical basis.

    But I you need a romantic notion to maintain your spirit, I suppose it's as good as any.

    What about my Daughter's future?

    by koNko on Mon May 07, 2012 at 07:56:24 AM PDT

    •  there are actually two types of anarchy, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JayRaye

      chaotic anarchy, which is what you describe, and a functional, organized anarchy.

      i think a lot of people make the same error that you do here and confuse the two states, even people who self identify as anarchists. one is the initial starting point of societal development, preceding even tribalism. the other is the end state of societal development (at least according to Marx).

      i think most tend to identify anarchy with the chaotic state, because that's the only aspect we have experienced as a society or as individuals, and that scares the hell them.

      blink-- pale cold

      by zedaker on Mon May 07, 2012 at 06:23:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  No. (0+ / 0-)

        What I describe is organized anarchy, actually.

        FYI, I was well-schooled in Marxism (while living in a "Dictatorship of the Proletariat") and was, in turn, apolitical/anti-political and then a philosophical anarchist for several years.

        The problem I found, is that Utopia does not exist, except as a romantic ideal.

        Humans are not as rational as we sometimes like to imagine.

        And that is why "Laws" exist. At a certain point, we deem the interests of society superior to those of individuals where consent of individuals fails.

        The recipe for anarchy to work beyond a very select and privileged group of like-minded people simply does not translate to the whole of any large & randomly populated group.

        Even some very celebrated anarchists agree with this; and how to deal with the outliers?

        (a) Cast them out of the tribe
        (b) Push them off a cliff (for example, David Graeber, our celebrated anarchist kossak, ultimately advocates this approach)

        FAIL.

        What about my Daughter's future?

        by koNko on Tue May 08, 2012 at 05:24:58 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Anarchism is not "mass" (4+ / 0-)

          or as you said, "the whole of any large & randomly populated group".  It requires organization built from the bottom up, through a colossal number of interpersonal connections.  The basic unit of an Anarchist society is the Affinity Group, which is a couple dozen people at most.  It doesn't work on a huge scale because it's not meant to, and it's not meant to because humans are hardwired to operate in small bands, not giant nations!  You could still have a functioning and peaceful Anarchist society including an arbitrarily large number of people, but it has to happen as a result of interlocking networks rather than one gigantic nation-state.  So, no, it's not a system you can just impose suddenly on a group of random people, it's not meant to be, and it shouldn't be.

          •  One has to experience--or at least envision-- (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            zedaker, joe wobblie, WB Reeves

            those interlocking networks as laws, but without the penalty of violence: agreements can even include agreed-to "losses" to compensate for the loss of the agreement before renegotiations.

            In a way, Anarchism requires greater immersion IN the historical construct of the moment, as an attempt is made to manage reality so that individual growth is respected, and natural limits to existence individually AND in groups are respected as well.

            The fundamental unit in nature is the group: the fundamental unit in a humanistic society is the individual: and the construction of a violence-free society is the art of the Anarchist.

            The labor of a human being is not a commodity or article of commerce. Clayton Act, Section 6.

            by Ignacio Magaloni on Tue May 08, 2012 at 11:35:06 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  That's an ideal case. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              WB Reeves

              Those groups can also be mobs.  And you are still assuming consent where it might not exist.

              Again, it's a utopian ideal and so far has not proven workable and durable.

              What about my Daughter's future?

              by koNko on Tue May 08, 2012 at 05:42:44 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  And you still can't understand that a violent mob (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                joe wobblie

                is an expression of pain and anger by people living in a disordered society that already experiences and practices a high degree of violence and injustice. No pain, no social injustice, no ignorance, and you will not see such a mob forming, irrespective of the ideology they think validates their disorganized barbarity.

                I disagree that Anarchism is a utopian ideal: utopias tend to be false in relation to natural realities, and so, when implemented, usually must use extensive forms of oppression to construct--and then maintain--their versions of order. That is why Anarchist evolution depends on a historical unfolding that may, indeed, turn out never to allow a fully-formed Anarchist world order to exist--but it is an ideology that does not contradict itself when it comes to the true acceptance of the freedom of the individual, and the need to form societies that will not willy-nilly destroy human potential, irrespective of natural realities--often because of a backward notion of what law must be.

