nora on finding a way

nora bateson (@NoraBateson) tweeted at 7:39 AM on Thu, Jul 16, 2020:
An article w wonderful Mamphela Ramphele (anti-apartheid activist, author & co-president of Club of Rome) -this is the think piece of our project.

Finding a way. Will People’s response to the emergencies of the coming decades be Warm? or Cold?


15 min read on medium – by nora and mamphela

People are not numbers. Numbers are just numbers, they cannot source possibilities from each other, they cannot find a way when the basic arithmetic says there is none. People can. t.. Abstracting the solutions to numbers inherently dehumanizes, and unnecessarily constrains, the spectrum of possibilities. The metric logic removes the human breadth of experience and relationship. ..This is the magic of being a living organism. 

free/alive people can.. organism as fractal

literacy and numeracy both elements of colonialism/control/enclosure.. we need to calculate differently and stop measuring things

People are not roles. A word of warning: collaboration can easily become a mechanistic allocation of effort according to roles. ..This is not a matter of assessment of who is good at what and assigning roles according to expertise. On the contrary — ‘finding a way’ is about the unique possibilities that occur in relationship between particular people, in that particular water, on that particular day. There is no formula, no method, this realm of possibility is accessed through a sentiment of human care and imagination..t

imagine if we just focused on listening to the itch-in-8b-souls.. first thing.. everyday.. and used that data to augment our interconnectedness.. we might just get to a more antifragile, healthy, thriving world.. the ecosystem we keep longing for..

what the world needs most is the energy of 8b alive people

We are all capable of different things depending on who we are with and what they are finding themselves capable of. Capacity cannot be front-loaded, it is emergent. But it is possible to front-load a baseline perception of self, others and world that assumes the inherent multitude of stories and draws from them.. t With care and imagination the possibilities are endless.

ie: cure ios city

Particular Complexities “find a way”: The possibilities for “finding a way” in emergencies are not countable, controllable, nor predictable. ..The solutions to the situation are completely contingent upon detail and they are accessed spontaneously, iteratively and simultaneously. They are as infinite as the combinations of people.

humanity needs a leap.. to get back/to simultaneous spontaneity ..  simultaneous fittingness.. everyone in sync.

The cold questions are compelling, even though they are the wrong questions. These questions are a distraction from the process of perception of the complexity of each person, and tuning into the alchemy they produce. As such they can easily hijack the limited time and morale needed to ‘find a way.’

spinning our wheels looking at whales in sea world

The dark history: As it turns out, there is a reason this type of approach feels so cold. The creator of the “lifeboat ethic” Garrett Hardin actually was a eugenicist, nationalist, and white supremacist. Hardin was an important figure in the history of environmental solutions, especially known for his popularizing of the idea of the “Tragedy of the Commons.” The history of Hardin’s eugenics and nationalistic thinking have been known all along, it was never a secret. But those ideas and the sentiments under them, came to set the tone for how response to complex crises is imagined and managed. And, that is something which requires a sobering wake up, learning, and new attention to the ways in which that genre of thinking sneaks in.

today .. even by those thinking we’re commoning when we’re still just tragedy of the non common ing.. so many red flags.. and we’re missing them..  part\ial is killing us.. for (blank)’s sake.. there’s a nother way


1\ undisturbed ecosystem (common\ing) can happen

2\ if we create a way to ground the chaos of 8b free people

While there are cries for collaboration and unity, they are often founded on the grounds of competition, roles, and mechanistic notions of who does what. This is not collaboration, nor is it a living response.

red flags..

A pre-scripted and rigid set of roles is a harbinger of an era of errors in thinking in which most aspects of daily life were modeled into industrial patterns.

let go.. of that hard won order

And now, People NEED People. But to get there a starkly different approach is needed. And an honest look at current approaches is at hand.. the need to address the hidden agendas, the blind assumptions and the ways in which elitism and control keep manifesting as eco-idealism — is a requirement. Like a detective with a black light, it is time to look at where the blood is, to check for fingerprints.

yeah.. i think that’s a useful approach.. ends up being an energy sucker.. we can let go of all that if we want.. and reset.. (maybe i’m misunderstanding.. requirement to check for fingerprints?)

So where is the commons? And how can the communities be allowed to learn in mutuality from within and between the many forms they live within? Community is complex.

ie: cure ios city with 2 convers as infra

The eagerness to define community and to define set formulas for responding to the needs of community are creating a blindness to the necessary complexity, perpetuating the elimination of contexts and failing to perceive the uniqueness of the ways in which communities are alive and entangled..t

yeah.. that..

‘in undisturbed ecosystems ..the average individual, species, or population, left to its own devices, behaves in ways that serve and stabilize the whole..’ –Dana Meadows

Dangerously the notion of creating solutions for the commons is often inherently infected with the thinking that the ‘lifeboat ethic’ was forged in. The eugenics is there, implying control, implying scalable solutions, implying that people are numbers, that communities are equations to be solved, measured and managed. This is Newtonian physics misapplied to living systems.

tragedy of the non common rather than organism as fractal

The idea of the garden needs to be homegrown, not implemented by planners, no matter how altruistic..t

curiosity over decision making ..beyond finite set of choices et al

Solutions to scale defy the complexity of the people, the places, the ideas and the situations. Scale is a trendy concept, and one that must be used with extreme caution. Some *projects and products do scale, others do not. The distinction is badly needing attention and articulation..t When is the urgency to scale a project a form of colonialism? And when is it not?

i’d add *infras.. we need an infra to scale to the root of all of us.. today.. (no prep, training, et al needed) ie: maté basic needs

and we need a means to do that (scale) all in sync.. across the board [to get to the roots of healing.. it has to be all of us]


nora on ed change

nora on finding a way

nora on healing

nora on voice change



short findings restate

most of what’s in deck:

[short\est restate of findings-in-failings/findings-abstract.. from 5ish years of live people trying/experimenting with a nother way to live and then 5ish more years deepening that listening]

what we found/lived:

1\ an *undisturbed ecosystem (common\ing) is legit.. (can be true/actual).. if we create conditions/space/time where people feel free enough (unconditional – if we think we need incentives/reciprocity/et-al.. red flag we’re doing it/life wrong) to be true to themselves (which is what we focused-on/practiced/did in that 5ish years)

*‘in undisturbed ecosystems ..the average individual, species, or population, left to its own devices, behaves in ways that serve and stabilize the whole..’ –Dana Meadows

2\ in order for an undisturbed ecosystem to happen/dance/keep-on.. we need to figure out *a way to hasten detox and daily interconnectedness.. (ground the chaos of 8b free people) so that everyone is in sync (which is what we focused-on/listened-for/practiced/figured-out in the following 5ish years)

*find problems/desires/holes/missing-pieces/needs deep enough (found 2) to resonate with 8b people today.. and create a daily infrastructure (around those 2) simple enough for 8b people to be able to follow/live/be.. every day.. using tech as it could be (listening to every voice everyday)..


thinking restate/update 7.18

(for me/us) the curiosity/experimentation we did was really about how to set people free.. and what we found was that curiosity penetrates deeper than decision making.. more of an offense/aliveness than a defense/responding (to a finite set of choices et al) and it is at this core where free\dom (getting/letting the whales out of sea world) can begin (again)

decision making’s finite set of choices are too entwined in supposed to’s


(short summary)


1\ undisturbed ecosystem (common\ing) can happen

2\ if we create a way to ground the chaos of 8b free people


findings abstract


same on issuu:


copied pages from slidedeck above:

findings: from 5+ yrs of experimenting

(more details/graphics here: storyboard; and much more details/videos here: findings-in-failings; and shortest version here: short findings restate)

abstract: as in summary

(not as in existing in thought or as an idea but not having a physical or concrete existence .. rather a summary from live people experimenting)

– – –

1\ (2008-2009) – in the quiet of the noise

in some deep conversations

(200ish local and 200ish global – mostly youth in school settings)

we noticed a situation..

most people are stressed

(from all the things ie: grades; money; life; death;.. how people are suffocating from the day in many different ways)

most can’t wait till 3/5pm and/or the weekend.

we’ve got to change up how we’re spending our days.

we wondered if there might actually be a way to change how we were spending our days.. we asked permission to experiment the next year with self-directing.. within a space we already had (had to have) ..a math class

2\ (2009-2010) – in a math classroom

we (30) experimented with all the ways to self-direct in a school math setting.. but most weren’t in love with school math enough to self-direct w/o some reward.. and that reward compromised free time/thinking (ie: many ended up with a bunch of free time to pursue curiosities/interest.. but there was always a looming ‘is this free time legit in math class?’.. so the grade, other classes, the raised eyebrow,.. kept trumping energy)

people aren’t hungry for school math

for ie: school math..we’ve got to question all assumed agendas.

we asked permission to experiment the next year with self-directing something that mattered to us

ie: each wrote own curriculum, got it pre-approved to fit within the credentialing system we already had (had to have)

3\ (2010-2011) – in a tech building

we (50ish) experimented with independent study

but even writing our own curriculum compromised daily curiosity (ie: pick something that mattered like hebrew, soccer, human trafficking.. then life/death happens..and other things matter like cancer, homelessness, treehouses, ..)

people crave daily choice

curiosity drives choice.

we’ve got to let go of our control issues and listen.

ie: if i offer you spinach or a rock, and am happy you picked spinach, that’s control, not choice.

so we asked permission to experiment the next year with following our whimsy/curiosities .. and to declare learnings (if we desired credit) at the end of the year

4\ (2011-2012) – in a house downtown

we (50) experimented with what it might be like to live in a wealthy unschooling home

we felt that we were getting closer to following curiosity/whimsy but further away from people.. we craved other people to explore/build/be with..

people free to follow daily curiosities.. crave people

following/facilitating whimsy gets us to a natural/sustaining/thriving energy.

we’ve got to find the bravery to change our minds. everyday.

we wondered why more people didn’t feel free enough to follow daily curiosity (because of all the detox it took for us..we thought maybe most of us don’t think it’s legal/legit to listen to and think for ourselves)

planned to spend the next year in the city.. as the day .. figuring out and experimenting with..   a narrative/means to free all people

wrote booksish

5\ (2012-2013) – in coffee shops, library, ..

we (not enough) experimented/listened with city as school   

since all people matter to the conversation/dance/ecosystem ..we had to find a way this would work for 100% of humanity even the inspectors of the inspectors

The center of the problem is that none of them knew the center of the problem. – Taleb

we need a nonnarrative (deep/simple/open enough) for 100% of humanity.  re\wire

perhaps 2 conversations could work as an infrastructure to free/detox us all at the same time – because sync matters

6\ (2013-2014) – everywhere and nowhere

we (never just me) listened some more

until everyone can play/dance.. none of us really can

None of us are free if one of us is chained.  – Solomon Burke

perhaps networked individualism ness. an authenticity/attachment dance.

perhaps if a mech/tech could listen to our daily self-talk as data to connect us to locals with the same daily curiosities – we could settle back into an undisturbed ecosystem (ie: sans supposed to’s)

7\ (?) – anywhere – to model a means for 7bn people to leap

perhaps what has not yet been experimented with:

1/ a city-wide experiment, to provide an ecosystem of eclectic people/resources;


2/ an as-the-day experiment, rather than adding something on after hours (after school/work).

aka: in the city.. as the day..

perhaps tech as it could be (listening to and facilitating 7bn voices everyday) could free us all

perhaps 2 conversations as infrastructure could be a means for 7bn to leap to a nother way to live.

mufleh humanity lawwe have seen advances in every aspect of our lives except our humanity – Luma Mufleh

we’re suggesting we try something really different for (a) change.. 

– – –

So wait.. what have you been doing?

from what:

on working toward a global systemic change..

1\   we hacked away at unwanted stresses until we got to *two that 7 billion people could maybe resonate with.

2\   we prototyped several iterations until we  came up with a **means that might address those *two (see #1), and that 7 billion people could actualize.

3\   we fine-tuned that **means (see #2) so that it might be both, easily accessed/open, and sustainable.

[disclaimer: we didn’t actually come up with anything.. we just listened to tons of really smart people.. and then tried what they suggested… remixed/reshuffled…]

what now?   i‘m still experimenting with this site as prototype to app/chip output ness, but visibly (ie: like the experimenting with humans 2008-2013) not much.. be\cause: Costello screen/serviceness

what next?  next experiment.. be\cause: Graeber model ness (ship\ables)

why that?  betting on modeling the sync of a fractal.. so that the whole (7 bill+) might then leapfrog to betterness. be\cause: Graeber min/max ness..

– – –

conclusion: what we need most is the energy of 7bn alive people

and today that is doable

not esoteric  (has to be for everyone..key focus.. thoughts on esoteric ness)

not abstract (thoughts on abstract ness)

not ridiculous (actual ridiculous things)

i’ve seen too much to not give it a go (also glad others are working on other ways) thinking-restate-update-7-18

finding(s) the missing pieces – a quiet revolution


historical research fractal to what we found and basis for commoning thinking (sans money/measure and 100% trust): Jason Hickel‘s first few chapters of the divideJames Suzman‘s affluence w/o abundance

psych/neuro research fractal to what we found and basis to roots of healing (two needs/convers as infra): A H Almaas and Gabor Maté (mostly almaas holes law and maté basic needs law and maté not yet scrambled law) and ..gray and gopnik and carhart-harris and alexander and..


basically we found that telling people what to do ness is keeping us from us.. and perhaps a means/way to undo that hierarchical listening is via cure ios city ie: 2 convers as infra


findings in failings


What about findings in failings?


maybe i'm wrong ness..

This is huge.

I swear – these kids are nobel peace prize worthy for their efforts to make a difference via redefining public ed. Living on the edge, trying out new things.. isn’t always easy.

Here’s Gus, helping us through it:

I find it interesting – that with this title.. the slidedeck above was one of the least viewed.

Findings in failings – isn’t that what it’s all about?

Not a focus on a failure.. but a – oh – that’s what happens… cool.. so let’s try this.

One of the results stemming from – findings in failures – was this page: the it is me.

Being less hung up on end products, on finishing things (as if we ever could), and more focused on – what didn’t work, so we can learn from it.

It’s like – all these (assumed) failings are the little/big (assumed) messes in a Thomas Edison – ish space. no? The unassuming and often unsightly trail to greatness.

Here’s our brief lowdown (see *updated version here 2008 to present and findings abstract and short findings restate):

findings each year

findings overall

And here are 3 powerful pages from the deck above:

findings deck findings in failings deck findings via deck

guardian article on learning from failure

recent post on the failures of Sugata Mitra’s work.

avoid the vagaries of child-centred behaviour.
oh my.
failures.. not.
the it is me..
it’s a trail of finding outs… 

*sept 2014 – restating findings as problem found:

0 – (the situation yr) – people are stressed (ie: waiting for 3\5pm, the weekend)
1 – (pilot math yr) – content imposed (ie: pre ap alg 2 – aka school math = essential)
2 – (own curriculum yr) – timeframe assumed (ie: ok – so pick your own topic – but you’re held to it for 1 yr – aka potential whimsy/curiosity killer)
3 – (follow your whimsy yr) – community deprived (ie: free individual – yes – but then he/she craves their tribe. currently – not enough people set free for serendipity to work)
4 – (in the city yr) – focus blurred (ie: most of us are beholden to and/or blinded from – the too much policy/myth – aka: consumerism/competition/work = life, blurs the equity/systemic vision)
5 – (still yr/s) – mechanism lacking (ie: listening to/for and mapping of systemic mechanism elements)
– – –
what i’ve seen
storyboard 2008 to present
what (what have you been doing – what’s next)
collection of intros

richard feynman – pleasure of finding things out

richard feynman

found picture on this post

From brainpickings post – sharing Feynman’s little-known sketches and drawings.. here he explains why:

I wanted very much to learn to draw, for a reason that I kept to myself: I wanted to convey an emotion I have about the beauty of the world. It’s difficult to describe because it’s an emotion. It’s analogous to the feeling one has in religion that has to do with a god that controls everything in the universe: there’s a generality aspect that you feel when you think about how things that appear so different and behave so differently are all run ‘behind the scenes’ by the same organization, the same physical laws. It’s an appreciation of the mathematical beauty of nature, of how she works inside; a realization that the phenomena we see result from the complexity of the inner workings between atoms; a feeling of how dramatic and wonderful it is. It’s a feeling of awe – of scientific awe – which I felt could be communicated through a drawing to someone who had also had that emotion. I could remind him, for a moment, of this feeling about the glories of the universe.

In the introductory essay, Feynman also considers the differences in teaching art and teaching science, a disconnect Isaac Asimov has famously addressed in his passionate case for creativity in science education. Feynman writes:

I noticed that the teacher didn’t tell people much (the only thing he told me was my picture was too small on the page). Instead, he tried to inspire us to experiment with new approaches. I thought of how we teach physics: We have so many techniques—so many mathematical methods—that we never stop telling the students how to do things. On the other hand, the drawing teacher is afraid to tell you anything. If your lines are very heavy, the teacher can’t say, “Your lines are too heavy.” because some artist has figured out a way of making great pictures using heavy lines. The teacher doesn’t want to push you in some particular direction. So the drawing teacher has this problem of communicating how to draw by osmosis and not by instruction, while the physics teacher has the problem of always teaching techniques, rather than the spirit, of how to go about solving physical problems.


falling in the love with the man.

as he shares how he falls in love with – the pleasure of finding things out..


