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Forum Post: Anarchism without Anarchism: Searching for Progressive Politics

Posted 8 years ago on June 20, 2012, 11:53 a.m. EST by francismjenkins (3713)
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Recent explorations of the anarchist heritage are to be welcomed, bringing to a contemporary intellectual audience the politically and morally inspiring thought of such major thinkers as Bakunin, Kropotkin, Proudhon, and more recently, Harold Laski and Paul Goodman.[i] This rich tradition reminds us strongly of the relevance of anti-state traditions of reflection and advocacy, as well as the indispensable role of cooperation, non-violence, community, small-scale social organization, and local solutions for human material needs if the aspiration for a just and sustainable society is ever to be rescued from its utopian greenhouse. There is every reason to celebrate this anarchist perspective for its own sake, although in a critical and discriminating manner. Non-violent philosophical anarchism has a surprising resonance in relation to the ongoing difficult search for a coherent and mobilizing progressive politics in the aftermath of the virtual demise of Marxist/Gramsci theorizing, as well as even socialist thought and practice.[ii]


Good article, it's a bit long, but worth reading (if you have an interest in this topic).



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[-] 1 points by Democracy101 (54) 8 years ago

Carne Ross Interview on Anarchism from his book The Leaderless Revolution: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yeNeWrxRfn4

[-] 1 points by francismjenkins (3713) 8 years ago

I seen him do an interview on Bill Moyers, very smart guy & excellent advocate for this issue.

[-] 1 points by francismjenkins (3713) 8 years ago

A short introduction to Gramsci:

Cultural hegemony is the philosophic and sociological theory, by the Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci, which proposes that a culturally diverse society can be dominated (ruled) by one social class, whose dominance is achieved by manipulating the societal culture (beliefs, explanations, perceptions, values, mores) so that its ruling-class worldview (Weltanschauung) is imposed as the societal norm, which every social class then perceives as a universally valid ideology that justifies the social, political, and economic status quo — as natural, inevitable, and beneficial for everyone, rather than as artificial social constructs that benefit only the ruling class.[1][2]


[-] 0 points by sirtruthhurtsalot (7) 8 years ago

Intellectualism without intellectualism?

Planes without planes?

It's called military grade holograms!

[-] 0 points by TitusMoans (2451) from Boulder City, NV 8 years ago

I agree with some parts, but I definitely disagree with the last sentence: "...the virtual demise of Marxist/Gramsci theorizing, as well as even socialist thought and practice."

I'm not sure where Falk lives, but many recent events, including the Walker victory in Wisconsin, lend credence to the Marxist theory of cultural hegemony, expanded upon by Antonio Gramsci. In both the Communist Manifesto and The German Ideology Marx clearly enunciated the theory of cultural hegemony by the ruling class.

The recent Socialist turns in France, Greece, and other European countries, plus the leftward move by many popular movements, including OWS, suggests that Marxism may be on the upsurge rather than a decline.

If Falk means the decline of "socialist" countries and the abandonment of pseudo-Marxism in other countries, that is true, but on the flip side, none of the countries has ever succeeded in forming a classless society, not because of an inherent failure in Marxist theory, but because the persons, who have seized power, have rarely, if ever, had the intention of forming a classless society; they intended an oligarchy or dictatorship from the start.

While many ideas proposed by Marx and Engels appear misguided, perhaps even silly, by modern standards, both men were products of their age and culture, so viewed the world through that arcane perspective.

Finally, Falk mentions Piotr Kropotkin in a context, which suggests that Kropotkin was not in favor of communist ideals, which of course, totally misrepresents Kropotkin's beliefs. He was one of the modern fathers of anarcho-communism, libertarian-communism, or whatever else one would care to call it, but he consistently favored common ownership and abolition of the state, which were both the final goals of Marx and Engels.

In Kropotkin's famous definition of anarchism he wrote, "As to their economical conceptions, the anarchists, in common with all socialists, of whom they constitute the left wing, maintain that the now prevailing system of private ownership in land, and our capitalist production for the sake of profits, represent a monopoly which runs against both the principles of justice and the dictates of utility. They are the main obstacle which prevents the successes of modern technics from being brought into the service of all, so as to produce general well-being. The anarchists consider the wage-system and capitalist production altogether as an obstacle to progress. But they point out also that the state was, and continues to be, the chief instrument for permitting the few to monopolize the land, and the capitalists to appropriate for themselves a quite disproportionate share of the yearly accumulated surplus of production. Consequently, while combating the present monopolization of land, and capitalism altogether, the anarchists combat with the same energy the state, as the main support of that system. Not this or that special form, but the state altogether, whether it be a monarchy or even a republic governed by means of the referendum."