                That is why so many Anarchists love to espouse other idealistic notions, such as the nurturing of citizens across generations, that are currently acceptable as a political reality, even tough their continued existence is just as dependent on a benign unfolding of history: Kossacks, all, and you, my friend, battle daily to protect our constitutional republic with all our hearts--but do not assume that an Anarchist is not as engaged as you are in defending the thin layer of civilization still available, even as we imagine  a better one.

                Do not, friend, think me, or anarchists, as the source of mobs. I would not denigrate good citizens because some may be a part of a violent mob, and call themselves citizens as they leave behind reckless destruction, misled by other thinker citizens who did not understand what their political ideology demanded.

                Anarchism is the art of forming just and peaceful societies.

                The labor of a human being is not a commodity or article of commerce. Clayton Act, Section 6.

                by Ignacio Magaloni on Tue May 08, 2012 at 10:00:58 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Excellent, Ignacio! (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Ignacio Magaloni, laserhaas
                  Anarchism is the art of forming just and peaceful societies.
                  As such anarchism is a work in progress...
                  Who is to say that anarchism is not a natural state of existence, as it has occurred
                  in numerous primitive societies.     http://wiki.infoshop.org/...
                           

                  ! The swinistic greed and racial hatred of the American ruling elite is abysmal !

                  by joe wobblie on Wed May 09, 2012 at 03:48:25 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Well, actually (0+ / 0-)

                    If you read my prior comments, I say exactly that anarchism is based on a natural instinct for autonomy.

                    Perhaps you, at least, can read completely and objectively my comments and then converse unlike some others here that seem hung up o what they imagine I have said, or not as the case may be.

                    But I'm curious, if you are so keen on anarchy, why did you HR my comment above?  That's a form of censorship (and something I never do) and, um, not very conducive to the process of  forming consensus.

                    What about my Daughter's future?

                    by koNko on Wed May 09, 2012 at 11:10:16 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Please don't be 'Silly'... (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      laserhaas, blueoasis

                      Of course I cannot read your mind!  Things are not that simple...
                         Here is your statement:

                      Again, it's a utopian ideal and so far has not proven workable and durable.
                         In it you are propagating a lie for all the world to see!

                      ! The swinistic greed and racial hatred of the American ruling elite is abysmal !

                      by joe wobblie on Wed May 09, 2012 at 12:09:44 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Awh Joe, it is just that the obfuscation of the (2+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        joe wobblie, blueoasis

                        manifestation of his contestation is with sophistication and verity.

                        Are you really going to knock all that for the simple issue of veracity?


                        PLEASE Stop Mitt (the Pitts) Romney from stealing the Presidential Election!

                        by laserhaas on Wed May 09, 2012 at 02:21:19 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Well, I tried to take that back... (2+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          laserhaas, blueoasis

                          But my doughnut wouldn't come back!
                          'koNko' is located in China, you know...
                          And the chinese restaurant down the street tried to sell me Egg Foo Yung!    http://www.youtube.com/...  

                          ! The swinistic greed and racial hatred of the American ruling elite is abysmal !

                          by joe wobblie on Wed May 09, 2012 at 02:43:58 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  Ah - but the Pu Pu is the PLATTER - Mr. PUS (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            joe wobblie


                            .
                            Acutally that particular appetizer has always been my favorite (though I've always worried if "that" Really is garlic chicken in the aluminum wrapper).


                            PLEASE Stop Mitt (the Pitts) Romney from stealing the Presidential Election!