[below – random posts from my – crazy journal site – back to 2008?]

_  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _

more from richard feynman

the pleasure of finding things out.
this one is a little longer – 49 min.
i’m feeling like a kid in a candy store – discovering all these interviews.
and wishing my students could/would feel this way.oh the pleasure
of finding things out.
quote shared on fb:
Fall in love with some activity, and do it! Nobody ever figures out what life is all about, and it doesn’t matter. Explore the world. Nearly everything is really interesting if you go into it deeply enough. Work as hard and as much as you want to on the things you like to do the best. Don’t think about what you want to be, but what you want to do. Keep up some kind of a minimum with other things so that society doesn’t stop you from doing anything at all.         – Richard Feynman

richard feynman

i haven’t watched this in like 2 years.
i love richard feynman.
i have a limited intelligence – so i kept pretty focused
we used to translate everything we read..
his father translated everything in all different languages… when you finished, you know nothing about the bird, but only what different cultures call them
he (his dad) knew the difference between
knowing the name of something
and knowing something..  he always left conversations open for noticing,… no pressure, just lovely interesting discussionalgebra – a series of steps where you could get the answer if you didn’t understand what you were trying to do.
trig for the practical man.. soon forgot it again, because i didn’t understand it very well.disrespect for things that are respectable..
his father was in the uniform business.. so he knew the difference between a man with the uniform off and the uniform on.. it’s the same photon bag in an atom
he sent me to all the unis to find out things and i never did find out.. could never explain things to my dadwhat i did immorally is not to remember the reason i said that i was doing it.. so that when the reason changed, not the single thought came to mind that that meant i had to reconsider why i was doing it… i simply didn’t think
he wanted to play more than look at use.. when in this relaxed function... working things out poured freely – after that is when he won the noble prize

i don’t like honors … i notice others use my work… i don’t need anything else… i’ve already got the prize:

1) the pleasure of finding things out

2) the kick in the discovery

3) the observation others use it

honors is uniforms… it bothers me
when i got into the aritstar – what i found out is what they did in their meetings was sit around and decide who else gets to become one of them, who is illustrious enough
purpose was mostly to decide who could have this honor.. he doesn’t like honors

to figure life out.. imagine – we are in a big chess game but we don’t know the rules..
so you try to figure out what the rules are..
the thing that doesn’t fit is the thing that is most interesting, the part that doesn’t fit..

laws sometimes look positive.. they keep learning until something doesn’t work – then we figure it out

unlike the chess game – were rules become more difficult as we go along
but not in physics – they become simpler..

if we expand out experience into wilder and wilder regions of experience, every once in a while we have these integrations in which everything is pulled together in a unification (fractal) which turns out to be simpler than it looked before.

if you are interested the ultimate character of the physical/real/complete world.. at the present time – our only way to understand that is through mathematical reasoning..  (and we’re missing it – let’s go wolfram’s computer based)
if we’re talking about physics… then not knowing mathematics is a severe limitation
need to get a qualitative idea of how the problem works before i can get a quantitative one
that rough understanding can be defined… later
in science – we’re stuck in seeing what the consequences are.. have a theory that you can’t work out the consequences of

i’ve invented a myth for myself – i’m actively irresponsible – i take the view – let george do it…

i’m selfish – i want to do my physics…

the best way to teach is to have no philosophy.. to be chaotic and confusing… use every possible way of doing it..
how do you direct them to become interested..
1) by force – works for some
but after many years – feynman says – i don’t know how to do it.. (hook everyone at the same time or even just one)

they follow the forms,,… but they haven’t got anywhere – yet.
we get experts on everything that sound scientific.. they’re not scientific.. they sit at the typewriter and make up stuff as if it’s science.. but hasn’t been tested yet.
there’s all kinds of myths and psuedo sciences all over.
i may be quite wrong.. but i don’t think i’m wrong
see i have the advantage of having found out how hard it is to get to really know something… how careful you have to be about checking yours experiments, how easy it is to make mistakes and fool yourself.
i know what it means to know something..
i see how they get their info
i have a great suspicion that they don’t know.. they haven’t done the checks,… the care..
and they intimidate people by it..
i think so.. i don’t know the world very well.. but that’s what i think

people say.. are you looking for the ultimate law of physics and i say – no i’m not, i’m just looking to find out more about the world..if it turns out there’s something that explains everything, so be it
nature is going to come out the way she is
therefore – when we go to investigate it – we shouldn’t pre-decide what it is we’re trying to do except try to find out more about it
if you say, why do you find out more about it.. if it’s to find some answer to answer some deep philosophical question.. you may be wrong.. you may never be able to find out
….those are mysteries i want to investigate without knowing the answer to them..

how do you find out if something is true..
once you start doubting like you’re supposed to start
as soon as you do that you start sliding down an edge that is difficult

it’s a very fundamental part of my soul to ask

i can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing..

much more interesting to live in doubt than answers that are wrong
i don’t have to know an answer

i don’t feel frightened by not knowing things

richard feynman

via leonard susskindDick Feynman always made me feel smart. always made me feel we could solve anything together.
he would always win.. but if he lost, he would always laugh and seem to have just as much fun.a feynman sandwich had a ton of ham but absolutely not baloney.
he hated false pretensefeynman thought it was a necessary part of being a great physicist.. having a father like he hadhist scientific style was to find the simplest solution. he believed if you couldn’t explain it simply – you didn’t understand it.feynman diagrams to understand particleshow to honor feynman? by getting as much baloney out of our own sandwiches as we can.

Richard feynman

I love this think Richard would too.
is that really him playing the drums?this reminds me of Shadyaks I Am
Jun 28, 2009
check out these videos – interviews of richard feynman (amazing physicist) · ways of thinking – part 1 · ways of thinking – part 2 · magnets and why questions he’s adorable. i wish he were still alive. how did i miss him? Share | 
Nov 24, 2012
Richard Feynman The Richard Feynman Series 1: Beauty…… love the man.. Mary Loftus (@marloft) 11/24/12 4:06 AM The always-brilliant Vi Hart teaches you #maths via mashed potato 
Jan 20, 2012
Richard Feynman danced to the pleasure of finding things out. Lisa Gansky says we’ll have more if we share. Jane McGonigal says we crave hard work. James Bach advices to try to ignore something to see how much it 
and the bongos…


about algebra..



Michelle (his daughter) and Christopher Sykes – on the making of the films (pleasure of finding things out) tedx 2011:

again – toward the end.. the prize – is the pleasure of finding things out..


letter to his dead wife.. opened 1988

from Maria

yes i said yes i will yes ness


from Maria

ode to a flower

universe in a glass of wine



For Richard Feynman’s birthday, @JamesGleick on the source of The Great Explainer’s genius…
In his taxonomy of the two types of geniuses, probability theory pioneer Mark Kac distinguishes between “ordinary geniuses” and “magicians,” pointing toRichard Feynman (May 11, 1918–February 15, 1988) as a rare example of the latter. One of the most celebrated minds of the past century, Feynman was a champion of scientific knowledge so effective and so beloved that he has generated an entire canon of personal mythology. And yet he held uncertainty at the center of his intellectual and creative life. The pursuit and stewardship of knowledge was his life’s work, but the ecstasy of not-knowing was the wellspring of his magic. “It is imperative,” he wroteto have uncertainty as a fundamental part of your inner nature.”



Many people who do work that matters “have work habits that seem downright lazy by the standards in their field”…

As Feynman admitted in a 1981 interview: “I’m actively irresponsible


this generic notion of work that we spawned the culture of busyness that afflicts us today, where the measure of your success becomes synonymous with the measure of your exhaustion.


asked why/how magnets repel

how does a person answer why something happens..

when you explain a why.. you have to be in some framework that you allowed something to be true.. otherwise.. you’re perpetually asking why..

2 min – you begin to get a very interesting understanding of the world and all its complications.. if try to follow anything up.. you go deeper/deeper in various directions..

3 min – ie: you ok with.. because you slip on ice.. or go deeper as to why.. is ice slippery.. to why does water expand when it freezes and other substances don’t expand.. et al..

i’m not answering your question but i’m telling you how difficult a why question is.. you have to know what it is that you’re permitted to understand and allowed to be understood and known.. and what it is you’re not.. the more i ask why.. it gets interesting.. that’s my idea that the deeper it is the more interesting it is

4 min – when you ask why do magnets repel.. there are many diff levels.. it depends on whether you’re a student or an ordinary person that doesn’t know anything about it.. if you’re somebody that doesn’t know anything at all.. all i can say is that there’s a magnetic force that makes it repel .. and that you’re feeling that force

5 min – it turns out the magnetic and electric force with which i wish to explain these things.. is what ultimately is the deeper thing.. that we have to.. that we can start with to explain many other things that looked like they were.. everybody would just accept them.. you know you can’t put your hand thru the chair.. that’s taken for granted..  but when you can’t put hand thru chair.. you look more closely.. why.. that involves the same repulsive forces that appear in magnets.. the situation you then have to explain is why in magnets.. goes over a bigger distance than an ordinary (chair) … it’s a force that is present all the time.. very common.. a basic force.. almost.. i mean i could go a little further back.. more technical..

6 min – but in the early level i am just gonna have to tell you.. that’s going to be one of the things you’ll just have to take as an element in the world.. magnetic repulsion or electrical/magnetic attraction..

i can’t explain that attraction in anything else that’s familiar to you..

ie: if i would say magnets attracting as if by rubber bands.. i would be cheating you.. because they’re not connected by rubber bands..  and i’d soon be in trouble.. you’d soon ask me about the nature of the bands.. and secondly .. if you were curious enough you’d ask me why rubber bands tend to pull back together again and i would end up explaining that in terms of electrical forces.. which are the very things i’m trying to use the rubber bands to explain.. so i have cheated very badly you see..

so i’m not going to be able to give you an answer.. to why magnets attract each other.. except to tell you they do..

and to tell you that’s one of the elements in the world and diff kinds of forces in the world.. electrical/magnetic/gravitational forces.. and others.. and those are some of the parts..

7 min – if you were a student i could go further.. that magnetic forces are related to electrical forces very intimately.. that relations between the gravitational forces and electrical forces remains unknown.. and so on..

but i really can’t do a good job.. any job.. of explaining magnetic force in terms of something else that you’re more familiar with.. because i don’t understand it in terms of anything else that you’re more familiar with

thinking: idio jargon ness keeps us closer to truth further from cheating.

if we weren’t dealing with diversity and too much to know ness.. then maybe we could do legible as pre-req.. but we are.. we’re swimming in it (uncertainty).

thank goodness.. because that’s what’s changed.. we now have a means to facil that choas.. eagle and condor ness



“impossible to say anything with absolute precision, unless […] so abstracted from the real world as to not represent any real thing” — RF


“…it is important that we do not forget this struggle and thus perhaps lose what we have gained.” — Richard Feynman…


“There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period.”-M. Crichton


a bit more on nobel peace prize here (on Maria‘s post about Jean-Paul Sartre refusing it):

Maria Popova (@brainpicker) tweeted at 6:01 AM – 22 Oct 2017 :

This is the moral courage of conviction: On this day in 1964, Sartre became the first person to decline the Nobel (

physicist Richard Feynman — who won the Nobel Prize himself a year after Sartre — put it best in his eloquent denouncement of awards:

I don’t see that it makes any point that someone in the Swedish academy just decides that this work is noble enough to receive a prize — I’ve already gotten the prize. The prize is the pleasure of finding a thing out, the kick in the discovery, the observation that other people use it — those are the real things. The honors are unreal to me. I don’t believe in honors.

Making a fuss out of declining an award seems not much different from making a fuss over accepting it — both make the award more real than it need be if one were truly interested in breaking free from the system. Why can’t the private pleasure of finding things out be enough, award or no award?

award ness messes w us

someone rt d this today

If you cannot explain something in simple terms, you don’t understand it.

Original Tweet:

simple terms doesn’t mean terms you can understand..

ie: from above when asked why/how magnets repel

so i’m not going to be able to give you an answer.. to why magnets attract each other.. except to tell you they do.

but i really can’t do a good job.. any job.. of explaining magnetic force in terms of something else that you’re more familiar with.. because i don’t understand it in terms of anything else that you’re more familiar with

again.. thinking: idio jargon ness sets us free from demanding a ..simplicity.. in which we really mean..makes sense to me.. idio ness could help us to see that if people can’t sound bit an answer that makes sense to us.. it doesn’t mean they don’t get it..

less about not getting it and more about not getting me.. not getting the verbiage that makes that connection for me


richard on knowledge

Richard Feynman (@ProfFeynman) tweeted at 11:30 AM – 7 Aug 2019 :
Don’t get frightened by not knowing things. I have approximate answers, and possible beliefs, and different degrees of certainty about different things, but I’m not absolutely sure of anything. There are many things I don’t know anything about. It doesn’t frighten me. (


fields factories and workshops

(1912) by peter kropotkin

via 140 pg kindle version from anarchist library []

(mostly showing that small .. workshop.. home.. field.. as prevalent/productive .. and less abusive/wasteful.. than factory.. last 1/3 of book are ie’s.. 2nd edition)



preface to 2nd edition (1912)


preface to 1st edition (1898)

The main subject of social economy — that is, the economy of energy required for the satisfaction of human needs — is consequently the last subject which one expects to find treated in a concrete form in economical treatises.

critical that we grok legit needs first.. so we can org around legit needs

need: means to undo our hierarchical listening so we can hear/do that

bachelard oikos law et al

The following pages are a contribution to a portion of this vast subject. They contain a discussion of the advantages which civilised societies could derive from a combination of industrial pursuits with intensive agriculture, and of brain work with manual work.

and that man shows his best when he is in a position to apply his usually-varied capacities to several pursuits in the farm, the workshop, the factory, the study or the studio, instead of being riveted for life to one of these pursuits only.

the it is me ness


1 – the decentralisation of industries

Then, amidst the former, a series of further subdivisions: the manual worker and the intellectual worker, sharply separated from one another to the detriment of both; the agricultural labourers and the workers in the manufacture; and, amidst the mass of the latter, numberless subdivisions again — so minute, indeed, that the modern ideal of a workman seems to be a man or a woman, or even a girl or a boy, without the knowledge of any handicraft, without any conception whatever of the industry he or she is employed in, who is only capable of making all day long and for a whole life the same infinitesimal part of something: who from the age of thirteen to that of sixty pushes the coal cart at a given spot of the mine or makes the spring of a penknife, or “the eighteenth part of a pin.” Mere servants to some machine of a given description; mere flesh-and-bone parts of some immense machinery; having no idea how and why the machinery performs its rhythmical movements.

Dazzled with the results obtained by a century of marvellous inventions, especially in England, our economists and political men went still farther in their dreams of division of labour. They proclaimed the necessity of dividing the whole of humanity into national workshops having each of them its own speciality. We were taught, for instance, that Hungary and Russia are predestined by nature to grow corn in order to feed the manufacturing countries; that Britain had to provide the worldmarket with cottons, iron goods, and coal; Belgium with woollen cloth; and so on. Nay, within each nation, each region had to have its own speciality. So it has been for some time since; so it ought to remain. Fortunes have been made in this way, and will continue to be made in the same way. It being proclaimed that the wealth of nations is measured by the amount of profits made by the few, and that the largest profits are made by means of a specialisation of labour, the question was not conceived to exist as to whether human beings would always submit to such a specialisation; whether nations could be specialised like isolated workmen. The theory was good for today — why should we care for tomorrow. Tomorrow might bring its own theory!


A reorganised society will have to abandon the fallacy of nations specialized for the production of either agricultural or manufactured produce. It will have to rely on itself for the production of food and many, if not most, of the raw materials; it must find the best means of combining agriculture with manufacture — the work in the field with a decentralised industry; and it will have to provide for “integrated education,” which education alone, by teaching both science and handicraft from earliest childhood, can give to society the men and women it really needs.

oi.. ed/intellect ness has done the opp.. we have no idea what legit free people need/want


But enough! I have before me so many figures, all telling the same tale, that examples could be multiplied at will. It is time to conclude, and, for every unprejudiced mind, the conclusion is self-evident. Industries of all kinds decentralise and are scattered all over the globe; and everywhere a variety, an integrated variety, of trades grows, instead of specialisation. Such are the prominent features of the times we live in. Each nation becomes in its turn a manufacturing nation; and the time is not far off when each nation of Europe, as well as the United States, and even the most backward nations of Asia and America, will themselves manufacture nearly everything they are in need of. Wars and several accidental causes may check for some time the scattering of industries: they will not stop it; it is unavoidable. For each new-comer the first steps only are difficult. But, as soon as any industry has taken firm root, it calls into existence hundreds of other trades; and as soon as the first steps have been made, and the first obstacles have been overcome, the industrial growth goes on at an accelerated rate.