[-] 0 points by francismjenkins (3713) 8 years ago

Well stated, nothing I disagree with here. Kropotkin's philosophy was closely aligned with communist philosophy (so much is obvious in my view). Frankly, I like Proudhon's analysis of the (call it) problem of property a little better (while Proudhon gives us the famous maxim "property is theft" ... he also states that "property is freedom"):

Théorie de la propriété (Theory of Property, 1863–64), he declared in turn that "property is theft", "property is impossible", "property is despotism" and "property is freedom". When he said "property is theft", he was referring to the landowner or capitalist who he believed "stole" the profits from laborers. For Proudhon, the capitalist's employee was "subordinated, exploited: his permanent condition is one of obedience".[6]

In asserting that property is freedom, he was referring not only to the product of an individual's labor, but to the peasant or artisan's home and tools of his trade and the income he received by selling his goods.


This may also seem like a somewhat arcane view of property, for instance, consider the following critique of the "labor theory of value"

Many liberal economists believe that the Marxist labor theory of value has been "discredited".[34] The labor theory of value predicts that profits will be higher in labor-intensive industries than in capital-intensive industries, and empirical data contradicts this. This is sometimes referred to as the "Great Contradiction." Marx responds to this in his third volume of Capital with his competition of capitals theory, a mathematical transformation that has been fiercely debated. Most economists today also contest that the value of capital is limited to the "congealed labor" that it took to build the capital when that capital can increase the productive capability of labor much more than that[35].

Nonetheless, certain elements of the theory are still believed to be valid, or the theory is presented in a non-Marxist tradition[36].


For a more in depth analysis of this theory, see:


This is all beyond the scope of what I'm prepared to opine on, but suffice it to say, I think all of this scholastic work should be considered.

[-] 1 points by DemandTheGoodLifeDotCom (3360) from New York, NY 8 years ago

The labor theory of value is just as true today as it was in Smith's and Ricardo's time. The price of something depends on how much labor it took to produce. The more labor, the higher the price.

If you charge more for something than the actual amount of labor that went into it then people will just hire the labor themselves to produce so they can pay a lower price.

People point out that well how do you explain a $1 million Monet painting. That painting may have been produced by 1 person over the course of a day. Clearly the price is higher than the amount of labor that went into producing it.

But that is only because you are not including all the labor that went into producing a painting masterpiece. You have to also include the labor of hundreds or thousands of failed painters that came before Monet that failed to produce a masterpiece.

In order for a record company to produce a single successful artist, they need to sign 10 bands. 9 will fail. You need the labor of 10 bands to produce a single hit.

[-] 0 points by francismjenkins (3713) 8 years ago

Here's what Kropotkin had to say on this matter:

The idea of labor checks, you know, is old. It dates from Robert Owen; Proudhon commended it in 1848; Marxists have made "Scientific Socialism" of it today.

We must say, however, that this system seems to have little hold on the minds of the masses; it would seem they foresaw its drawbacks, not to say its impossibility. Firstly, the duration of time given to any work does not give the measure of social utility of the work accomplished, and the theories of value that economists have endeavored to base, from Adam Smith to Marx, only on the cost of production, valued in labor time, have not solved the question of value. As soon as there is exchange, the value of an article becomes a complex quantity, and depends also on the degree of satisfaction which it brings to the needs-not of the individual, as certain economists stated formerly, but of the whole of society, taken in its entirety. Value is a social fact. Being the result of an exchange, it has a double aspect: that of labor, and that of satisfaction of needs, both evidently conceived in their social and not individual aspect.

On the other hand, when we analyze the evils of the present economic system, we see-and the worker knows it full well-that their essence lies in the forced necessity of the worker to sell his labor power. Not having the wherewithal to live for the next fortnight, and being prevented by the State from using his labor power without selling it to someone, the worker sells himself to the one who undertakes to give him work; he renounces the benefits his labor might bring him in; he abandons the lion's share of what he produces to his employer; he even abdicates his liberty; he renounces his right to make his opinion heard on the utility of what he is about to produce and on the way of producing it.


A really good synopsis of anarchism by Kropotkin:


The major point of contention with labor theory of value seems to be that it ignores marginal utility (but it's been a while since I learned this stuff [as an undergrad] so I wouldn't be comfortable offering an opinion on this without sharpening my pencil, dusting off my old econ books & doing some research).


[-] 1 points by DemandTheGoodLifeDotCom (3360) from New York, NY 8 years ago

Modern economics has moved on from the labor theory of value because it does not really add anything.

The market is a walrasian auction. Its prices are set by the laws of supply and demand. People are not adding up the labor and using that as a guide in forming a price. Consumers are going for the lowest price possible and producers are going for the highest price possible. Looking at the economy from that perspective is referred to as the marginal revolution.

But the basic premise of the more labor that goes into producing something, the higher its price will be still holds.

[-] 1 points by francismjenkins (3713) 8 years ago

Right, in fact even most worker cooperative associations I've looked at, operate under the premise of market competition (some of them even list this as one of their major guiding principles). Studies have shown that employee owned companies outperform conventional companies, but only where employees have "both" a significant ownership stake, and a significant role in managing the company.