                            by laserhaas on Wed May 09, 2012 at 04:36:45 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Actually, that was just a silly jingle! (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            laserhaas, blueoasis

                            I LOVE Egg Foo Yung and eat it all the time, myself!
                            I have since been able to remove the HR on 'koNko'.  
                            But I did it solely because he is Chinese!  He is utterly wrong in his
                            assertation that anarchism has not been proven workable or durable.
                            In the URL I inserted was mentioned a work by Graeber on the subject.
                            Our Mister koNko claims to have read the entirety of Marx's 'Das Kapital'
                            but he has no knowledge of the modern writings of Graeber or Chomsky.
                            He lives in a land where some people drive Rolls Royces and Bentleys,
                            while others are so poor they eat with their fingers because they cannot
                            afford chopsticks!

                            ! The swinistic greed and racial hatred of the American ruling elite is abysmal !

                            by joe wobblie on Wed May 09, 2012 at 07:21:35 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Whoops, punctuation screwed up bad on above! nt (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            laserhaas, blueoasis

                            ! The swinistic greed and racial hatred of the American ruling elite is abysmal !

                            by joe wobblie on Wed May 09, 2012 at 07:26:11 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  That is terrible. We CAN change the world Joe (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            joe wobblie, blueoasis

                            Hope we get more noble's

                            this is a fight worth doing...


                            PLEASE Stop Mitt (the Pitts) Romney from stealing the Presidential Election!

                            by laserhaas on Thu May 10, 2012 at 01:04:38 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                •  And you still think you can read my mind (0+ / 0-)

                  And know what I do or don't know or understand.

                  Romantic notion.

                  The problem is that idealistic notations don't solve many real problems - not that I argue against idealism, but it has it's limits.

                  Ah, but then why am I still bothering to write when you already can see inside my head? Silly me.

                  What about my Daughter's future?

                  by koNko on Wed May 09, 2012 at 11:02:20 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

              •  Utopian? I experience it every day. (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                joe wobblie, Ignacio Magaloni

                I could be mistaken but I'm fairly certain I'm involved in several anarchistically-organized groups... and that's just the formal ones...

                •  And outside your group? (0+ / 0-)

                  Because, unless you get everything you need from that group including internet infrastructure to post here (and I mean the grid, not your last mile node) then the world you live in is a bit larger I suppose.

                  What about my Daughter's future?

                  by koNko on Wed May 09, 2012 at 10:59:20 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Irrelevant (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    joe wobblie

                    Those are all problems that can be solved.  That they haven't yet is only because it takes time to get such projects going.  We'll get there.

                    •  That's dismissive of reality/history (0+ / 0-)

                      Nothing that underpins Anarchist philosophy is unique or impervious to failure.

                      No system is perfect or works in all situations.

                      You are elevating it to religious faith. Or perhaps demoting it, as the case may be.

                      What about my Daughter's future?

                      by koNko on Thu May 10, 2012 at 08:20:32 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Because it's not done, we shouldn't start? nt (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        joe wobblie
                        •  Did I say that? (0+ / 0-)

                          To elaborate, I think we need to operate in two planes at the same time; the philosophical ideal, and the practical reality.

                          My perception, correct or mistaken, based on your comments in this thread, is you are kind of dismissive of the reality part, and that can be dangerous.

                          I suppose you could sum-up my mind-set as "under-promise, over-deliver" particularly in complex situations involving multiple actors, multiple variables and deeply ingrained culture.

                          That said, the method would be PERSISTENCE.

                          What about my Daughter's future?

                          by koNko on Fri May 11, 2012 at 01:24:42 AM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

              •  Interesting Hide Rate (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                joe wobblie

                Joe Wobblie, please search my comments referring people to the IWW and take some target practice.

                What about my Daughter's future?

                by koNko on Wed May 09, 2012 at 10:57:19 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  Uprated in the interest of open debate (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                koNko

                The above is an opinion, whether one agrees or disagrees. One doesn't refute an opinion by suppressing it.

                •  May have been an accident. (0+ / 0-)

                  Hence my remark about "target practice".

                  Actually, I don't hide rate anything nor do I take it very seriously, but in a discussion of Anarchist philosophy, it kind of sticks out.

                  But thanks for supporting debate.