Under the present conditions of division into capitalists and labourers, into property-holders and masses living on uncertain wages, the spreading of industries over new fields is accompanied by the very same horrible facts of pitiless oppression, massacre of children, pauperism, and insecurity of life. The Russian Fabrics Inspectors’ Reports, the Reports of the Plauen Handelskammer, the Italian inquests, and the reports about the growing industries of India and Japan are full of the same revelations as the Reports of the Parliamentary Commissions of 1840 to 1842, or the modern revelations with regard to the “sweating system” at Whitechapel and Glasgow, London pauperism, and York unemployment. The Capital and Labour problem is thus universalised; but, at the same time, it is also simplified. To return to a state of affairs where corn is grown, and manufactured goods are fabricated, for the use of those very people who grow and produce them — such will be, no doubt, the problem to be solved during the next coming years of European history. Each region will become its own producer and its own consumer of manufactured goods. But that unavoidably implies that, at the same time, it will be its own producer and consumer of agricultural produce; and that is precisely what I am going to discuss next.


2 – the possibilities of agriculture

Continually we learn that the same scientific discovery, or technical invention, has been made within a few days’ distance, in countries a thousand miles apart; as if there were a kind of atmosphere which favours the germination of a given idea at a given moment. And such an atmosphere exists: steam, print and the common stock of knowledge have created it.

Those who dream of monopolising technical genius are therefore fifty years behind the times. 


Two great objections stand, however, in the way against the general acceptance of such conclusions. We have been taught, both by economists and politicians, that the territories of the West European States are so overcrowded with inhabitants that they cannot grow all the food and raw produce which are necessary for the maintenance of their steadily increasing populations. Therefore the necessity of exporting manufactured goods and of importing food. And we are told, moreover, that even if it were possible to grow in Western Europe all the food necessary for its inhabitants, there would be no advantage in doing so as long as the same food can be got cheaper from abroad. Such are the present teachings and the ideas which are current in society at large. And yet it is easy to prove that both are totally erroneous: plenty of food could be grown on the territories of Western Europe for much more than their present populations, and an immense benefit would be derived from doing so. These are the two points which I have now to discuss.


The British nation does not work on her soil; she is prevented from doing so; and the would-be economists complain that the soil will not nourish its inhabitants!


they say to us, “Heavy clay!” without even knowing that in the hands of man there are no unfertile soils; that the most fertile soils are not in the prairies of America, nor in the Russian steppes; that they are in the peat-bogs of Ireland, on the sand downs of the northern seacoast of France, on the craggy mountains of the Rhine, where they have been made by man’s hands.

The most striking fact is, however, that in some undoubtedly fertile parts of the country things are even in a worse condition.


And finally (3), if the population of this country came to be doubled, all that would be required for producing the food for 90,000,000 inhabitants would be to cultivate the soil as it is cultivated in the best farms of this country, in Lombardy, and in Flanders, and to utilise some meadows, which at present lie almost unproductive, in the same way as the neighborhoods of the big cities in France are utilised for market-gardening. All these are not fancy dreams, but mere realities; nothing but the modest conclusions from what we see round about us, without any allusion to the agriculture of the future.

While science devotes its chief attention to industrial pursuits, a limited number of lovers of nature and a legion of workers whose very names will remain unknown to posterity have created of late a quite new agriculture, as superior to modern farming as modern farming is superior to the old three-fields system of our ancestors. Science seldom guided them, and sometimes misguided — as was the case with Liebig’s theories, developed to the extreme by his followers, who induced us to treat plants as glass recipients of chemical drugs, and who forgot that the only science capable of dealing with life and growth is physiology, not chemistry. Science seldom has guided them: they proceeded in the empirical way; but, like the cattle-growers who opened new horizons to biology, they have opened a new field of experimental research for the physiology of plants. They have created a totally new agriculture. They smile when we boast about the rotation system, having permitted us to take from the field one crop every year, or four crops each three years, because their ambition is to have six and nine crops from the very same plot of land during the twelve months. They do not understand our talk about good and bad soils, because they make the soil themselves, and make it in such quantities as to be compelled yearly to sell some of it: otherwise it would raise up the level of their gardens by half an inch every year. They aim at cropping, not five or six tons of grass on the acre, as we do, but from 50 to 100 tons of various vegetables on the same space; not £5 worth of hay but £100 worth of vegetables, of the plainest description, cabbage and carrots, and more than £200 worth under intensive horticultural treatment. This is where agriculture is going now.


and there is no fear of drought, because of the variety of crops, the liberal watering with the help of a steam engine, and the stock of plants always kept ready to replace the weakest individuals. Almost each plant is treated individually.

bush mono crop law et al

There prevails, however, with regard to market-gardening a misunderstanding which it would be well to remove. It is generally supposed that what chiefly attracts market-gardening to the great centres of population is the market. It must have been so; and so it may be still, but to some extent only. A great number of the Paris maraîchers, even of those who have their gardens within the walls of the city and whose main crop consists of vegetables in season, export the whole of their produce to England. What chiefly attracts the gardener to the great cities is stable manure; and this is not wanted so much for increasing the richness of the soil — one-tenth part of the manure used by the French gardeners would do for that purpose — but for keeping the soil at a certain temperature. Early vegetables pay best, and in order to obtain early produce not only the air but the soil as well must be warmed; and this is done by putting great quantities of properly mixed manure into the soil; its fermentation heats it. But it is evident that with the present development of industrial skill, the heating of the soil could be obtained more economically and more easily by hotwater pipes. Consequently, the French gardeners begin more and more to make use of portable pipes, or thermosiphons , provisionally established in the cool frames


And yet the Paris gardener is not our ideal of an agriculturist. In the painful work of civilisation he has shown us the way to follow; but the ideal of modern civilisation is elsewhere. He toils, with but a short interruption, from three in the morning till late in the night. He knows no leisure; he has no time to live the life of a human being; the commonwealth does not exist for him; his world is his garden, more than his family. He cannot be our ideal; neither he nor his system of agriculture. Our ambition is, that he should produce even more than he does with less labour, and should enjoy all the joys of human life. And this is fully possible.


But heating pipes give the same results as the fermenting manures at a much smaller expense of human labour.


The future — a near future, I hope — will show what practical importance such a method of treating cereals may have. But we need not speculate about that future. We have already, in the facts mentioned in this chapter, an experimental basis for quite a number of means of improving our present methods of culture and of largely increasing the crops. It is evident that in a book which is not intended to be a manual of agriculture, all I can do is to give only a few hints to set people thinking for themselves upon this subject. But the little that has been said is sufficient to show that we have no right to complain of over-population, and no need to fear it in the future. Our means of obtaining from the soil whatever we want, under any climate and upon any soil, have lately been improved at such a rate that we cannot foresee yet what is the limit of productivity of a few acres of land. The limit vanishes in proportion to our better study of the subject, and every year makes it vanish further and further from our sight.


Mr. Haggard’s conclusion is worth mentioning, as he writes as follows: “Broadly, however, I may say that where the farms are large and corn is chiefly grown, there is little or no prosperity, while where they are small and assisted by pastures or fruit culture, both owners and tenants are doing fairly well.” A recognition well worth mentioning, as it comes from an explorer who took at the outset of his inquest a most pessimistic view on unprotected agriculture.


Finding that impossible they invited no French gardener to Evesham, gave him three-quarters of an acre, and, after, he had brought his Paris marais his glass bells, frames and lights, and, above all his knowledge, he began gardening under the eyes of his Evesham colleagues “Happily enough,” he said to an interviewer I do not speak otherwise I should have had to talk all the time and give explanations, instead of working. 


The various data which have been brought together on the preceding pages make short work of the over-population fallacy. It is precisely in the most densely population parts of the world that agriculture has lately made such strides as hardly could have been guessed twenty years ago. A dense population, a high development of industry, and a high development of agriculture and horticulture, go hand in hand: they are inseparable. As to the future, the possibilities of agriculture are such that, in truth, we cannot yet foretell what would be the limit of the population which could live from the produce of a given area. Recent progress, already tested on a great scale, has widened the limits of agricultural prodaction to a quite unforeseen extent and recent discoveries, now tested on a small scale, promise to widen those limits still farther, to a quite unknown degree

Supposing, then, that each inhabitant of Great Britain were compelled to live on the produce of his own land, all he would have to do would be, first, to consider the land of this country as a common inheritance, which must be disposed of to the best advantage of each and all — this is, evidently, an absolutely necessary condition. And next, he would have to cultivate his soil, not in some extravagant way, but no better than land is already cultivated upon thousands and thousands of acres in Europe and America. He would not be bound to invent some new methods, but could simply generalise and widely apply those which have stood the test of experience. He can do it; and in so doing he would save an immense quantity of the work which is now given for buying his food abroad, and for paying all the intermediaries who live upon this trade. Under a rational culture, those necessaries and those luxuries which must be obtained from the soil, undoubtedly can be obtained with much less work than is required now for buying these commodities. I have made elsewhere (in The Conquest of Bread) approximate calculations to that effect, but with the data given in this book everyone can himself easily test the truth of this assertion. If we take, indeed, the masses of produce which are obtained under rational culture, and compare them with the amount of labour which must be spent for obtaining them under an irrational culture, for collecting them abroad, for transporting them, and for keeping armies of middlemen, we see at once how few days and hours need be given, under proper culture, for growing man’s food.

conquest of bread


3 – small industries and industrial village


Besides, the large factory stimulates the birth of now petty trades by creating new wants.


but not just factory.. any form of m\a\p.. gets/keeps us away from org-ing around legit needs


Much more ought to be said with regard to the rural industries of Russia, especially to “how how easily the peasants associate for buying new machinery, or for avoiding the middle man in their purchases of raw produce — as soon as misery is no obstacle to the association”. Belgium, and especially Switzerland, could also be quoted for similar illustrations, but the above will be enough to give a general idea of the importance, the vital powers, and the perfectibility of the rural industries.

In fact, the most prominent feature of the petty trades is that a relative well-being is found only where they are combined with agriculture : where the workers have remained in possession of the soil and continue to cultivate it. Even amidst the weavers of France or Moscow, who have to reckon with the coinpetition of the factory, relative well-being prevails so long as they are not compelled to part with the soil. On the contrary, as soon as high taxation or the impoverishment during a crisis has compelled the domestic worker to abandon his last plot of land to the usurer, misery creeps into his house. The sweater becomes all-powerful, frightful overwork is resorted to, and the whole trade often falls into decay.


However, such a change also implies a thorough modification of our present system of education. It implies a society composed of men and women, each of whom is able to work with his or her hands, as well as with his or her brain, and to do so in more directions than one. This “integration of capacities” and “integral education” I am now going to analyse.



4 – brain work and manual work


Plainly stated, the aims of the school under this system ought to be the following: To give such an education that, on leaving school at the age of eighteen or twenty, each boy and each girl should be endowed with a thorough knowledge of science — such a knowledge as might enable them to be useful workers in science — and, at the same time, to give them a general knowledge of what constitutes the bases of technical training, and such a skill in some special trade as would enable each of them to take his or her place in the grand world of the manual production of wealth. I know that many will find that aim too large, or even impossible to attain, but I hope that if they have the patience to read the following pages, they will see that we require nothing beyond what can be easily attained. In fact, it has been attained; and what has been done on a small scale could be done on a wider scale, were it not for the economical and social causes which prevent any serious reform from being accomplished in our miserably organised society.

oi oi oi.. supposed to’s of school/work.. killing us


If waste of time is characteristic of our methods of teaching science, it is characteristic as well of the methods used for teaching handicraft. We know how years are wasted when a boy serves his apprenticeship in a workshop; but the same reproach can be addressed, to a great extent, to those technical schools which endeavour at once to teach some special handicraft, instead of resorting to the broader and surer methods of systematical teaching. Just as there are in science some notions and methods which are preparatory to the study of all sciences, so there are also some fundamental notions and methods preparatory to the special study of any handicraft.

oi oi oi.. all the ed ness.. oi


Besides, none can be a good worker in science unless he is in possession of good methods of scientific research; unless he has learned to observe, to describe with exactitude, to discover mutual relations between facts seemingly disconnected, to make inductive hypotheses and to verify them, to reason upon cause and effect, and so on. And none can be a good manual worker unless he has been accustomed to the good methods of handicraft altogether. He must grow accustomed to conceive the subject of his thoughts in a concrete form, to draw it, or to model, to hate badly kept tools and bad methods of work, to give to everything a fine touch of finish, to derive artistic enjoyment from the contemplation of gracious forms and combinations of colours, and dissatisfaction from what is ugly. Be it handicraft, science, or art, the chief aim of the school is not to make a specialist from a beginner, but to teach him the elements of knowledge and the good methods of work, and, above all, to give him that general inspiration which will induce him, later on, to put in whatever he does a sincere longing for truth, to like what is beautiful, both as to form and contents, to feel the necessity of being a useful unit amidst other human units, and thus to feel his heart at unison with the rest of humanity.

oi oi oi


But there is also the time-saving celerity of the well-trained worker, and this is surely achieved best by the kind of education which we advocate. However plain his work, the educated worker makes it better and quicker than the uneducated. Observe, for instance how a good worker proceeds in cutting anything — say a piece of cardboard — and compare his movements with those of an improperly trained worker. The latter seizes the cardboard, takes the tool as it is, traces a line in a haphazard way, and begins to cut; half-way he is tired, and when he has finished his work is worth nothing; whereas, the former will examine his tool and improve it if necessary; he will trace the line — with exactitude, secure both cardboard and rule, keep the tool in the right way, cut quite easily, and give you a piece of good work.

This is the true time-saving celerity, the most appropriate for economising human labour; and the best means for attaining it is an education of the most superior kind. The great masters painted with an astonishing rapidity; but their rapid work was the result of a great development of intelligence and imagination, of a keen sense of beauty, of a fine perception of colours. And that is the kind of rapid work of which humanity is in need.


rapid prototyping to slow

Much more ought to be said as regards the duties of the school, but I hasten to say a few words more as to the desirability of the kind of education briefly sketched in the preceding pages. Certainly, I do not cherish the illusion that a thorough reform in education, or in any of the issues indicated in the preceding chapters, will be made as long as the civilised nations remain under the present narrowly egotistic system of production and consumption. All we can expect, as long as the present conditions last, is to have some microscopical attempts at reforming here and there on a small scale-attempts which necessarily will prove to be far below the expected results, because of the impossibility of reforming on a small scale when so intimate a connection exists between the manifold functions of a civilised nation. But the energy of the constructive genius of society depends chiefly upon the depths of its conception as to what ought to be done, and how; and the necessity of recasting education is one of those necessities which are most comprehensible to all, and are most appropriate for inspiring society with those ideals, without which stagnation or even decay are unavoidable.

So let us suppose that a community — a city, or a territory which has, at least, a few millions of inhabitants — gives the above-sketched education to all its children, without distinction of birth (and we are rich enough to permit us the luxury of such an education), *without asking anything in return from the children but what they will give when they have become producers of wealth. Suppose such an education is given, and analyse its probable consequences.

*huge oi.. any form of m\a\p is part\ial ness.. hari rat park law et al


Free pursuit in new branches of art and knowledge, free creation, and free development thus might be fully guaranteed.. And such a community would not know misery amidst wealth. It would not know the duality of conscience which permeates out life and stifles every noble effort. It would freely take its flight towards the highest regions of progress compatible with human nature.


we have no idea


5 – conclusion

It has also been proved — and those who care to verify it by themselves may easily do so by calculating the real expenditure for labour which was lately made in the building of workmen’s houses by both private persons and municipalities — that under a proper combination of labour, twenty to twenty-four months of one man’s work would be sufficient to secure for ever, for a family of five, an apartment or a house provided with all the comforts which modern hygiene and taste could require.

And it has been demonstrated by actual experiment that, by adopting methods of education, advocated long since and partially applied here and there, it is most easy to convey to children of an average intelligence, before they have reached the age of fourteen or fifteen, a broad general comprehension of Nature, as well as of human societies; to familiarise their minds with sound methods of both scientific research and technical work, and inspire their hearts with a deep feeling of human solidarity and justice; and that it i



We all know that the child ought, at least, to be familiarised with the forces of Nature which some day he will have to utilise; that he ought to be prepared to keep pace in his life with the steady progress of science and technics; that he ought to study science and learn a trade. Every-one will grant thus much; but what do we do? 


let go


if you utilise what experiment has already taught us, and call to your aid science and technical invention, which never fail to answer to the call — look only at what they have done for warfare — you will be astonished at the facility with which you can bring a rich and varied food out of the soil. You will admire the amount of sound knowledge which your children will acquire by your side, the rapid growth of their intelligence, and the facility with which they will grasp the laws of Nature, animate and inanimate.






david on radical alterity

when googling whitehead’s process and reality.. (why i was googling it explained on this page) and graeber .. got this from anarchist library – Radical alterity is just another way of saying “reality” – by david (2015) – []


As a response to Eduardo Viveiros de Castro’s critique of my essay “Fetishes are gods in the process of construction,” this paper enters into critical engagement with anthropological proponents of what has been called the “ontological turn.” Among other engagements, I note that my own reflections on Malagasy fanafody, or medicine, are informed by just the sort of self-conscious reflections my informants make on epistemology, something that anthropologists typically ignore. After making note of the arguments of Roy Bhaskar that most post-Cartesian philosophy rests on an “epistemic fallacy,” I further argue that a realist ontology, combined with broad theoretical relativism, is a more compelling political position than the “ontological anarchy” and theoretical intolerance of ontological turn exponents. 

roy bhaskar.. david on bhaskar

This strikes me as important, and we might do well here to pause a moment and consider what’s at stake before proceeding. We appear to be in the presence of two quite different conceptions of what anthropology is ultimately about. Are we unsettling our categories so as (1) to better understand the “radical alterity” of a specific group of people (whoever “we” are here taken to be); or (2) to show that in certain ways, at least, such alterity was not quite as radical as we thought, and we can put those apparently exotic concepts to work to reexamine our own everyday assumptions and to say something new about human beings in general? Obviously I am an exponent of the second position. In fact, it strikes me that the greatest achievements of anthropology have come precisely when we are willing to make that second move: to say, “But are we not all, in a certain sense, totemists?” “Is not war a form of ritual sacrifice?” “Does not knowledge of the logic of Polynesian taboo allow us to look at familiar categories like etiquette, or the sacred, in a different light?”

