Sunday, December 04, 2011

David Graeber (and Daniel Little) on Anarchism

In David Graeber on the anarchist movement, Daniel Little reviews Graeber's book, Direct Action.
We want to see a world that is genuinely committed to some basic principles of social justice, equality, and personal freedom. And we generally acknowledge the point that the modern world can only function on the basis of social, political, and economic structures that have a degree of authority over individual conduct. These two framing ideas are in tension. ... Is social democracy actually a feasible outcome in the conditions of the 21st century?

There is a strand of radical thought that answers these questions in the negative. The "autonomist" theories and practices within the labor movement of the 1950s... represent one thread in this world. Another is the body of thinking, rhetoric, and action that is involved in the anarchist organizations associated with current anti-globalization activism. David Graeber has done an important service to the rest of us by offering an extended ethnography of this loosely connected movement in Direct Action. The book is the first I've seen to offer a nuanced description of the thinking, practices, and networks that have emerged within this movement over the past fifteen years or so.

Activism is important for correcting specific errors or problems, but according to Little,
it doesn't give a basis for creating institutions and structures that really work from the point of view of social justice and participatory democracy. ... In the end, I am more attracted to the kind of work begun by Fung and Wright, which is aimed at creating sustainable institutions of participatory democracy.

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