                  What about my Daughter's future?

                  by koNko on Thu May 10, 2012 at 08:24:34 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

        •  Not to be a smartass (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Cassiodorus, zedaker

          but there are a great many Marxists who'd say that being raised in one of the statist, so-called, "dictatorships of the proletariat" would preclude being "well schooled" in Marxism.

    •  all of the things in your first paragraph (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      joe wobblie, koNko

      are fundamental Anarchist principles! (except "the rule of law" I suppose... and maybe not "compromise" since that connotes each side being unsatisfied)

      •  Indeed. (0+ / 0-)

        Hence the failure of anarchy as a workable system. Refer to my remarks to zedaker, above.

        I give you more credit for thoughtful reading than s/he.

        Indeed, compromise and law become the unmentionables at a certain point.

        What about my Daughter's future?

        by koNko on Tue May 08, 2012 at 05:27:51 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  This elides certain aspects of Anarchist (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          koNko

          history. Historically, where Anarchist construction was attempted and achieved to a limited degree (the Russian Revolution, the Spanish Revolution), these efforts were violently suppressed, not by Capital but by ostensibly "proletarian" forces.

          To suggest that the failures of Anarchism were due entirely to its inherent incapacity, while theoretically convenient for some, obscures the historical reality.  

          •  My conclusion (0+ / 0-)

            After some years of thought and observation, is that Anarchy can be a hot-house flower.

            I'm not alone in this conclusion; one anarchist of note who occasionally blogs here has spoken of "pushing people off cliffs" as an acceptable consensus solution to the invasion of anarchist groups/societies by errant weeds.

            And I think that is why virtually all robust societies have eventually settled on some form or another of the rule of law, and why that works if properly constructed because it buys space and time for both the group and outlier and can represent another species of consensus, and one subject to rigorous deliberation process both in case and over time.

            Which then leads to the question: "If a group of anarchists agree to have laws, are they still anarchists?"

            And so, another tree falls in the woods.

            What about my Daughter's future?

            by koNko on Thu May 10, 2012 at 08:37:41 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you very much (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus

    For this extremely well written review.

  •  Black block Anarchists want to rumble with cops (0+ / 0-)

    It's meaningless, destructive.
    They are hooligans, like England soccer fans.

  •  Great diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus, zedaker

    One of the aspects of the discussions around anarchism that always frustrates me is the charges of Utopianism.  I've never seen anarchism as being utopian, I've always seen it as simply being qualitatively better than what we have now.  It doesn't solve the problems in the world, it just gives us a better, more just set of tools to solve those problems.  Of course, there are definitely Utopian strains in anarchism but I think actually taking part in non-coercive collective action quickly disabuses you of that notion.  I really see anarchist methods of organizing as being the most powerful tools we have for effecting change in the world.  It's only through mass individual actions that we can seriously confront things like racism and sexism being just treating the symptoms of unfair pay and the like.

    There revolution will not be televised. But it will be blogged, a lot. Probably more so than is necessary.

    by AoT on Mon May 07, 2012 at 10:26:59 AM PDT

  •  recently discovered "post-left anarchism" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus, zedaker

    In short, post-left anarchism argues that it's not enough for the workers to own the factory and consume everything it produces because workers and factories in and of themselves have negative implications for maximizing human freedom and fulfillment.  The means of production - mainly in terms of scale but also and thus in terms of their all-consuming nature, obligatory-ness, and rigidity and specialization - are flawed and need to be radically reformed, and the proposed reforms will simultaneously solve the social and economic issues dear to anarchists and socialists/communists.

    Two manifestos of sorts are my new sig: one old and one new.  The goal is a society of dilettantes where there is no functional or philosophical distinction between work and play and people produce out of the desire and enjoyment of doing.  It's a rejection above all of the aristocratic/capitalist argument that idleness is mankind's natural tendency and that it falls to a tiny elite endowed by nature with intrinsic motivation to force the rest of us to get up in the morning.

    It syncs up with some ideas I've had percolating in my head for a while now.

    •  If we define "Left" (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cassiodorus, zedaker

      as the recognition that economic domination translates to social, political and cultural domination, I conclude that "post-leftism" is an idea whose time has not yet come.