This passage is crucial because it lays bare the ultimately conservative nature of the ontological project—at least, in this particular iteration. Western science and common sense are “protected” from challenge—which of course, necessarily, also means the protection of those structures of authority that tell us that there is something that can be referred to as “Western science” or “common sense”—and what it consists of—in the first place.

lit & num as colonialism et al

In other words, the diviner cannot tell us anything about human beings in general; neither can the anthropologist. We must all leave the world, as Wittgenstein once said, precisely as we found it.

in sea world.. oi.. dawn of everything (book) ness

What’s more, the existence of such arguments was the very starting point of my original analysis. Because this was one of the things that most surprised me when I started doing fieldwork; something I did not anticipate, and that did indeed unsettle my working assumptions. I went to Madagascar expecting to encounter something much like a different ontology, a set of fundamentally different ideas about how the world worked; what I encountered instead were people who admitted they did not really understand what was going on with fanafody, who said wildly different, and often contradictory, things about it, but who were all in agreement that most practitioners were liars, cheats, or frauds. Coming back from the field, I consulted with colleagues who had been in similar situations (in the Andes, Andaman Islands, Papua New Guinea … ) and discovered that such sentiments are actually quite commonplace. They also confessed they never knew quite what to do with them. And in fact, this is precisely the aspect of magical practice that is most often dismissed as unimportant, or simply left out of ethnographic accounts.

I would reply that this all turns on what one actually means by “ontology.” The meaning of the term is in no way self-evident. Many anthropologists have come to use it very loosely, as little more than a synonym for “culture” or “cosmology.” OTers have something much more specific in mind. Before responding, then, it well be necessary to delve a little more deeply into what that actually is.

Anthropology seems to believe that its paramount task is to explain how it comes to know (to represent) its object—an object also defined as knowledge (or representation). Is it possible to know it? Is it decent to know it? Do we really know it, or do we only see ourselves in a mirror? (Viveiros de Castro 1998: 92)

It seems to me that Viveiros de Castro’s assessment here is substantially correct as well. Obviously, the soul/body, mind/matter division was hardly the brainchild of Descartes; it goes back at least to Pythagoras. But Descartes introduced a much more radical version of the dichotomy, largely, I would argue, by eliminating the old Stoic/Neoplatonist category of imagination, which for the Scholastics had served as a quasi-material intermediary between the two. As a result, philosophy did turn away from questions about the nature of the world, which were increasingly relegated to science, and toward questions about the possibility of knowledge. Humean skepticism, and Kant’s apriorist response, were obviously crucial turning points in this respect.

Viveiros de Castro goes on to argue that as a result, social sciences have tended to focus on questions of mind over body, intellect over lived reality. This is a somewhat tougher case to make (there’s an awful lot of resolutely materialist social science) but surely there are strong currents pulling in this direction. What I want to emphasize here though is that as he makes the argument, one can already observe the term “epistemology” shifting from its classic philosophical meaning (“questions about the nature or possibility of knowledge”) to “questions of knowledge,” and then to simply “knowledge.” Structuralism itself, to take one fairly random example, is hardly a form of “epistemology.” It might have involved an epistemology, a theory of the nature of knowledge, but when Claude Lévi-Strauss (1958) proposed a structural analysis of the Oedipus myth as a story about eyes and feet, he was in no sense elaborating on that theory. He was simply applying it, engaging in that sort of social science one would engage in if one assumed that theory was true.

aka: whalespeak ness

Instead, the authors conclude that what’s needed is not to examine how human projects of action, or for that matter, non-human projects, problematize these divisions (body/mind, nature/culture, material/ideal, etc.) but rather, to rethink the very idea that one can speak of a single, undifferentiated, natural world at all. Our insistence on the unity of nature (and therefore, as a corollary, our assumption that all difference can only be cultural) is, they say, a product of our own Western, dualist ontology. We should not impose it on others. In fact we should not even impose it on ourselves—at least, when we are thinking about others. In the presence of genuine alterity, we must speak not of people who have radically different beliefs about, or perceptions of, a single shared world, but of people who literally inhabit different worlds. We must accept the existence of “multiple ontologies.”

discrimination as equity .. idiosyncratic jargon.. et al

Note here how in the course of this argument, the meaning of “ontology” has also undergone profound changes. After all, if “ontology” simply means a discourse about “the nature of being in itself,” one could hardly assert that Western philosophy is particularly monolithic: most philosophers considered “great” are considered great largely because they came up with a different ontology, and even OTers draw much of their conception of what a non-dualist ontology might be like from the work of Gilles Deleuze, who never claimed to be doing anything more than writing his own creative synthesis of ideas derived from such post-Cartesian philosophers as Leibniz, Spinoza, Nietzsche, Bergson, and Whitehead. So “ontology” drifts from being an explicit form of philosophical discourse to referring to the—largely tacit— set of assumptions underlying the practice of natural and social science (which do tend to remain stubbornly fixed, whatever philosophers say about them), and from there, to being the tacit assumptions underlying any set of practices or modes of being of any kind at all.

gilles deleuze.. friedrich nietzsche.. process and reality..

Let’s unpack this. So: ontology begins as a mode of academic theory-making, a form of discourse, but its object is not discourse (since that, presumably would be Epistemology2) but “experiences and understandings of the nature of being itself.” “Understanding” sounds a lot like knowledge, but let’s say for the sake of argument that we are speaking of the tacit understandings underlying certain forms of “experience.” Arguably this might escape the charge of Epistemology2. But that leads to the question: How exactly is it possible to have an experience of “the nature of being itself ”? One can certainly have experience of specific manifestations of being (toothpicks, oceans, bad music coming from a party upstairs … ). But normally that’s just called “experience.” Perhaps a mystical experience, such as might have been had by Jalal al-din al-Rumi or Meister Eckhart, might qualify as an experience of “the nature of being itself ”? But presumably, this is not the sort of thing the author is talking about either. It only really makes sense if “being itself ” is simply whatever “understandings” people might be said to have of it. In which case all “itself ” is really doing here is pointing to that familiar anthropological object, the tacit assumptions about the nature of time, space, action, personhood, and so on, that underlie what used to be called a particular cultural universe—just, now constructed as an “as if,” the sort of Ontology1 one imagines the people one is studying would construct, were they the sort of people who spent their time engaging in speculative philosophy.

What OTers are arguing, unless I very much misunderstand them, is that when in the presence of assumptions, or as they put it, “conceptions” that are sufficiently foreign to the ethnographer’s own (e.g., that stones are persons, or powder is power), the ethnographer must act as if those conceptions are—for the speakers, and anyone presumed to share their Ontology2—constitutive of reality, and therefore of nature, itself.

eisenstein i know you law et al

If things really are different, as we argue, then why do they seem the same? If “different worlds” reside in things, so to speak, then how could we have missed them for so long? Why, when we look at Cuban diviners’ powders, do we see just that—powder? [Because] the very notion of perception simply reiterates the distinction that “different worlds” collapses. The point about different worlds is that they cannot be “seen” in a visualist sense. They are, as it were, a-visible. In other words, collapsing the distinction between concepts and things (appearance and reality) forces us to conceive of a different mode of disclosure altogether.

the little prince – see with your heart .. magis esse quam videri.. et al

At first glance, this seems to make no kind of sense. If one dissolves away the distinction between appearance and reality as so much false Cartesian dualism, shouldn’t that mean that things are what they appear to be, and therefore, that things that look the same are the same and that’s pretty much that? But what the authors are really saying is very different: that we shouldn’t pay too much attention to what things look like, but should instead listen to what people say. Moreover, [authoritative] statements must be treated as a window onto “concepts,” and concepts treated—through a form of “radical constructivism”—as if they were themselves realities of the same ontological standing as “things,” or indeed, constitutive of the world itself

I know this is a bit unfair. Such proposals are not really meant to be taken in this kind of programmatic way. More than anything else, OT is a theoretical framework designed to open space in order to engage in a particular form of ethnographic practice. And this form of practice is not without its merits. Having said much that is critical, let me end, then, on a positive note. I think the real strength of OT lies in the fact that it encourages what might be called a stance of creative respect towards the object of ethnographic inquiry. By this I mean first of all that it starts from the assumption that since the worlds we are studying cannot be entirely known, what we are really in the presence of is—as Viveiros de Castro (2015: 13) puts it, borrowing language from Deleuze, “the possibility, the threat or promise of another world contained in the ‘face/gaze of the other,’” a possibility that can only be realized through the ethnographer, even as the ethnographer, in trying to describe—let alone explain—this other world, inevitably betrays that promise, or, as he puts it, “dissipates its structure,” at least to a certain extent. Yet despite the inevitability of betrayal, the task of the ethnographer is nonetheless to try to keep that possibility alive. Radical alterity can never be contained by our descriptions, the argument goes, and we cannot understand it through deductive reasoning; rather, the ethnographer’s task is a creative, experimental, even poetic project—an attempt to give life to an alien reality that unsettles our basic assumptions about what could exist. Insofar as there is a war going on here, it is a war the ethnographer should never win.

naming the colour and paul know\love law

What if the world did exist but we just couldn’t prove it?

If the greatest strength of OT is its willingness to embrace the limits of human knowledge (that is, as a form of Epistemology1); its greatest flaw, to my mind at least, is that it doesn’t take this principle nearly far enough. Radical alterity applies only to relations between cultural worlds. There is never any sense that people existing inside other Ontologies2 have any trouble understanding each other, let alone the world around them; rather, out of respect for their otherness, we are obliged to act as if their command of their environment were so absolute that there were no difference whatever between their ideas about, say, trees, and trees themselves.

It strikes me that by doing so, and especially, by framing this attitude as an ethical imperative, OT makes it effectively impossible for us to recognize one of the most important things all humans really do have in common: the fact that we all have to come to grips, to one degree or another, with what we cannot know.. t

that’s why.. no prep.. no train.. et al.. so important.. graeber unpredictability/surprise law et al

that’s why.. our days would be best spent on ie: imagine if we just focused on listening to the itch-in-8b-souls.. first thing.. everyday.. and used that data to augment our interconnectedness..

a nother way for all of us to live.. aka: org’d around legit needs

In philosophical terms, what OT is proposing is simply an anthropological variation of the transcendental method, an exercise that sets out to deduce the “conditions of possibility” for human experience: essentially, to ask, *what would have to be true in order for experience to be possible? Immanuel Kant most famously used the transcendental method to produce his list of a priori conceptual categories of thought (the opposition of unity and plurality; the notion of cause and effect, etc.), along with such basic frameworks as the notion of time as a relation of past, present, and future. All these, he argued, could not be derived from experience, since they already had to be present, in the mind, for us to experience anything the way we do at all. For Kant, these were not ontological categories. Kant rejected the very possibility of Ontology1, as he did not believe we could say anything about the nature of things in themselves.

*conditions sans any form of m\a\p.. to get us out of sea world.. hari rat park law

The only things about which we can have absolute and comprehensive knowledge are things we have made up... t

ie: sea world


Critical Realists argue—compellingly, in my view—that most contemporary philosophical positions are simply variations on the epistemic fallacy. To take one particularly salient example: both Positivists and Poststructuralists tend to agree that if there were a real world independent of the subject, it should be possible (at least in principle) for the subject to have absolute and comprehensive knowledge of it. Positivists argue that such knowledge is possible; Poststructuralists, in most cases at least, argue that since such knowledge is impossible, one must conclude there is no independent reality at all.

critical realism

Accepting this makes it possible to say that scientists can say things that are true, and by the same token, they can say things that are false. (It’s quite possible—indeed, I would say, likely—that a significant percentage of what currently passes for scientific knowledge is, in fact, incorrect..t) It also makes it possible to say that other, incommensurable perspectives on reality, whether common sense, technical expertise, Maori cosmogonic myth, Vedanta, or stand-up comedy, can be able to say other things that are equally true that science cannot say—or indeed, would never think to. All these perspectives are to a certain degree incommensurable. Nonetheless, without a realist ontology1, and without some way to anchor values in it, one would have no solid basis on which to argue either that all contain truth, or that a diversity of incommensurable perspectives is in any way desirable.

like data from whales in sea world

After all, the mere assertion of a value means nothing in itself: that is, unless, as some of my Malagasy friends would no doubt hasten to point out, you manage to convince others that the value is based on something other than its mere assertion. It seems to me that taking one’s interlocutors seriously means, not just agreeing with everything they say (or even, picking out their most apparently strange or contradictory statements and trying to imagine a world in which those statements would be literally true) but starting from the recognition that neither party to the conversation will ever completely understand the world around them, or for that matter, each other. That’s simply part of what it means to be human..t Most of what obviously and immediately unites us across borders of every sort, conceptual included, is the recognition of our common limitations: whether that be the fact that all of us are mortal, or that none of us can never know with certainty how our projects will pan out.

paul know\love law.. graeber unpredictability/surprise law.. et al

What’s more, if one goes slightly further and argues not just that reality can never be fully encompassed in our imaginative constructs, but that reality is that which can never be fully encompassed in our imaginative constructs, then surely “radical alterity” is just another way of saying “reality.”..t But “real” is not a synonym for “nature.” We can never completely understand cultural difference because cultural difference is real. But by the same token, no one Iatmul, Nambikwara, or Irish-American will ever be able to completely understand any other because individual difference is real too. The reality of other people is the degree to which you can never be quite sure what they’re going to do. But finally, all of us are indeed faced with the stubborn reality—that is, immediate unpredictability, ultimate unknowability—of the physical environment that surrounds us...t

graeber unpredictability/surprise law

Perhaps the one expression I heard the most, when people talked about spirits, was simply “I don’t know.” Spirits were inherently unknowable. (The spirits that possessed mediums were ultimately unknowable as well.) I ended up concluding this lack of knowledge was not incidental; it was foundational. To put it bluntly, while OT would encourage me to privilege the fact that I will never fully understand Malagasy conceptions as to act as if those conceptions were simply determinant of reality, I decided to privilege the fact that my Malagasy interlocutors insisted they did not understand reality either; that nobody ever will be able to understand the world completely, and that this gives us something to talk about. It also gives us the opportunity to unsettle one another’s ideas in a way that might prove genuinely dialogic..t

paul know\love law et al

What I’d really draw attention to is that what Malagasy people seem to be doing in many of these cases is strikingly analogous to what OTers suggest for the practice of the anthropologist: they are engaging in an imaginative, poetic process to come to terms with a reality that they know they can never entirely understand. One of the qualities of this imaginative process is that it always tends to linger on the border between artistry and simple fraud. Recall the Malagasy cosmogonic myths mentioned earlier. They grapple with the most fundamental questions of life, love, death—the deepest mysteries of human existence. They are also obviously jokes; people laugh at them, call them “the lies of our ancestors”—though most also feel, on some level, they are also true. Just not true in any literal sense. In fact, for every great existential question there are usually half a dozen mythic answers that plainly contradict. One could, certainly, ask “what would these people have to believe?” or “what would reality have to be like for them?” in order for all these different stories not to contradict, then treat the resulting “concepts” as determinate of a reality we will never fully understand. But doing so would not be a matter of “taking our interlocutors seriously.” As pretty much any one of those interlocutors would be happy to point out, the real point is the tellers don’t really understand such matters either, nobody does, the ethnographer doesn’t either, and that means ultimately, we’re all in the same boat..t

Ultimately, human beings are all in the same existential dilemma. We can almost never predict future events with any accuracy; but at the same time, the more time passes since something does happen, the less sense it makes to speak as if anything else “could” have happened instead..t This is equally true of social scientists, who make a specialty of writing about past events as if they could have been predicted, even though when they actually do turn their hands to predicting the future, they almost invariably get it wrong. Whenever we encounter an “apparently irrational” belief, we are likely to be in the presence of an existential quandary, a puzzle which no one, really, will ever be able to completely figure out.

dawn of everything (book)

A final note on the political ramifications of theoretical ideas

Does OT, or introducing the Deleuzian notion of radical alterity as a political principle, actually improve this situation? It seems to me it makes it even worse. The only major difference I can myself make out with the relativist position, in regard to these specific problems, is that some advocates (e.g., Holbraad 2011) take the conservative implications of classical relativism even further, and propose that OT protects even authoritative views within “the West.” What’s more, not only does it appear to continue to require universal standards for recognizing legitimate authority (even across “worlds”), it proposes that those authorities be granted authority over determining the nature of reality itself, within their designated territory, whether or not the individuals in question actually wish to be granted such authority! This, to my mind, is the ultimate irony. Having been accused of introducing Marxist theories “behind the natives’ back” I cannot help but turn the question back again: do OTers really think that most of the people who anthropologists study would actually agree with the proposition that they live in a fundamentally different “nature” or “ontology” than other humans—let alone that words determine thing

The problem with cultural relativism is that it places people in boxes not of their own devising..t As a mere intellectual problem, it’s not a big one. The moment relativism becomes a moral or political position, however, it becomes very big indeed. Ontology2 just substitutes a deeper box.