In other words, ownership and competition promotes excellence, but there seems to be alternative models that can outperform conventional "for-profit" companies. Moreover, I agree that the labor theory of value is pretty dubious at this point (probably long outdated).

The issue of price is an important one, and I think in a more perfect market, there would less controversy concerning the idea of setting value using the price mechanism (via supply & demand).

[-] -3 points by ForgetMarx (-10) 8 years ago

How does this posting aid cyberanarchist Julian Assange, FrancisMJenkins?


[-] -3 points by ForgetMarx (-10) 8 years ago

And how does THIS posting aid cyberanarchist Julian Assange, FrancisMJenkins? There's plenty of time for your theoretical blathering after we make sure he is safe...

[-] 0 points by TitusMoans (2451) from Boulder City, NV 8 years ago

Marx did bring up the "freedom" of property when discussing medieval society, in which serfs, who became craftsmen, relying on personally owned instruments of production, helped to form the power of the urban centers as they fled the agrarian, feudal system for the allure of the cities, in which, however, they rarely rose above the common rabble.

Marx and Engels viewed property ownership, starting with the family--in which (19th century view) the husband "owned" his wife and children--as an evolutionary process, occasionally accelerated by revolutions to dramatically alter systems.

So, the sum is that the medieval system of craftsmen, controlled by guilds, who were concentrated in urban areas, eventually laid the base for the Industrial Revolution, which through technical advances(Kropotkin's "technics"), revolutionized mechanized production. The rabble became the proletariat and those with enough capital to build and acquire instruments of mass production formed the bourgeousie.

Many mainstream economists (conservative or liberal--both about the same: one farts out of the left cheek, while the other farts out of the right) have been so consistently wrong, little they say really has the ring of truth to it.

Just this year, Richard Wolff, one the leading Marxian economists of modern times, describing his book Marx Today, wrote, "Since the onset of global crisis in recent years, academics and economic theorists from various political and cultural backgrounds have been drawn to Marx's analysis of the inherent instability of capitalism. The rediscovery of Marx is based on his continuing capacity to explain the present. In the context of what some commentators have described as a 'Marx renaissance'..."

[-] -2 points by ForgetMarx (-10) 8 years ago

"The rediscovery of Marx is based on his continuing capacity to explain the present."

BULLSHIT: From the desperation of the Sioux came the revived Ghost Dance beliefs that got many of them killed at Wounded Knee SD.

Reality Check: Several totalitarian regimes have falsely claimed to be Marxist, but no actual Marxist government has ever existed much less succeeded. Marx was a dogmatist, not a pragmatist. Moving from Capitalism to Marxism is a suggestion that makes no more sense than assessing the residents of eastern New Mexico to be sociopolitically homogenous.

[-] -3 points by ForgetMarx (-10) 8 years ago

And what have you done to aid cyberanarchist Julian Assange today, FrancisMJenkins?

[-] 1 points by francismjenkins (3713) 8 years ago

Assange is wanted by Sweden for sexual assault allegations, not related to his work with Wikileaks. The United States has issued a statement that the they have no intention of charging Assange with anything (since by now I'm sure the US has tightly locked up their information, so there will be no more major leaks, and trying to extradite Assange is probably more of a headache than its worth). If in fact Assange is guilty of sexual assault, his victim deserves justice, and I trust the Swedes can conduct a fair trial. So whatever happens here, I see nothing OWS should get involved in (unless someone has credible evidence that Assange was set up on the sexual assault charges, and the alleged victim, who has given public statements, fabricated the allegations; and I'm not aware of any such evidence).

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 8 years ago

my friend lost her job complaining about sexual assault in the San Diego library

[-] 1 points by francismjenkins (3713) 8 years ago

That's obviously terrible, but unfortunately, not all that uncommon.

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 8 years ago

cause trouble (complain about abuse)

an unrelated reason can always be found to fire someone

[-] 1 points by francismjenkins (3713) 8 years ago

As a lawyer (although I'm not an expert in this area, most of us do study at least a little bit of employment/labor law, or law related to this area), I do know that a cause of action can be sustained against an employer in these cases, including a government employer (albeit it's a challenge, but of course suing is always a challenge :)).

Obviously I don't know the particulars, so this is not a legal opinion of any sort (not that a legal opinion would ever be rendered in this sort of format). My suggestion would be (if this person hasn't done so already), they should seek legal council (who specializes in this area).

[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 8 years ago

If it is an "employ at will" state it really does not matter as per the law they do not have to have a reason to let you go.

[-] 1 points by francismjenkins (3713) 8 years ago

There's still laws that have to be complied with. For instance, even with at will employment, discrimination is illegal, and sexual harassment is illegal.

[-] 2 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 8 years ago

Yep - but ya still gotta prove it.

[-] 1 points by francismjenkins (3713) 8 years ago

But of course (but that's why they make us suffer through three years of intellectual torture in law school) :)


[-] 1 points by brightonsage (4494) 8 years ago

That could be the problem.