      •  "post-Left" is not meant to imply "Right" (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        zedaker, WB Reeves

        Post-Left anarchism is far more a critique of industrial civilization as a whole than simply of its ownership and government.  The argument is that there are fundamental defects in the structure of industrial civilization that can't be fixed merely by giving workers ownership of the means of production, nor by giving citizens full control of the machinery of state.  Most forms of labor are either inherently dehumanizing (lacking in skill, creativity, and autonomy and in the form of a 9-5, 40 hour a week job also simply squeeze out the rest of what life has to offer) or would be made completely unnecessary by disestablishing the state and the plutocracy.

        To a post-Left anarchist, the bureaucratic socialism of the Soviet Union - hardly a free or fulfilling society - is the natural result of taking over an authoritarian-capitalist socioeconomic system that was never meant to empower ordinary people: you still have drones, even if they nominally own their workplace and are entitled to consume everything they make; you still have a ruling class making all the real decisions; and you still have every other aspect of life subordinated to economic activity undertaken for its own sake.

        It works well with primitivist ideals of relocalizing, downshifting, returning to subsistence-scaled and highly skilled and creative artisan modes of production, and having lots more to do besides produce.  The ideal is that "producing" becomes just another leisure activity, one of many pursued by each person during the course of a day and a lifetime: motivated by the desire to apply and express oneself rather than by physical necessity.

        •  The Soviet Union (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          WB Reeves

          worked pretty well by its own brutal standards in an era of competing nation-states -- not so well in an era of global governance and corporate domination.  The whole formation that was "Communism" adapted itself to the life of some of the contender states in an emerging global capitalist system, for a while.

          Emerging global capitalism produced two state-society formations: the "Lockean heartland," the states at the core of the capitalist system, which needed to provide a minimum of "civil rights" as appropriate to a regime of private business, and the "contender states," states on the semi-periphery which attempted authoritarian forced-march industrial development pushes in the hopes (or so their dictators thought) of competing with the core states.

          Sure, its methods were brutal -- but the Soviet Union's Five-Year Plans accomplished quite a bit in economic terms.  See, e.g. Kees van der Pijl, From the Cold War to Iraq..  Quiz question: which nation paid most of the costs for World War II and still managed to be the first one in outer space?

          "I've seen the flame of hope among the hopeless/ And that was truly the biggest heartbreak of all" -- Bruce Cockburn

          by Cassiodorus on Mon May 07, 2012 at 05:08:44 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  do the ends justify the means? (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            WB Reeves

            The post-Left anarchist argument is that consequently, the Soviet Union was not a meaningful improvement on Czarist Russia, at least not in terms of the relationship between the citizen and the state and perhaps not even in terms of how the citizen benefited from the industrial powerhouse, being as so much of it was devoted to the military.  Even the United States still reduced most of its population to drones: drones with "a minimum of civil rights", but drones nonetheless.

            Can socialism, communism, or trade unionism redeem the assembly line or the cubicle?  Can it redeem coal mining, burger flipping, or paper pushing?  Can it redeem managers and bureaucrats, executives and politicians?  Or are these aspects of any large-scale industrialized society fundamentally at odds with the pursuit of dignity, equality, and the fulfillment of human potential?

            The fear is that you'll still end up with a stratified society where some people are allowed creativity while others are not, some make decisions while others do not, some must risk life and limb while others do not, some must spend the day bent over in the hot sun while others spend the day sitting indoors, etc.

            •  The Soviets also had to kill a lot of people -- (0+ / 0-)

              to defeat Hitler.  That's how it was, then.

              The fundamental problem is that the competition for power creates the sort of regimes described in the theories of Antonio Gramsci and his readers, of whom Kees van der Pijl (cited above) is one.  They're regimes in which, from historical era to historical era, the oppressed give their consent to their oppression through what is called "hegemony," and where the elites use the power granted them to repeat their forefathers' mistakes because continued domination is what makes them feel secure.