Some people like deep boxes. There seems every reason to believe that those Viveiros de Castro works with, those with whom he struggles for rights to “ontological self-determination,” count among their number. But by that same token, one must respect the desires of those who wish for their boxes to be shallower, or do not wish to be placed in any sort of box at all.

An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all. – oscar wilde

In my more cynical moments, I sometimes think of social theory as a kind of game, where one of the prizes is to see who can come up with the wildest, most shocking, most dangerous-sounding idea, that still does not offer any meaningful challenge to existing structures of authority. And that we have become so used to playing this game that we no longer recognize what a genuinely dangerous idea would even look like.

What I am saying is perhaps there are at least some cases where the practice of fanafody, or other forms of what anthropologists are used to calling “magic,” involve causative mechanisms we simply don’t yet understand. There are, after all, plenty of alternative traditions in science, uniformly treated with violent hostility by the intellectual mainstream, that speculate about such possibilities. (Some involve investigating ideas originally proposed by philosophers like Peirce, Whitehead, or Bergson, but the moment one makes such ideas out of the lecture-halls and uses them as the basis for scientific experiments, one is cast amongst the flakes.) No doubt many of their exponents are every bit the cranks and lunatics they’re regularly made out to be. But what if some of them were right?

crazy enough ness.. crazywise (doc) et al

What I’m effectively asking, then, is “what if Ravololona really could prevent the hail from falling on people’s crops?” I must confess it still strikes me as unlikely. When I had to call it, I definitely came down on the side of the skeptics on this one. But maybe, just possibly, I was wrong. Still, of one thing I am certain: we’ll never have any chance of finding out if we commit ourselves to treating every statement our informants make that seems to fly in the face of accepted ideas of physical possibility as if it were the gate to some alternative reality we will never comprehend..t Engaging in such thought experiments does not really open us to unsettling possibilities. Or, anyway, not the kind of unsettling possibilities that are likely to get anyone fired from their jobs. To the contrary, it ultimately protects us from those possibilities, in just the way Holbraad suggested OT protects Western science and common sense

..who knows, maybe there actually is something going on here that we just don’t know about? Since after all, if someone that no-nonsense tells you there might be something happening that science can’t account for, one has to confront the possibility that he might actually be right..t

ie: there’s a nother way


m of care – apr 21 is on whitehead as influencer of david





demanding the impossible

by peter h marshall (1993)

via kindle version from anarchist library [] – demanding the impossible – a history of anarchism




Not surprisingly, anarchism has had a bad press. It is usual to dismiss its ideal of pure liberty at best as utopian, at worst, as a dangerous chimera. Anarchists are dismissed as subversive madmen, inflexible extremists, dangerous terrorists on the one hand, or as naive dreamers and gentle saints on the other. President Theodore Roosevelt declared at the end of the nineteenth century: ‘Anarchism is a crime against the whole human race and all mankind should band against anarchists.

ha.. rp ness

The dominant language and culture in a society tend to reflect the values and ideas of those in power. Anarchists more than most have been victims of the tyranny of fixed meanings, and have been caught up in what Thomas Paine called the ‘Bastille of the word’. But it is easy to see why rulers should fear anarchy and wish to label anarchists as destructive fanatics for they question the very foundations of their rule. The word ‘anarchy’ comes from the ancient Greek ἀνἀρχός meaning the condition of being ‘without a leader’ but usually translated and interpreted as ‘without a ruler’. From the beginning, it made sense for rulers to tell their subjects that without their rule there would be tumult and mayhem; as Yeats wrote: ‘Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;/Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.’3 In the same way, upholders of law argued that a state of ‘lawlessness’ would mean turmoil, licence and violence. Governments with known laws are therefore necessary to maintain order and calm.

oi.. carhart-harris entropy law et al


Such unorthodox thinkers went still further to make the outlandish suggestion that a society without rulers would not fall into a condition of chaotic unruliness, but might produce the most desirable form of ordered human existence.

ie: a nother way.. org’d around legit needs

The ‘state of nature’, or society without government, need not after all be Hobbes’ nightmare of permanent war of all against all, but rather a condition of peaceful and productive living. Indeed, it would seem closer to Locke’s state of nature in which people live together in a state of ‘perfect freedom to order their actions’, within the bounds of the law of nature, and live ‘according to reason, without a common superior on earth, with authority to judge between them’.4 Anarchists merely reject Locke’s suggestion that in such a condition the enjoyment of life and property would be necessarily uncertain or inconvenient. For this reason, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, the first self-styled anarchist, writing in the nineteenth century, launched the apparent paradox: ‘Anarchy is Order.’ Its revolutionary import has echoed ever since, filling rulers with fear, since they might be made obsolete, and inspiring the dispossessed and the thoughtful with hope, since they can imagine a time when they might be free to govern themselves.


The growth of the counter-culture, based on individuality, community, and joy, expressed a profound anarchist sensibility, if not a self-conscious knowledge. Once again, it became realistic to demand the impossible.

lessig impossible law

Tired of the impersonality of monolithic institutions, the hollow trickery of careerist politics, and the grey monotony of work, disaffected middle-class youth raised the black flag of anarchy in London, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Chicago, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, and Tokyo. In 1968 the student rebellions were of libertarian inspiration. In Paris street posters declared paradoxically ‘Be realistic: Demand the impossible’, ‘It is forbidden to forbid’ and ‘Imagination is seizing power’. The Situationists called for a thorough transformation of everyday life. The Provos and the Kabouters in Holland carried on the tradition of creative confrontation. The spontaneous uprisings and confrontations at this time showed how vulnerable modern centralized States could be.

Anarchists are influential in the fields of education, trade unions, community planning and culture. The recent trend towards more militarized, centralized and secretive governments has created a counter-movement of people who challenge authority and insist on thinking for themselves.

won’t be free if influential in fields.. need to see those fields as irrelevant distractions/cancers


In general, I define an anarchist as one who rejects all forms of external government and the State and believes that society and individuals would function well without them. A libertarian on the other hand is one who takes liberty to be a supreme value and would like to limit the powers of government to a minimum compatible with security. 


The continued appeal of anarchism can probably be attributed to its enduring affinity with both the rational and emotional impulses lying deep within us.

on each heart ness.. kingdom is within you ness

Whatever its future success as a historical movement, anarchism will remain a fundamental part of human experience, for the drive for freedom is one of our deepest needs and the vision of a free society is one of our oldest dreams. Neither can ever be fully repressed; both will outlive all rulers and their States.


part 1 – anarchism in theory


To be governed is to be watched over, inspected, spied on, directed, legislated, regimented, closed in, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, assessed, evaluated, censored, commanded; all by creatures that have neither the right, nor wisdom, nor virtue … To be governed means that at every move, operation, or transaction one is noted, registered, entered in a census, taxed, stamped, priced, assessed, patented, licensed, authorized, recommended, admonished, prevented, reformed, set right, corrected. Government means to be subjected to tribute, trained, ransomed, exploited, monopolized, extorted, pressured, mystified, robbed; all in the name of public utility and the general good. Then, at the first sign of resistance or word of complaint, one is repressed, fined, despised, vexed, pursued, hustled, beaten up, garroted, imprisoned, shot, machine-gunned, judged, sentenced, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed, and to cap it all, ridiculed, mocked, outraged, and dishonoured. That is government, that is its justice and its morality! – PIERRE – JOSEPH PROUDHON

inspectors of inspectors et al.. any form of m\a\p (same quote p 25)

Man is truly free only among equally free men. – MICHAEL BAKUNIN

none of us are free

Every State is a despotism, be the despot one or many. – MAX STIRNER


1 – the river of anarchy

ANARCHY IS USUALLY DEFINED as a society without government, and anarchism as the social philosophy which aims at its realization.

It would be misleading to offer a neat definition of anarchism, since by its very nature it is anti-dogmatic. It does not offer a fixed body of doctrine based on one particular world-view. It is a complex and subtle philosophy, embracing many different currents of thought and strategy. Indeed, anarchism is like a river with many currents and eddies, constantly changing and being refreshed by new surges but always moving towards the wide ocean of freedom.

kevin on anarchism w/o adj

While there are many different currents in anarchism, anarchists do share certain basic assumptions and central themes. If you dive into an anarchist philosophy, you generally find a particular view of human nature, a critique of the existing order, a vision of a free society, and a way to achieve it. All anarchists reject the legitimacy of external government and of the State, and condemn imposed political authority, hierarchy and domination. They seek to establish the condition of anarchy, that is to say, a decentralized and self-regulating society consisting of a federation of voluntary associations of free and equal individuals. The ultimate goal of anarchism is to create a free society which allows all human beings to realize their full potential.

Anarchism was born of a moral protest against oppression and injustice. The very first human societies saw a constant struggle between those who wanted to rule and those who refused to be ruled or to rule in turn. The first anarchist was the first person who felt the oppression of another and rebelled against it. He or she not only asserted the right to think independently but challenged authority, whatsoever form it took.

Anarchism began to take shape wherever people demanded to govern themselves in the face of power-seeking minorities — whether magicians, priests, conquerors, soldiers, chiefs or rulers. Throughout recorded history, the anarchist spirit can be seen emerging in the clan, tribe, village community, independent city, guild and union.


The nineteenth century witnessed a great flood of anarchist theory and the development of an anarchist movement. The German philosopher Max Stirner elaborated an uncompromising form of individualism, firmly rejecting both government and the State. The first person deliberately to call himself an anarchist was the Frenchman Pierre-Joseph Proudhon; he insisted that only a society without artificial government could restore natural order: ‘Just as man seeks justice in equality, society seeks order in anarchy.’3 He launched the great slogans ‘Anarchy is Order’ and ‘Property is Theft’.

pierre-joseph proudhon

The Russian revolutionary Michael Bakunin described anarchism as ‘Proudhonism broadly developed and pushed to its extreme consequences’.4 He popularized the term ‘anarchy’, exploiting the two associations of the word: with the widespread discord of revolutionary upheaval, and with the stable social order of freedom and solidarity which would follow. Providing a charismatic example of anarchy in action, Bakunin also helped forge the identity of the modern anarchist movement.

His aristocratic compatriot Peter Kropotkin tried, in the latter half of the century, to make anarchism more convincing by developing it into a systematic social philosophy based on scientific principles. He further refined Bakunin’s collectivism — which had looked to distribute wealth according to work accomplished — by giving it a more communistic gloss. Reacting against Kropotkin’s mechanistic approach, the Italian Errico Malatesta brought about a major shift by emphasizing the importance of the will in social struggle. During this period Benjamin R. Tucker in America also took up Proudhon’s economic theories but adopted an extreme individualist stance.

peter kropotkin

Although Tolstoy did not publicly call himself an anarchist because of that tide’s associations with violence, he developed an anarchist critique of the State and property based on the teachings of Christ. As a result, he helped develop an influential pacifist tradition within the anarchist movement.

kingdom is within you


In the twentieth century, Emma Goldman added an important feminist dimension, while more recently Murray Bookchin has linked anarchism with social ecology in a striking way. More recent anarchist thinkers have, however, been primarily concerned with the application of anarchist ideas and values.

emma on sea world.. anarchism and other essays.. murray bookchin


Collectivists in general look to a free federation of associations of producers and consumers to organize production and distribution. They uphold the socialist principle: ‘From each according to his ability, to each according to work done.’ This form of anarchist collectivism appealed to peasants as well as workers in the labour movement who wanted to create a free society without any transitional revolutionary government or dictatorship. For a long time after Bakunin, nearly all the Spanish anarchists were collectivists.


After the demise of the First International in the 1870s the European anarchist movement took a communist direction. At first the distinction between communism and collectivism was not always readily apparent; ‘collective socialism’ was even used as a synonym for ‘non-authoritarian communism’. Nevertheless, anarchist communists came to believe, like Kropotkin, that the products of labour as well as the instruments of production should be held in common. Since the work of each is entwined with the work of all, it is virtually impossible to calculate the exact value of any person’s labour. Anarchist communists therefore conclude that the whole society should manage the economy while the price and wage system should be done away with.

any form of m\a\p


Where collectivists see the workers’ collective as the basic unit of society, communists look to the commune composed of the whole population — consumers as well as producers — as the fundamental association. They adopt as their definition of economic justice the principle: ‘From each according to their ability, to each according to their need.’

The advocates of anarcho-syndicalism take the view that trade unions or labour syndicates should not only be concerned with improving the conditions and wages of their members, although this is an important part of their activity. They should take on a more positive role and have an educational as well as social function; they should become the ‘most fruitful germs of a future society, the elementary school of Socialism in general’.6 By developing within the shell of the old society, the syndicates should therefore establish institutions of self-management so that when the revolution comes through a general strike the workers will be prepared to undertake the necessary social transformation. The syndicates should in this way be considered the means of revolution as well as a model of the future society.


Anarcho-capitalism is a recent current which has developed out of individualist anarchism. It wishes to dismantle government while retaining private property and to allow complete laissez-faire in the economy. Its adherents stress the sovereignty of the individual and reject all governmental interference in everyday life. They propose that government services be turned over to private entrepreneurs. Even the symbolic spaces of the public realm like town halls, streets and parks would be made into private property.

In recent times, the various currents of anarchism have flown closer together. There are genuine differences between those who are strict pacifists and those who would allow a minimal use of violence to achieve their common goal. Militants are often critical of the more philosophically inclined, and communists keep reminding the individualists of the importance of solidarity. But the different currents have not split off into different streams or hardened into sects. The concept of ‘anarchism without adjectives’ is being discussed again in the context of creating a broad front to face the challenges of the third millennium.

kevin on anarchism w/o adj


2 – society and the state

*Pure anarchy in the sense of a society with no concentration of force and no social controls has probably never existed. Stateless societies and peasant societies employ sanctions of approval and disapproval, the offer of reciprocity and the threat of its withdrawal, as instruments of social control. But modern anthropology confirms that in organic or ‘primitive’ societies there is a **limited concentration of force. If authority exists, it is delegated and rarely imposed, and in many societies no relation of command and obedience is in force.

*always been in sea world.. hari rat park law

**any form of m\a\p as cancer


Apart from extreme individualists, anarchists thus see society as the natural condition of human beings which brings out the best in them. They consider society to be a self-regulating order which develops best when least interfered with. When asked what would replace government, numerous anarchists have answered ‘What do you replace cancer with?’ .. t Proudhon was more specific and replied ‘Nothing’:

A fundamental assumption of anarchism is that nature flourishes best if left to itself. 

in undisturbed ecosystems ..the average individual, species, or population, left to its own devices, behaves in ways that serve and stabilize the whole..’ –Dana Meadows


Horses live on dry land, eat grass and drink. When pleased, they rub their necks together. When angry, they turn round and kick up their heels at each other. Thus far only do their natural dispositions carry them. But bridled and bitted, with a plate of metal on their foreheads, they learn to cast vicious looks, to turn the head to bite, to resist, to get the bit out of the mouth, or the bridle into it. And thus their natures become depraved.8 (taoist allegory)

The same might be said of human beings. It is interfering, dominating rulers who upset the natural harmony and balance of things. It is only when they try to work against the grain, to block the natural flow of energy, that trouble emerges in society. The anarchist confidence in the advantages of freedom, of letting alone, is thus grounded in a kind of cosmic optimism. Without the interference of human beings, natural laws will ensure that spontaneous order will emerge.

The primitivist Rousseau reacted against the artificiality of European civilization by suggesting that we should develop a more natural way of living. The natural goodness of man had been depraved by government and political institutions; it was therefore necessarily to create them anew in order to let the natural man flourish.

There is undoubtedly a strong strand of primitivism in anarchist thought. It takes both a chronological form, in the belief that the best period of history was before the foundation of the State, and a cultural form, in the idea that the acquisitions of modern civilization are evil. These beliefs can combine in a celebration of the simplicity and gentleness of what is imagined to be the primitive life. Most anarchists however do not look back to some alleged lost golden age, but forward to a new era of self-conscious freedom. They are therefore both primitivist and progressive, drawing inspiration from a happier way of life in the past and anticipating a new and better one in the future.


Proudhon also believed in universal natural law and felt that there was an immanent sense of justice deep within man: ‘he carries within himself the principles of a moral code that goes beyond the individual … They constitute his essence and the essence of society itself. They are the characteristic mould of the human soul, daily refined and perfected through social relations.’

on each heart ness.. kingdom is within you ness..

*All anarchists thus believe that without the artificial restrictions of the State and government, without the coercion of imposed authority, a harmony of interests amongst human beings will emerge. Even the most ardent of individualists are confident that **if people follow their own interests in a clear-sighted way they would be able to form unions to minimize conflict. Anarchists, whatever their persuasion, believe in ***spontaneous order. Given common needs, they are confident that human beings can organize themselves.. t and create a social order which will prove far more effective and beneficial than any imposed by authority.14 Liberty, as Proudhon observed, is the mother, not the daughter of order.

*any form of m\a\p

**undisturbed ecosystem.. imagine if we.. gershenfeld something else law

***need: means to undo our hierarchical listening so we can org around legit needs

But while all anarchists call for the dissolution of the State and believe that social order will eventually prevail, they base their confidence on different premisses and models.15 Individualists like Stirner and Tucker developed Adam Smith’s economic vision in which a hidden hand will translate private interest into general good and promote a coincidence of interests. Since economic activity involves countless decisions and operations it cannot be successfully regulated or directed by one individual or a group of individuals. It should therefore be left to itself and a system of self-regulating economic harmony would result. In Saint-Simon’s celebrated phrase, the ‘administration of things’ would eventually replace ‘the government of men’. Godwin based his model of a harmonious free society on the reign of reason in accordance with universal moral laws. *Through education and enlightenment, people would become more rational and recognize universal truth and their common interests and act accordingly. All would listen to the **voice of truth. Proudhon felt that people were necessarily dependent on each other and would gain from co-ordinating voluntarily their economic interests. Bakunin believed that conscience and reason were sufficient to govern humanity, although he was enough of a Hegelian to depict human consciousness and society developing through history in a dialectical way. ***Only popular spontaneous organizations could meet the growing diversity of needs and interests.

*oi.. supposed to’s of school/work et al

**on each heart

***imagine if we just focused on listening to the itch-in-8b-souls.. first thing.. everyday.. and used that data to augment our interconnectedness.. we might just get to a more antifragile, healthy, thriving world.. the ecosystem we keep longing for..

what the world needs most is the energy of 8b alive people


Both Kropotkin and Tolstoy based their vision of social harmony on their observations of tribal organizations and peasant villages. They were impressed by the way in which such communities arranged their lives without law and government according to custom and voluntary agreement. At the same time, Kropotkin tried to ground anarchism in the scientific study of society and natural history and to demonstrate that it was a rational philosophy which sought to live in accordance with natural and social laws. Human beings, he argued, had *evolved natural instincts of sympathy and co-operation which were repressed or distorted in authoritarian and capitalist States. In the spontaneous order of a free society, they would re-emerge and be strengthened.

not *evolved.. rather.. already/always.. almaas holes law et al


Proudhon asserted that the government of man by man is servitude, but he paradoxically defined anarchy as the absence of a ruler or a sovereign as a ‘form of government’. In a late work on federalism, he even saw a positive role for the State ‘as a prime mover and overall director’ in society.21 Nevertheless, he acknowledged that ‘anarchical government’ is a contradiction in terms and left one of the most damning descriptions of government and bureaucracy ever made:

To be governed is to be watched over, inspected, spied on, directed, legislated, regimented, closed in, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, assessed, evaluated, censored, commanded; all by creatures that have neither the right, nor wisdom, nor virtue … To be governed means that at every move, operation, or transaction one is noted, registered, entered in a census, taxed, stamped, priced, assessed, patented, licensed, authorized, recommended, admonished, prevented, reformed, set right, corrected. Government means to be subjected to tribute, trained, ransomed, exploited, monopolized, extorted, pressured, mystified, robbed; all in the name of public utility and the general good. Then, at the first sign of resistance or word of complaint, one is repressed, fined, despised, vexed, pursued, hustled, beaten up, garroted, imprisoned, shot, machine-gunned, judged, sentenced, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed, and to cap it all, ridiculed, mocked, outraged, and dishonoured. That is government, that is its justice and its morality!..t

same quote as p 11.. pierre-joseph proudhon and inspectors of inspectors et al.. any form of m\a\p


Although anarchists feel that representative democracy is preferable to monarchy, aristocracy or despotism, they still consider it to be *essentially oppressive. They rebut the twin pillars of the democratic theory of the State — representation and majority rule. In the first place, no one can truly represent anyone else and it is impossible to delegate one’s authority. Secondly, the majority has no more right to dictate to the minority, even a minority of one, than the minority to the majority. To decide upon truth by the casting up of votes, Godwin wrote, is a ‘flagrant insult to all reason and justice’.31 The idea that the government can control the individual and his property simply because it reflects the will of the majority is therefore plainly unjust.

*any form of m\a\p

Anarchists also reject the liberal theory of a social contract beloved by Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau. No government, in their view, can have power over any individual who refuses his consent and it is absurd to expect someone to give his consent individually to all the laws. The American individualist Lysander Spooner exploded the contractual theory of the State by analysing the US Constitution. He could find no evidence of anyone ever making a contract to set up a government, and argued that it was absurd to look to the practice of voting or paying taxes as evidence of tacit consent. ‘It is plain’, he concluded, ‘that on the general principles of law and reason … the Constitution is no contract; that it binds nobody, and never did anybody; and that all those who pretend to act by its authority … are mere usurpers, and that every body not only has the right, but is morally bound, to treat them as such.’32

bauwens contracts law et al.. any form of m\a\p

Not all anarchists share the same view of contracts amongst individuals. Godwin rejected all forms of contract since they usually result in past folly governing future wisdom. If an action is right, it should be performed; if not, avoided. There is no need for the additional obligation of a contract. On the other hand, both Proudhon and Kropotkin looked to contracts in the form of voluntary agreements to regulate affairs between people in an anarchist society without the State. But since such contracts are not legally enforceable and carry no sanctions, they are more like declarations of intent than binding contracts in the conventional sense. The only reason why people would keep them is the pragmatic one that if an individual habitually broke his contracts, he would soon find few people to enter into agreement with him.

Anarchists have few illusions about the nature of liberal democracy and representative government. When Proudhon entered briefly the National Assembly during the 1848 Revolution, it confirmed what he had long suspected: ‘As soon as I set foot in the parliamentary Sinai, I ceased to be in touch with the masses. Fear of the people is the sickness of all those who belong to authority; the people, for those in power, are the enemy.’33 Henceforth he declared ‘Universal Suffrage is the Counter-Revolution’ and insisted that the struggle should take place in the economic and not the political arena. Bakunin never entered a parliament as a representative or joined a political party. From the beginning he was well aware that ‘Whoever talks of political power, talks of domination’ and insisted that ‘All political organization is destined to end in the negation of freedom. ‘34 Although during the Spanish Civil War anarchists did participate for a short while in the republican government in order to fight Franco’s rebels, the historic anarchist movement has consistently preached abstention from conventional politics. Hence the popular slogans: ‘Whoever you vote for, the government always gets in’, or better still, ‘If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal’.


Although it may have a benevolent face, the Welfare State can be restrictive by intensifying its grip on the lives of its subjects through registration, regulation and supervision.

any form of m\a\p.. too much

It encourages dependency and conformity by threatening to withdraw its aid or by rewarding those its favours. By undermining voluntary associations and the practice of mutual aid, it eventually turns society into a lonely crowd buttressed by the social worker and policeman.

structural violence et al

It (the state) had developed only with the division of society into classes and became a coercive machine for maintaining the rule of one class over another. The capitalist State provided liberty only for those who owned property and subjection for the rest — workers and peasants.


But Marxists and anarchists disagree profoundly over the means of realizing this desirable state of affairs. Marx suggested the need for the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ in a transitional socialist period and it has since become a central part of Marxist-Leninist orthodoxy. Yet the difference between anarchists and Marxists is more than simply a question of tactics. It also involves substantial theoretical differences. Marx’s dispute with Bakunin did have an important historical dimension, but it was fired by theoretical considerations as well. He attacked Stirner in The German Ideology and Proudhon in The Poverty of Philosophy for their failure to appreciate dialectical materialism. Where Marx tried to reverse Hegel’s position and give primacy to the capitalist economy over the bourgeois State, many anarchists persisted in seeing the State as a determining influence over the economy. Rather than recognizing the need to wait for economic conditions to develop before abolishing the State, some placed their confidence in the creative power of revolutionary will. Marx also opposed the anarchists’ rejection of imposed authority; he was keen to alter the form of authority in a communist society but did not seek to abolish the principle of authority altogether. He thought it was not only necessary to seize State power in order to defend the revolution but also to develop new kinds of social control of the productive forces.

perhaps let’s try/code money (any form of measuring/accounting) as the planned obsolescence w/ubi as temp placebo.. where legit needs are met w/o money.. till people forget about measuring


The anarchists failed in Marx’s eyes to develop a coherent class analysis, either by taking an individualist position like Stirner, by adopting a ‘petty-bourgeois’ approach like Proudhon in his defence of the peasantry, or by having an ‘opportunist’ and ‘voluntarist’ faith like Bakunin in the creative energies of the undefined ‘people’ and the ‘lumpenproletariat’.

In particular, he condemned Bakunin for believing that ‘The will, and not economic conditions, is the foundation of social revolution.’ In his dealings with Stirner, Proudhon and Bakunin, Marx certainly emerges ‘at his least appealing and at his most hectoring and heavy-handed’. He not only revealed the authoritarian tendency of his own social and political thought, but also the authoritarian nature of his own personality.

Lenin more than any one else helped contribute to this process. He took issue with the anarchists primarily on the role of the State in the revolution. He argued that they went wrong not in wanting to abolish the State, but in wanting to abolish it overnight. Lenin felt it was essential to ‘smash’ the inherited bureaucratic military State machine. But this did not mean doing away with State power altogether since it was necessary for the proletariat to use it during its dictatorship in a transitional period.


Tolstoy describes laws vividly as ‘rules, made by people who govern by means of organized violence, for non-compliance with which the non-compliant is subjected to blows, to loss of liberty, or even to being murdered’..t. Laws restrict our liberty by making us act or refrain from acting regardless of our wishes; they stand like high hedges, keeping us on the straight and narrow. The methods used by the State to enforce its laws are those of compulsion: the ultimate power of the law is the coercive power of the State. As Hobbes recognized, the authority of Leviathan is ultimately based on the sword — or its modern equivalent, the policeman’s cosh or the soldier’s gun. Indeed, as Tolstoy observed, the characteristic feature of government is that ‘it claims a moral right to inflict physical penalties, and by its decree to make murder a good action’. Since they reject the State, it is therefore inevitable that anarchists reject its most coercive expression in the law; in the words of Jean Grave, ‘anarchy demonstrates that there cannot be any good laws, nor good governments, nor faithful applications of the law … all human law is arbitrary.’


Godwin was certain that the punishment — the voluntary infliction of evil on a vicious being — threatened or imposed by law is not an appropriate way to reform human conduct. Since men are products of their environment, they cannot strictly speaking be held responsible for what they do: an assassin is no more guilty of the crime he commits than the dagger he holds. Since they are in the grip of circumstances, they do not have free will. There can therefore be no moral justification in punishment, whether it be for retribution, example or reform. All punishment is ‘a tacit confession of imbecility’; indeed, it is worse than the original crime since it uses force where rational persuasion is enough. Coercion cannot convince or create respect; it can only sour the mind and alienate the person against whom it is used.

sea world


Kropotkin argued that the main supports for crime are idleness, law and authority. But since about two-thirds of existing crimes are crimes against property, ‘they will disappear, or be limited to a quite trifling amount, when property which is now the privilege of a few, shall return to its real source — the community’..t For those people who will still be anti-social and violent, Kropotkin insists that punishment is not appropriate since the severity of punishment does not diminish the amount of crime. Talking from his own experience of Russian and French prisons, he condemned prisons for killing physical energy, destroying the individual will, and encouraging society to treat the liberated prisoner as ‘something plague-stricken’. It is not possible to improve prisons. The more prisons are reformed, the more detestable they become: modern penitentiaries are far worse than the dungeons of the Middle Ages. The best cure for anti-social tendencies is to be found in human sympathy.

Anarchists assume that there would be a greater harmony of interests amongst individuals living in a society without government, law and unequal property. But they do not think that everyone would immediately behave in a responsible fashion and there would be no more disputes or conflicts. In place of the force of law, Godwin and Kropotkin recommended the influence of public opinion and mutual censure to reform conduct. There is of course a possibility that the tyranny of public opinion could replace the oppression of law. But while Godwin and Kropotkin allow censure as a form of social control, they insist that people should decide for themselves how they should behave.

oi.. any form of m\a\p as oppression/structural violence et al

Again, in a society where anti-social individuals are considered to be sick and in need of a cure, psychological manipulation can be more coercive and tyrannical than imprisonment. . t The use of psychiatry to reform dissidents has become notorious in authoritarian societies. Stirner put the problem succinctly: ‘Curative means or healing is only the reverse side of punishment, the theory of cure runs parallel to the theory of punishment,.. t if the latter sees in an action a sin against right, the former takes it for a sin of the man against himself, as a decadence from his health.’

crazywise (doc).. steiner care to oppression law et al


Like the ancient Stoics, the anarchists have always been cosmopolitan and internationalist in outlook, and considered themselves ‘citizens of the world’. In general, they have supported national liberation struggles as part of a wider struggle for freedom, but they have opposed the statist aspirations and exclusive loyalties of the nationalists. They are particularly critical of patriotism which makes the ruled identify with their rulers and become their obedient cannon-fodder. They also recognize that rivalry between Nation-States is one of the principal causes of war.

Godwin was highly critical of Rousseau and others who exhorted people to love their country and to ‘sink the personal existence of individuals in the existence of the community’ as if it were an abstract being. The love of our country is ‘one of those specious illusions which are employed by impostors for the purpose of rendering the multitude the blind instruments of their crooked designs’. It makes us consider whatever is gained for country as so much gained to ‘our darling selves’. Patriotism moreover leads to ‘a spirit of hatred and all uncharitableness towards the countries around us’. In place of a narrow patriotism, Godwin taught universal benevolence: we should help the most needy and worthy, regardless of our personal connections. We should act as impartial spectators and not be swayed by the ties of family, tribe, country, or race. And since ideas of great empire and of legislative unity are plainly ‘the barbarous remains of the days of military heroism’, Godwin looked to a decentralized society of federated parishes to replace the Nation-State.

marsh label law et al

Tolstoy like Godwin also rigorously condemned patriotism. He saw it inextricably linked with government. By supporting government and fostering war, he declared patriotism to be a ‘rude, harmful, disgraceful, and bad feeling, and above all, immoral’ since it influences man to see himself the ‘son of his fatherland and the slave of his Government, and commit actions contrary to his reason and his conscience’.65 He felt that if people could understand that they are not the sons of some fatherland or other, nor of Governments, but the sons of God, they would be neither slaves nor enemies to each other.

thurman interconnectedness law et al

Not all anarchists however have condemned patriotism so roundly as Godwin and Tolstoy. Proudhon was undoubtedly a French nationalist. As he grew older, he not only celebrated the French revolutionary tradition but also the French people and their heritage.


He (Bakunin) expressed ‘strong sympathy for any national uprising against any form of oppression’ and declared that every people has ‘the right to be itself and no one is entitled to impose its costume, its customs, its language, its opinions, or its laws’.

While Bakunin believed that nationalism was a ‘natural fact’ and that each nation had an incontestable right to free development, he did not think nationalism acceptable as a legitimate political principle because it has an exclusive tendency and lacks ‘the power of universality’


3 – freedom and equality


It should now be clear that anarchists do not take absolute freedom as their ideal

oi.. krishnamurti partial law et al


Again, the anarchists’ readiness to use public opinion, censure and social pressure to reform conduct in place of law and punishment might suggest that they do not value freedom above everything else. Censure, even in the form of reasoned argument, curtails the freedom of some in an anarchist society to enable the maximum amount of freedom for all.

any form of m\a\p = not legit free

This view, while pointing to an important element in the anarchist conception of freedom, is not comprehensive enough. Stirner, Tucker and other individualist anarchists, for instance, do not see community as supporting individuality. But it does remind us that anarchists accept that liberty has physical and social limits and recognize that personal freedom is inevitably curtailed in some way by the freedom of others. For the strict individualist other people must inevitably stand as a constant threat to his or her freedom.

blending of brown belonging law and undisturbed ecosystem with bishop freedom law et al

Afraid of those who would invade his ‘sphere of discretion’ and reduce him to clockwork uniformity, Godwin felt compelled to conclude that ‘everything that is usually understood by the term co-operation is, in some degree, an evil.