              Clearly one part of the solution is to call upon the popular will to disbelieve.  Anarchists are good at that.

              "I've seen the flame of hope among the hopeless/ And that was truly the biggest heartbreak of all" -- Bruce Cockburn

              by Cassiodorus on Mon May 07, 2012 at 06:57:19 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Well, considering the fact (0+ / 0-)

                They had centuries of experience with cold, starvation and sacrificing peasants for the benefit of elites, I suppose their strategy was a no-brainer, kind of like Chinese inventing a new dish from whatever they managed to get their hands on that seemed remotely edible.

                Which leads to this: that Russians have a strong culture of chess playing, and Chinese weiqi, the former, a game where a few convenient pawns can be sacrificed to protect a king or turn defense into offense, and the later where a lot of pieces that look and act the same, work in groups and can take abrupt turns to swarm and over-run an opponent.

                BEWARE!

                Oh, this is a good conversation. {|-)

                What about my Daughter's future?

                by koNko on Thu May 10, 2012 at 09:06:15 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

        •  Stimulating discussion (0+ / 0-)

          Sorry I missed it.

          The critique of industrial civilization is not new. It has a long history in left thought. Leftism has never limited itself to merely "giving workers ownership of the means of production" or "giving citizens full control of the machinery of state". What it has argued is that without the abolition of private ownership of the means of production along with the ruling class monopoly of political power, the development of a humane and egalitarian society is impossible. These are not ends in themselves but rather means to an end.

          Your example of the 40 hr work week is ill chosen since the the reduction of hours worked with no decrease in pay (30 for 40) is a long standing Left solution for the problem of unemployment.

          Regarding the Soviet experience, attributing the degenerate character of that regime to its being "the natural result of taking over an authoritarian-capitalist socioeconomic system" is a facile but ultimately contentless argument in the context of a critique of "industrial civilization". Russia was one of the least industrialized of all the European nation states. Politically, socially and culturally it was pre-Capitalist in character. Describing it as "authoritarian" is a massive understatement. Pharonic is more like it.

          The Tsar was no monarchical figurehead but an absolute despot whose word was law in all matters civil, legal and religious. The Tsar's subjects were overwhelmingly concentrated in the rural peasantry rather than an urban industrial proletariat. The concept of private property, in the Bourgeois liberal sense, was alien to Tsarism. In short, the existing system in pre-revolutionary Russia was something out of the middle ages rather than the industrial age. To the degree that the Bolsheviks made use of existing structures, they were following a pre-industrial model.

          Moreover, the Bolshevik seizure of power was not initiated as an end in itself. It was conceived as an avatar of a general revolutionary wave that would first sweep Europe and eventually the entire globe. When this failed to occur, the Russian revolutionists were forced to improvise within the confines of single nation state surrounded by hostile states. However, to admit this would have been admitting that the revolution, as originally conceived, had failed. This would have destroyed the rationale for the Bolshevik Party's monopoly of power. Consequently, from this point onward theory and analysis would increasingly serve the cynical needs of policy rather than providing a sound basis for developing policies.

          I'm going into such detail to stress a point: the monstrosity that was the Soviet Union was not the result of some mechanistic, preordained process. Rather, it resulted from a complex interplay of factors arising from the historical contingencies in which the Russian Revolution was enmeshed. Key amongst these factors was the moral inadequacy of the Bolshevik leadership. Imagine how differently history would have played out if they'd had the courage to face the facts at the time of Kronstadt rather than drowning them in blood.

          There really isn't much in what you describe as post-leftism that is fundamentally at odds with a left perspective, other than the conclusion that the solution is to do away with industrialism, technology, etc. This makes it appear that post-leftism is nothing more than primitivism by another name. In which case I have to ask: what the point of obscuring this fact?
                     

          •  I hope I'm not misrepresenting post-leftism (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            WB Reeves

            I'm still digesting these ideas myself.