For the first time in human history, we are now free to choose our needs.

oi.. if only.. need detox first.. so we can org around legit needs


In addition, it might be misleading to define anarchy as an absence of authority for strictly speaking it would appear that a society without Some form of authority is virtually inconceivable.

this assumption is cancer.. any form of m\a\p perpetuates all these forms/non-forms of authority.. we just don’t believe it because we’ve never let go enough to see.. because we’re intoxicated rats in sea world


Nevertheless, it is true to say that all anarchists are opposed to political authority in the sense that they deny anyone the legitimate right to issue commands and have them obeyed. As Robert Paul Wolff has argued, since ‘the state is authority, the right to rule’, anarchism which rejects the State is the only political doctrine consistent with autonomy in which the individual alone is the judge of his moral constraints.39 Anarchists also reject legal authority as defined by Max Weber as ‘a belief in the “legality” of enacted rules and the right of those elevated to authority under such rules to issue commands’.40 Communist anarchists further reject what they call ‘economic authority’; as Faure pointed out, ‘Authority dresses itself in two principal forms: the political form, that is the State; and the economic form, that is private property’

any form of m\a\p perpetuates all these forms/non-forms of authority

Anarchists however are less clear-cut about traditional authority resting on a belief in ancient traditions and the legitimacy of the holders of the tradition. Kropotkin, for instance, stressed repeatedly that customs precede man-made laws to regulate human affairs, and thought they could replace them again in the future. Proudhon even accepted the need for patriarchal authority within the family while opposing it in wider society. Anarchists are also prone to being influenced by charismatic authority, that is by the exemplary character of an exceptional person. Godwin appeared to Shelley as a wise mentor and did not reject the role. Bakunin undoubtedly possessed enormous charisma and exploited it to influence his comrades. Many were also affected by Kropotkin’s saintly aura and were prepared to be his followers. Apart from Bakunin, they all saw the dangers of unthinking obedience to or slavish imitation of a leader.

oi.. leader\ness.. any form of m\a\p perpetuates all these forms/non-forms of authority

It has been argued that anarchism does not preclude the legitimacy of every type of authority and that anarchists are really opposed only to ‘imposed authority, or authoritarianism’.42 Again, it has been asserted that libertarians reject ‘command-authority’ in coercive institutions, but are willing to accept ‘belief-authority’ in which a person voluntarily legitimizes the influence any other person may have upon them.43

voluntary compliance et al.. any form of m\a\p perpetuates all these forms/non-forms of authority

There is some evidence to support this view. Some anarchists have accepted certain attenuated forms of authority. Bakunin, while rejecting the government of science, accepts the authority of superior or technical knowledge. However, while recognizing the authority of technical competence, he insists that the advice of an expert should only be accepted on the basis of voluntary consent: if I am to accept the authority of the cobbler in the matter of shoes, my decision to act on his advice is mine and not his. Malatesta also believes that it is inevitable that a person who has greater understanding and ability to carry out a given task will succeed more easily in having his opinion accepted, and that it is all right for him to act as guide in his area of competence for those less able than himself.

..And Miller argues that anarcho-communists accept a form of authority, although it is ‘non-compulsory, non-coercive, functionally specific, and exercised collectively in a particular locality or shares a particular interest’.

oi.. any form of m\a\p perpetuates all these forms/non-forms of authority


But it would be wrong to infer from this that despite their alleged claims to the contrary, anarchists in fact all accept some form of authority. Bakunin’s defence of the authority of superior knowledge, for instance, would be anathema to Godwin as an infringement of the right of private judgement. Any reliance on someone with superior knowledge is for him the most pernicious form of authority since it prevents independent thought and encourages a spirit of dependence. Again, while accepting that the influence of public opinion is preferable to the tyranny of the law, Godwin rightly insists that ‘coercion cannot convince, cannot conciliate, but on the contrary alienates the mind of him against whom it is employed’.50 People may advise and admonish an individual, but he should act by his own deliberation and not theirs.

In general, anarchists reject the use of physical force or even manipulation by unconsciously changing beliefs and actions. They deny anyone the right to issue orders and have them obeyed. They are highly critical of political and bureaucratic authority and do not wish to become dominating leaders, even within small, informal groups. Instead, they prefer to influence others through persuasion, offering rational arguments for their anarchist beliefs and practices. Some may accept a temporary form of leadership based on competence, but most believe in leaderless groups and have no time for bosses or masters. Even if in practice anarchists have voluntarily followed charismatic leaders, they are aware of the dangers of such a form of leadership.

any form of m\a\p perpetuates all these forms/non-forms of authority

Michael Taylor argues that if we get a person to do something he would not otherwise have done by using convincing reasons, we are still exercising authority.51 But this would seem to confuse persuasion with authority. What distinguishes authority from persuasion and influence is its claim to legitimacy, a claim which all anarchists deny. Authority is also invariably exercised in a clearly defined hierarchy in which superiors assert the right to issue commands and subordinates are obliged to obey. Of the classic anarchist thinkers, only Bakunin was ready to resort to manipulation through his ‘invisible dictatorship’ and his secret societies.

same song.. any form of m\a\p perpetuates all these forms/non-forms of authority

If they do not reject all forms of authority outright, all anarchists are suspicious of authority, especially that imposed from above, and seek to minimize its influence in society. They certainly do not want to erect an ‘anarchist authority’, even if all participate in it.52 What distinguishes anarchists from other socialists is the precise fact that they are ‘anti-authoritarian’. Unlike Engels, they believe it is quite possible to organize production and distribution without authority. For anarchists, organization without compulsion, based on free agreement and voluntary co-operation, is the only cure for authority. To this end, anarchists call for the decentralization of authority and finally for its maximum dissolution.

but still do because any form of m\a\p perpetuates all these forms/non-forms of authority


In general, anarchists believe not only that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, but that power destroys both the executioner and victim of power. Their awareness of the corrupting nature of power is the basis of their criticism of concentrated power and their reluctance to relinquish any power to leaders and rulers.

But power is not only political. Bertrand Russell defines power as ‘the production of intended effects’.53 Power in this sense in existing society is ubiquitous, diffuse and often concealed. Power over human beings may usefully be classified by the manner of influencing individuals or by the type of organization involved. An individual may be influenced by direct physical power over his body, (army and police); by rewards and punishments which act as inducements (economic organizations); by the sway of opinion or propaganda (schools, churches, political parties). Indeed, the distinctions between the organizations are not always so clear cut as they often use different forms of power at the same time.

any form of m\a\p perpetuates all these forms/non-forms of authority/power

Within society, there is also traditional power (an ancient form based on custom); newly acquired power (such as law based on coercive power of the State or ‘naked’ military power); and revolutionary power (of party or group). Anarchists would condemn all three, though some like Kropotkin would accept the first as the least pernicious, and others like Bakunin would accept the last in the form of a mass uprising.

Anarchists are opposed to all power which is coercive and non-reciprocal, especially in the sense of domination which involves force and conflict between two parties. But they sometimes wield a form of power in trying to influence others by making things unpleasant. Indeed, in the place of law, Godwin and Kropotkin both look to public censure to reform wrongdoers. Tucker might well reduce ethics to the sole moral law of ‘Mind your own business’, but he is ready to exert ‘the influence of reason; the influence of persuasion; the influence of example; the influence of public opinion; the influence of social ostracism; the influence of unhampered economic forces; the influence of better prospects …’56 The two principles would seem to be contradictory, and the latter form of influence undoubtedly involves a form of coercive power. The desire to have power over oneself is quite compatible with the anarchist position. But as Paul Goodman has pointed out, people live quite happily without ‘power’ that manages or coerces from outside. *Most human activities moreover do not need external motivations in the form of reward or punishment.57

any form of m\a\p perpetuates all these forms/non-forms of authority/power

*all.. otherwise it’s any form of m\a\p which perpetuates all these forms/non-forms of authority/power et al


Anarchists are well aware that an *authoritarian upbringing and education produce people who are either submissive or imperious types..t As Alfred Adler observed, ‘the servile individual lives by the rules of others, and this type seeks out a servile position almost compulsively’.58 At the same time, they recognize with Hobbes and Adler that **the will to power over others is a common tendency amongst human beings. They are aware that, given the opportunity, not only do ex-slaves often try to become masters, but oppressed men try to find weaker beings to lord it over. But anarchists do not see that this tendency is intrinsic in human nature, but rather a product of our authoritarian and hierarchical society. They reject the view that the only possible human relationship is that in which one issues orders and the other obeys, one asserts himself and the other cringes. Such an unequal distribution of power enslaves both the ruler and the ruled. ***Anarchists look to a time when there will no longer be masters and servants, leaders and followers, rulers and ruled.

*supposed to’s of school/work et al.. maté parenting law et al.. any form of m\a\p

**not legit free human beings.. rather of whales/rats

***will only happen when all of us are legit free.. begs a leap .. for (blank)’s sake

In the past, anarchists rejected power over each other, but still thought it was necessary to increase power and control over nature. Kropotkin not only entitled one his books The Conquest of Bread but argued like Marx that industrial progress required ‘conquest over nature’.

Human beings would be equal partners in a non-hierarchical world without domination. And while it may be impossible to realize in practice, the ultimate goal would be to achieve the complete absence of imposed authority and coercive power.

not impossible


As for the doctrine of equal opportunity to develop one’s talents, anarchists do not deny that everyone should have an equal claim to self-development. But they recognize that the principle of equal opportunity is fundamentally conservative since existing society with its hierarchy of values only supports the opportunity to develop those talents and abilities which it considers worth developing. The application of the principle will also increase inequalities by creating a society ruled by a meritocracy. Above all, it is founded on an antagonistic, competitive model of society in which there are more losers than winners in the race for goods and status.

Godwin, ..did not think all people should be treated equally. ..should give preferential treatment to those most likely to increase human happiness: in a fire where I could only save one person, I should save a benevolent philosopher who might contribute to the happiness of thousands before his vicious maid, even if she happened to my mother.

Proudhon, on the other hand, accepted that men and women had equal rights and duties, but he believed that ‘if one compares sex with sex, women are inferior’.64 ..Tucker was even more willing to countenance economic inequalities which might result from the superiority of muscle or brain. As for the ‘beautiful world’ in which absolute equality had been achieved, ‘who would live in it?’, he asks. ‘*Certainly no freeman’.

oi.. *we have no idea what legit free people are like.. (but too.. not equality.. but equity: everyone getting a go everyday)

ie: a nother way


Bakunin had an entirely different approach. He asserted that all humanity was physically and socially equal, and insisted that since man is truly free only among equally free men, the ‘freedom of each is therefore realizable only in the equality of all. The realization of freedom through equality, in principle and in fact, is justice.’66 Yet by retaining a collectivist system of distribution according to work done he endorsed like Proudhon economic inequality.

but earlier said he had coercive secret societies to persuade et al..

Kropotkin went one step further than Bakunin. He shared his belief in human equality but adopted a communist definition of justice: from each according to ability, to each according to need. Clearly this is also an unequal principle, since under a system of voluntary communism the distribution of burdens and rewards will depend on different abilities and needs. In practice, the communist idea of just distribution according to need is more concerned with fair shares than equal shares.

we have no idea


part 2 – forerunners of anarchism


1 – toaism and buddhism

But whereas the Taoists were principally interested in nature and identified with it, the Confucians were more worldly-minded and concerned with reforming society. The Confucians celebrated traditionally ‘male’ virtues like duty, discipline and obedience, while the Taoists promoted the ‘female’ values of receptivity and passivity.

It seems likely that the Tao te ching (The Way and its Power) which is attributed to Lao Tzu, was written in the third century BC. It has been called by the Chinese scholar Joseph Needham ‘without exception the most profound and beautiful work in the Chinese language’.3 The text consists of eighty-one short chapters in poetic form. Although often very obscure and paradoxical, it offers not only the earliest but also the most eloquent exposition of anarchist principles.


Yin is the supreme feminine power, characterized by darkness, cold, and receptivity and associated with the moonyang is the masculine counterpart of brightness, warmth, and activity, and is identified with the sun. Both forces are at work within men and women as well as in all things.

Where the Confucian wants to conquer and exploit nature, the *Taoist tries to contemplate and understand it. The Taoists’ traditionally ‘feminine’ approach to nature suggests that their way of thinking may well have first evolved in a matriarchal society. While at first sight it might seem a religious attitude, in fact it encouraged a scientific and democratic outlook amongst Taoists. By not imposing their own preconceptions, they were able to observe and understand nature and therefore learn to **channel its energy beneficially.

*i don’t think legit free people would care to contemplate and understand.. **or channel

For the Taoists, the art of living is to be found in simplicity, non-assertion and creative play.

Central to Taoist teaching is the concept of wu-wei. It is often translated as merely non-action. In fact there are striking philological similarities between ‘anarchism’ and ‘wu-wei’. Just as αναeχια in Greek means absence of a ruler, wu-wei means lack of wei, where wei refers to ‘artificial, contrived activity that interferes with natural and spontaneous development’.5 From a political point of view, wei refers to the imposition of authority. To do something in accordance with wu-wei is therefore considered natural; it leads to natural and spontaneous order. It has nothing to do with all forms of imposed authority.

any form of m\a\p


The Tao te ching is quite clear about the nature of force. If we use force, whether physical or moral, to improve ourselves or the world, we simply waste energy and weaken ourselves..: ‘force is followed by loss of strength’(30). It follows that those who wage war will suffer as a result: ‘a violent man will die a violent death’(42). By contrast, giving way is often the best way to overcome: ‘Under heaven nothing is more soft and yielding than water. Yet for attacking the solid and strong, nothing is better; it has no equal. The weak can overcome the strong; the supple can overcome the stiff.’(78) The gentle peacefulness recommended by the Taoists is not a form of defeatist submission but a call for the creative and effective use of energy.

if we try to improve ourselves.. we lose energy.. rather.. imagine if we ness

‘Practise non-action. Work without doing’(63), Lao Tzu recommends. In their concept of wu-wei, the Taoists are not urging non-action in the sense of inertia, but rather condemning activity contrary to nature. It is not idleness that they praise, but work without effort, anxiety and complication, work which goes with and not against the grain of things. If people practised wu-wei in the right spirit, work would lose its coercive aspect. It would be undertaken not for its useful results but for its intrinsic value. Instead of being avoided like the plague, work would be transformed into spontaneous and meaningful play: ‘When actions are performed/Without unnecessary speech,/People say, “We did it!” ‘(17).

kilpi work law et al

If people followed their advice, the Taoists suggest, they would live a long life and achieve physical and mental health. One of their fundamental beliefs was that ‘Whatever is contrary to Tao will not last long’(55), while he who is filled with virtue is like a new-born child. In order to prolong their lives the Taoists resorted to yoga-like techniques and even alchemy.

The most important principle at the centre of their teaching however was a belief that ‘The world is ruled by letting things take their course. It cannot be ruled by interfering.’(48) The deepest roots of the Taoist view of wu-wei probably lies in early matriarchal society in ancient China. The Taoist ideal was a form of agrarian collectivism which sought to recapture the instinctive unity with nature which human beings had lost in developing an artificial and hierarchical culture. Peasants are naturally wise in many ways. By hard experience, they refrain from activity contrary to nature and realize that in order to grow plants they must understand and co-operate with the natural processes. And just as plants grow best when allowed to follow their natures, so human beings thrive when least interfered with.6 It was this insight which led the Taoists to reject all forms of imposed authority, government and the State. It also made them into precursors of modern anarchism and social ecology.

undisturbed ecosystem ness

It has been argued that Taoism does not reject the State as an artificial structure, but rather sees it as a natural institution, analogous perhaps to the family.7 While the Tao te ching undoubtedly rejects authoritarian rule, it does read at times as if it is giving advice to rulers to become better at ruling:

not undisturbed ecosystem ness.. oi


However a closer reading shows that the Tao te ching is not concerned with offering Machiavellian advice to rulers or even with the ‘art of governing’. The person who genuinely understands the Tao and applies it to government reaches the inevitable conclusion that the best government does not govern at all.9 Lao Tzu sees nothing but evil coming from government. Indeed, he offers what might be described as the first anarchist manifesto:

The more laws and restrictions there are, The poorer people become. The sharper men’s weapons, The more trouble in the land. The more ingenious and clever men are, The more strange things happen. The more rules and regulations, The more thieves and robbers.

Therefore the sage says:

I take no action and people are reformed. I enjoy peace and people become honest. I do nothing and the people become rich. I have no desires and people return to the good and simple life. (57)

Lao Tzu specifically sees property as a form of robbery: ..He traces the causes of war to unequal distribution: ‘Claim wealth and tides, and disaster will follow.’(9) .. he offers the social ideal of a classless society without government and patriarchy in which people live simple and sincere lives in harmony with nature. *It would be a decentralized society in which goods are produced and shared in common with the help of appropriate technology. The people would be strong but with no need to show their strength; wise, but with no pretence of learning; productive, but engaged in no unnecessary toil.

*ie: tech as it could be.. to undo our hierarchical listening so we can org around legit needs



chuang tzu – horse story.. As with horses, so it is with human beings. Left to themselves they live in natural harmony and spontaneous order. But when they are coerced and ruled, their natures become vicious.

like whales in sea world.. rats in cage

undisturbed ecosystem ness

In an essay ‘On Letting Alone’, Chuang Tzu asserted three hundred years before Christ the fundamental proposition of anarchist thought which has reverberated through history ever since:

There has been such a thing as letting mankind alone; there has never been such a thing as governing mankind. Letting alone springs from fear lest men’s natural dispositions be perverted and their virtue left aside. But if their natural dispositions be not perverted nor their virtue laid aside, what room is there left for government?12

But while pursuing their own interests, they would not forget the interests of others. It is not a sullen selfishness which is recommended.

findings.. et al.. crave others

Thus society is described by Chuang Tzu as

an agreement of a certain number of families and individuals to abide by certain customs.

oi.. tzu cancer.. public consensus always oppresses someone(s) et al


The Buddha was not the mere discoverer of the Twelvefold Chain of Causation,’ Suzuki informs us, ‘he took the chain in his hands and broke it into pieces, so that it would never again bind him to slavery.’

The familiar props of religion are thrown away. The four central statements of Zen are:

A special transmission outside the Scriptures; No dependence upon words or letters; Direct pointing to the soul of man; Seeing into one’s nature and the attainment of Buddhahood.21

have to org around what we all already have (almaas holes law).. so no prep/no train/no enlighten needed.. they (any form of m\a\p) are the chains in end of p.. oi.. huge.. otherwise never all of us in sync.. so never legit free..

huge huge huge.