            I don't think that post-leftism is identical with primitivism.  The last thing these people would want is for us all to return to the Stone Age; they'd consider that to be incredibly limiting.  Technology is valuable, indeed indispensable, because it expands the limits of the possible while reducing the amount of time and effort we must invest in simply surviving.  They want to see us use our technology to meet our physical needs as quickly as possible and then move on to higher activities ... but that can't happen under capitalism where every incentive favors maximum production.

            40 hours a week is an improvement over the past, but it's still not good enough.  The post-left believes that absent capitalism and if technology were used properly, we could meet our needs for food, shelter, clothing, etc. on something more like 4 hours a week.  Even better, the things we produce would not be generic commodities extruded out of a machine, but each would be a work of art in its own right that would both merit and demand thought, skill, and care.

            There's no question that abolishing private property is a good thing; instead, post-leftism argues that the property itself also needs to change.  Socializing the "satanic mills" and the cubicle farms won't turn a drone into a Leonardo da Vinci - a free spirit with nothing to do but learn, dream, and do - but that's exactly what the post-leftists want to do.  We have a moral obligation to create a society where everyone can live up to their full potential: thinking, feeling, expressing, creating, etc.  Capitalism can never do that - it will never do that because it needs drones - but neither can any form of leftism which simply replaces the bosses with workers' councils while leaving the machine itself untouched.

            The point I'm trying to make about socialism as it's been practiced throughout history is that it has not meaningfully liberated people: not from authorities and not from toil.  I think that this is ultimately an indictment of industrial society - regardless of who owns it - which operates on such a vast scale that hierarchy, specialization, and cog-ifying become essential to maintain the system and its rate of production.

            •  I can't judge (0+ / 0-)

              the validity of your presentation. I'm no expert on "post-leftism." All I can say is that the perception of the "Left" embedded in the ideas as you have presented them strikes me as thoroughly ahistorical. To say that Socialism has failed to usher in a post capitalist millenium speaks more to the resilience of Capitalism than to the character of the ideas espoused by Socialists. There is literally nothing in what you state above that I find incompatible with a general left perspective.

              This isn't to suggest that you can't find examples of self styled Leftists who imagine industrialism to be the apex of human achievement. Of course such people exist, just as you can find self styled Anarchists whose dogmatism, elitism and brutal intolerance rivals that of the most hidebound Leninist. The existence of such folks doesn't qualify them as the epitome of the ideas they claim to espouse.

              Let me try and clarify my criticism by posing a query. If the industrial model is deadening and dehumanizing to those under the regime of Capital, how likely is it that its victims would allow that model to continue unchanged once the regime enforcing it is overthrown?

              Assuming, of course, that the victimized exercised actual, rather than fictive, power.

               

              •  whole idea that industrial model doesn't continue (0+ / 0-)
                Let me try and clarify my criticism by posing a query. If the industrial model is deadening and dehumanizing to those under the regime of Capital, how likely is it that its victims would allow that model to continue unchanged once the regime enforcing it is overthrown?
                Exactly.  That's the entire post-left anarchist thesis right there.  The industrial model should not continue after the Revolution, and that socialism both in theory and in practice has been wrong for trying to co-opt it.  Once the capitalist enforcers are gone, of course no-one's going to want to stay on the plantation and leftist enforcers of industrial modes of production don't deserve to be called leftists.

                But it's a good thing that the industrial model would be abandoned.  The alternative that the post-leftists propose is basically a return to artisan production: highly skilled, creative and self-expressive, custom not generic, minimal specialization or division of labor, etc.  And even then, you only produce when and because you want to.  I think the most utopian part of this whole thing is the belief that people will produce without any coercion or persuasion - socialist or otherwise - because deep down we actually enjoy applying ourselves and making things ... but only when we are able to determine for ourselves the conditions and purpose of our activities.

            •  Humm .... (0+ / 0-)
              40 hours a week is an improvement over the past, but it's still not good enough.  The post-left believes that absent capitalism and if technology were used properly, we could meet our needs for food, shelter, clothing, etc. on something more like 4 hours a week.  Even better, the things we produce would not be generic commodities extruded out of a machine, but each would be a work of art in its own right that would both merit and demand thought, skill, and care.
              Some would say that 4 hour week comes at a cost to others.

              What I'd suggest is a lot less materialism to make the thing more sustainable, which requires some adjustment of expectations but can slow the treadmill to a tolerable pace.

              What about my Daughter's future?

              by koNko on Thu May 10, 2012 at 09:11:22 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  the point is to get rid of the treadmill (0+ / 0-)
                What I'd suggest is a lot less materialism to make the thing more sustainable, which requires some adjustment of expectations but can slow the treadmill to a tolerable pace.
                Speaking metaphorically, the goal is to replace the treadmill with a walk on the beach, or more accurately, what the Situationists called a dérive: an aimless and free but supremely aware stroll through a place in the hope of stumbling upon new experiences.  Pace isn't the problem - no-one has to live slowly - but if you're going to sprint, it should be because you want to.
      •  all of anarchism (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        WB Reeves

        is an idea whose time has not yet come. it's a long way off, a long term goal.

        blink-- pale cold

        by zedaker on Mon May 07, 2012 at 06:33:23 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  We don't. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        joe wobblie, Cassiodorus, Visceral

        As Visceral said, for the workers to simply be their own bosses (the goal of the Left) is an insufficient if it means daily life remains unchanged.  There's a good reason why while the largest and mainstream trade unions were trying to improve compensation, the IWW was trying to reduce work hours!

        Similarly, the Left idea of all-encompassing and totally representative democracy- what if I don't want to be represented, but rather want to be in full and direct personal control of my life?

        Platformism vs CrimethInc.  Revolution (i.e. an event that happens on a specific day) vs. Prefiguration.  And so on.

  •  A good Diary (3+ / 0-)

    I have a caution though. I don't think any social, political or cultural formation can be comprehended outside the context of its history. Anarchism is no exception.

    That said, I agree that Anarchism isn't a cohesive body of doctrine, beyond certain basic premises. Key among these is the call for the abolition of all forms of coercive, hierarchical privilege, whether social, political, cultural or economic. This demand makes Anarchism something more than merely a species of "free thinking". It is a call for autonomous, direct action, which makes it a force in human affairs rather than a philosophical abstraction. It places Anarchism at odds with all existing or imagined social structures to the degree that these structures do not reject coercion and hierarchy. Chief among such structures are the centralized state and Statism. Hence the name: Anarchy, or the rule of none.

    From this starting point Anarchism diverges into wildly differing streams of thought. It could hardly be otherwise since Anarchism in its essence rejects any system of enforced conformity. Paradoxically, the very clarity of its goals precludes clarity or uniformity in the strategy and tactics through which those goals might be achieved. Consequently, self described anarchists include both techies and primitivists, builders and breakers, militants and pacifists.

    It is this characteristic which types Anarchism as Utopian, since it is apparent that such contradictory visions are not susceptible to consensus. Not unexpectedly, this has been seen as the fatal weakness of Anarchism. However, again paradoxically, this Utopianism is in fact the source of Anarchism's continuing and presently resurgent appeal.

    Anarchism makes the ultimate demand for complete human liberation and rejects any half measures. It accepts no limitations on the means by which it pursues this goal other than those imposed by the end itself. As long as coercion, oppression and exploitation persist, as long as there are those who struggle to rid human existence of these evils, Anarchism will endure.    

         

  •  Anarchy today, we’ve already got that! (0+ / 0-)

    Unfortunately it’s only going to get much worse…
    It’s called Techno-globalism it’s destroying everything

    Nudniks need not apply.

    by killermiller on Mon May 07, 2012 at 05:12:56 PM PDT

  •  Fundamentally, Anarchism is based on principles (3+ / 0-)

    Mainly the annihilation of coercion and the fulfillment of the individual.  Then there are what might be called "practical principles" such as consent and gift economics, which are not principles in the strictest sense (since they themselves only exist to serve a higher principle) but are fundamental to Anarchism because of their utility and adherence to other principles and to the coherence of the whole.

    Basically, Anarchism is what you get when you ask "Why?" enough times.

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