Traditionally Zen aspirants have learned from a teacher. He is usually called master, but more in the sense of schoolmaster than lord. His task is to help them break out of their everyday perceptions and intellectual habits. Buddhist monks are therefore exemplars, not intermediaries between the individual and God like Christian priests. They may carry sticks and not be averse to using them, but the blows are ways of shaking people out of their habitual way of seeing. In the Rinzai school, where the treatment is particularly vigorous, the discipline is used primarily to develop the pupil’s character from within and to increase his or her moral strength.

oi to stick ness.. structural violence et al.. voluntary compliance et al

Zen thus offers a fiery baptism. However rough or gentle, it is intended to bring the student back to his original state of freedom which he has lost through ignorance. It is aimed at creating self-disciplined freedom, not dependence on masters.

oi to ignorance ness.. intellect ness et al

While a teacher may point the way, the individual must ultimately make his own choices and walk alone on his journey.

if about choices.. huge red flag.. need curiosity over decision making et al


What I do to my disciples is to liberate them from their own bondage with such devices as the case may need.’

ie: tech as it could be.. sans judge\ment/assumption/stick/learning/training et al as device..

The aim is to achieve a state of enlightenment in which one sees directly into one’s own nature and realizes that it is not separate from Nature, but part of an organic whole. Opposites are transcended. One feels clear, calm, whole. One becomes uncircumscribed and free. One is beyond conventional definitions of good and evil, moral codes and laws. If you have Zen, you have no fear, doubt or craving. You live a simple life, serene and complete:

k.. but won’t happen if any form of m\a\p.. ie: stick, ignorance.. rest of page o.o shows why not working.. part\ial ness as chains.. has to be all of us.. biggest (?) finding.. once found conditions for free.. craved others.. has to be all of us


Every person is thus free within the limitations of his self-created karma. By right thought and action, I can change myself and shape my destiny.

oi.. socrates supposed to law et al

As the teacher Gasan told his pupils:

Those who speak against killing and who desire to spare the lives of all conscious beings are right. It is good to protect even animals and insects. But what about those persons who kill time, what about those who are destroying wealth, and those who destroy political economy? We should not overlook them.31

oi.. not capacity to learn.. but uncovering/listening to what’s already in us.. already in all of us


2 – the greeks

It is the ‘reason’ or ‘destiny’ which keeps everything in order and ensures the orderly succession of events.

oi.. carhart-harris entropy law et al


The case for Socrates as a libertarian is founded on his insistence that one should question authority and think for oneself… Socrates not only chose free discussion as his method of teaching but insisted that ‘Daily discussion of the matters about which you hear me conversing is the highest good for man. Life that is not tested by such discussion is not worth living.

oi.. that’s spinach or rock ness.. aka: not legit free


(on athens and greek democracy as ideal ie).. On a good day it has been estimated that in the last quarter of the fifth century six thousand might attend the assembly out of a citizen population of about thirty thousand. Athenian policy was thus determined by mass meetings of the citizenry on the ‘advice of anyone who could win the people’s ear’.14 The system, with its regular assemblies, its rotating Council of Five Hundred, and its elected juries, was deliberately organized to prevent the creation of a permanent bureaucracy and to encourage active participation of the citizens. In practice, this process of direct democracy affirmed citizenship as a form of direct action

oi.. public consensus always oppresses someone(s) .. et al

There were of course limits to Athenian democracy. It did not embrace women, slaves, and resident aliens who made up the majority of the population. But it is misleading to say that it was ‘based’ on slavery and therefore somehow invalid. The great majority of citizens earned their living by working with their hands and only about a third owned slaves.17 Nevertheless, even this degree of slavery shows that Athens did not fully understand democracy. Another sign was its readiness to go to war; its imperial ambitions led to the Peloponnesian War which finally brought about its downfall towards the end of the third century.

oi.. thurman interconnectedness law et al


For all its shortcomings, the libertarian legacy of Greek philosophy and Athenian democracy remains impressive and should not be overshadowed by the dominating presence of Plato and Aristotle. The right to private judgement and the freedom of thought and action were first defended by the Greeks. They not only made the fundamental distinction between nature and convention which runs like a silver thread through all anarchist thinking, but developed a strong sense of the common destiny of all humanity to live a life of virtue. They recognized that justice was a universal principle. They loved laughter and friendship and all that is human. Above all, they saw in education the means to awaken the understanding which alone can bring humanity to personal and social freedom.

oi oi oi


3 – christianity

Tolstoy is the most famous, but not the only one to base his anarchism on a radical interpretation of Christianity. 

kingdom is within you


 Since The Kingdom of God Is Within You and you can be guided by the divine light of reason, governments are both unnecessary and harmful.

any form of m\a\p.. if legit free.. ie: imagine if we

If people could but understand that they are ‘sons of God’, Tolstoy wrote, ‘and can therefore be neither slaves nor enemies to one another — those insane, unnecessary, worn-out, pernicious organizations called Governments, and all the sufferings, violations, humiliations, and crimes they occasion, would cease.19 Tolstoy inspired a long tradition of anarchist pacifists, while his greatest disciple Gandhi developed his doctrine of civil disobedience into a highly effective form of non-violent direct action.

hennacy: ‘Christian-anarchism is based upon the answer of Jesus to the Pharisees when He said that he without sin was to cast the first stone; and upon the Sermon on the Mount which advises the return of good for evil and the turning of the other cheek. Therefore, when we take any part in government by voting for legislative, judicial and executive officials, we make these men our arm by which we cast a stone and deny the Sermon on the Mount.’

cast first stone et al.. eisenstein i know you law et al


In fact it could be argued that Christian anarchism is not an attempt to synthesize two systems of thought but rather an attempt to realize the message of the Gospels. Like the mystical anarchists of the Middle Ages, Ciaron O’Reilly has recently claimed that the *free society already exists in embryo: ‘To the Christian the revolution has already come in the form of the resurrection. It is merely a matter of living out that promise, **not living by the standards of the fallen world. The Kingdom of God exists within the social organism, it is ***our role to make it universally manifest.’.. t

*on each heart

**hari rat park law

***everyone in sync law.. has to be all of us for the dance to dance.. ie: tech as it could be

@CiaronOReilly: Non-violent anti-war resister from the Catholic Worker tradition. Priority – organising solidarity with other resisters facing the courts or prison’Reilly

 He is noted both for “his reflections on Christian anarchism, and partly for his example in putting these reflection[s] into practice”. (safehouses, injection site ness) In recent years he has been associated with the campaigns in support of Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, and Ben Griffin, who became O’Reilly’s godson


4 – the middle ages

Retaining Zoroaster’s concepts of light and darkness, Mazdak preached a dualistic religion, but with socialist principles. He believed that all men are born equal but suffer from the unequal distribution of wealth and women, and since most fighting is caused by them, he proscribed (forbid) private property and marriage. People should share their goods and women like water, fire and grazing. They should also maintain respect for animals, thereby putting an end to slaughter. Mazdak’s ideal was a stoical and simple life, and he urged contentment and austerity.


The Heresy of the Free Spirit formed a clandestine tradition which not only emerged in the great peasant rebellions of the Middle Ages and on the extreme left in the English Revolution, but welled up in the writings of William Blake. A modern version of the cult of the Free Spirit, with its stress on the total emancipation of the individual and call for universal peace and love, can be even recognized in the counter-culture of the nineteen sixties.


Nevertheless, it has been called the first attempt to found a society on the principle that liberty is the mother and not the daughter of order.

carhart-harris entropy law

Satan had seduced them into thinking that they were angels who must purify Christ’s world of all scandals and judge the world; the result was that they ‘committed many killings and impoverished many people’.

any form of m\a\p

In his principal work, The Net of Faith (c. 1450), Peter Chelčický opposed the ‘two whales’ of the Church and State. He believed that the State and political power were the result of original sin, and were necessary evils to keep order in an unregenerate world. But in any true community of Christians they were superfluous; love and peace would suffice. The community Chelčický founded had no outward organization, and was held together only by love and by following the example of Christ and his apostles. The sect eventually became the Moravian Brothers. Rudolf Rocker later recognized Chelčický as a forerunner of Tolstoy, and Kropotkin acknowledged him as a precursor of anarchism.17


pacifist intolerants



5 – the english revolution

There had been communist theories before, but the Digger spokesman Gerrard Winstanley was the first to assert clearly that ‘there cannot be a universal liberty till this universal community is established’.2 They understand the crucial point that State power is intimately linked to the system of property

has to be all of us.. sans any form of m\a\p

The English Revolution was a time when it seemed possible to turn the world upside down, not only overthrow the existing State and Church but to end the Protestant ethic with its stress on work, ascetism and discipline, Winstanley and the Diggers were convinced that ‘the present state of the old world is running up like parchment in the fire, and wearing away’.3 There was a new mobility and freedom: ‘masterless men’, a hitherto unthinkable concept, stalked the land calling for the abolition of all masters; even some husbandless women were claiming the right to choose whom to kiss. They happily combined the myth of an equal society in the Garden of Eden before the Fall with the myth of Anglo-Saxon freedom before the Norman Yoke. As Christopher Hill has pointed out, there was a remarkable liberation of energy during the English Revolution: ‘Men felt free: free from hell, free from priests, free from fear of worldly authorities, free from the blind forces of nature, free from magic.’4

Beneath the surface stability of rural England at the time, there was a seething underground of forest squatters and itinerant labourers and vagabonds. Many travellers went from city to city and congregated in London. These masterless men and women prized independence more than security, freedom more than comfort.


Like the adepts of the Free Spirit before him, and like Tolstoy after him, Winstanley believed that God is not a personal deity or Supreme Being but a ‘spirit that dwells in all mankind’. ..They are no longer ruled from without but from within, by their conscience, love or reason. As Winstanley wrote in the True Levellers’ Standard, ‘the flesh of man being subject to reason, his maker, hath him to be his teacher and ruler within himself, therefore needs not run abroad after any teacher and ruler without him’.12 It is the ‘ruling and teaching power without [that] doth dam up the spirit of peace and liberty, first within the heart, by filling it with slavish fears of others; secondly without, by giving the bodies of one to be imprisoned, pounished and oppressed by the outward power of another’.13 This is the key to Winstanley’s anarchism: external government is no longer necessary if people govern themselves according to their God-given reason.

but few pages later (86).. all the conditions/govt/training ness (because of myth of tragedy and lord ness) comes out.. oi


(on wistanley grokking it.. but nevermind .. one page later.. oi)

Impressed by the interdependence of all human beings, Winstanley concluded that reason operates in society as a principle of order for the common preservation of humanity and that the government of rational beings is therefore superfluous. It is private property, not unruly human nature, which is the principal source of social conflict.

In his The New Law of Righteousness (1649), issued two months before the setting up of the colony on George’s Hill, Winstanley recognized the close link between property and government: ‘buying and selling earth from one particular hand to another saying this is mine, upholding this propriety by a law of government of his own making thereby restraining other fellow creatures from seeking nourishment from their mother earth’.15 He also realized that once men gain power, they intensify exploitation and oppression:

It was clear to Winstanley that the State and its legal institutions existed in order to hold the lower classes in place. Winstanley at this stage suggested that the only solution would be to abolish private property and then government and church would become superfluous. Magistrates and lawyers would no longer be necessary where there was no buying and selling. There would be no need for a professional clergy if everyone was allowed to preach. The State, with its coercive apparatus of laws and prisons, would simply wither away: ‘What need have we of imprisonment, whipping or hanging laws to bring one another into bondage?’18 It is only covetousness, he argued, which made theft a sin. And he completely rejected capital punishment: since only God may give and take life, execution for murder would be murder. He looked forward to a time when ‘the whole earth would be a common treasury’, when people would help each other and find pleasure in making necessary things, and ‘There shall be none lords over others, but everyone shall be a lord of himself, subject to the law of righteousness, reason and equity, which shall dwell and rule in him, which is the Lord.’

but never let go enough to see.. so.. myth of tragedy and lord et al

need to org around legit needs

Winstanley did not call for mass insurrection or the seizure of the lands of the rich. He was always opposed to violence, although he was not an absolute pacifist and advocated an extreme form of direct action.

but later we see.. not opposed to structural violence


But the experience of the Diggers’ colony on George’s Hill, especially of the Ranters within and the hostile freeholders without, made him have second thoughts about human nature. Man might be sociable and reasonable by nature, but in existing society he often appeared unruly and confused. Digger covetousness suggested to Winstanley the need for some form of external social control. Thus because ‘transgression doth and may arise from ignorance and rude fancy in man’, he now felt that law and government would be necessary in a commonwealth to regulate society.

but that’s not human nature.. that’s whale nature

oi oi oi.. hari rat park law et al

why not yet ness


Winstanley had come to believe that the people were not ready to be free and a long process of education and preparation was first necessary before they were capable of governing themselves.

oi oi oi

rather.. short leap of detox


6 – the french renaissance and enlightenment

guy 1 – still ed


guy 2 – still obey parents/reason


buy 3 – ed from age 3-35



Central to the world-view of the Enlightenment was a belief in the perfectibility of man. Man is not irretrievably fallen in a state of sin, the philosophes argued, but largely the product of his circumstances. If you change his circumstances, than you can change his conduct. And the best way to achieve that is through enlightenment and education. Man is therefore perfectible, or at least susceptible to continual improvement. History moreover shows that progress has taken place in the past, and there is no good reason to think that it should not so continue in the future.

oi oi oi

While Rousseau was a product of the Enlightenment, he came to question the prevailing confidence in reason and science to bring about social and moral progress. People, he thought, are naturally good and have become depraved by existing institutions. But he did not call like later anarchists for the abolition of all such institutions but their replacement by a new social contract. Only less well-known thinkers like Jean Meslier and Morelly carried the philosophes’ criticism of the existing regime to the borders of anarchism. Their works however were known only to a few and they did not exert much influence in their day.

oi part\ial ness


Meslier has been called ‘more of an anarchist than an atheist’.18 He certainly thought that man is naturally drawn to appreciate ‘peace, kindness, equity, truth and justice’ and to abhor ‘troubles and dissension, the malice of deceit, injustice, imposture and tyranny’.19 But why, he asked, had the desire for happiness common to every human heart been frustrated? It was simply because some people were ambitious to command and others to earn a reputation for sanctity.

missing pieces et al


By seeing private property rather than government as the main cause of evil, Morelly was a forerunner of communism. Moreover, he attempted to lay down in the fourth part of his Code de la nature a ‘Model of Legislation conforming to the intentions of Nature’, that is to say, laws of society which would correspond to natural laws. His proposed communist society was austere and authoritarian with strict education and compulsory labour and marriage. The family would be the base of a social hierarchy composed of tribes organized in cities and provinces. The administration of the economy would be merely a matter of accounting, with a minimal government periodically rotated. There would be a strict overall plan and the only philosophy taught would support the laws. The result would be a ‘very fine order’. Those who oppose that order would be punished, the worst offenders being isolated in caverns which eventually would become their tombs. He thought a *transitional society of ‘some severity’ may be necessary to achieve communism.

oi.. *yeah.. that.. any form of m\a\p requires any form of structural violence


The case of Denis Diderot is also somewhat curious. As co-editor of the Encyclopédie ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, he shared the philosophes’ confidence in gradual progress through the diffusion of practical and theoretical knowledge. By presenting knowledge as a coherent whole, the Encyclopédie became a fountain of radical and subversive thought.


To the question whether it is necessary to civilize man or abandon him to his instinct, Diderot’s spokesman replies:

I appeal to all political, civil and religious institutions: examine them thoroughly, and if I am not mistaken you will find the human species bent from century to century under the yoke which a handful of knaves have sworn to impose on it. Beware of the person who comes to put things in order. To order things is always to make oneself master of others by disturbing them:..t and the people of Calabria are almost the only ones who have not yet had the flattery of legislators imposed on them.

carhart-harris entropy law

And asked whether the ‘anarchy of Calabria’ is agreeable, he is ready to wager that ‘their barbarism is less vicious than our urbanity’.

If Diderot was cautious about publicizing his most radical views, Rousseau had no such qualms. He was, to boot, one of the most paradoxical writers of the eighteenth century. 

But this was not all. Although he was a righteous moralist who believed that conscience is a ‘divine instinct’, he gave his children away to the public orphanage. 

In his next work for the Dijon academy, A Discourse on the Origin of Inequality (1754), Rousseau developed his central theme of man’s tragic departure from his essential nature. He sets out with the intention ‘to distinguish properly between what is original and what is artificial in the actual nature of man’ but made clear that he was offering only ‘hypothetical reasonings’ and ‘conjectures’, not historical facts.


According to Rousseau, the most important incident in human history and the chief cause of social inequality is the foundation of private property. The second part of his Discourse opens with the resounding statement:

The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself of saying ‘This is mine,’ and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: ‘Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.’41

bauwens property law.. doctorow property law.. wilde property law.. hardt/negri property law.. property

As people became more industrious, their simple wants multiplied into *new needs. Agriculture and industry further depressed mankind: ‘it was iron and corn which first civilized men, and ruined humanity.’ **Property, once recognized, gave rise to growing inequality and the first rules of justice. It also had disastrous psychological effects in encouraging dissimulation: ‘it now became the interest of men to appear what they really were not.’ Eventually the rich, in order to enjoy their property in peace, suggested the need for government as a supreme power to govern with laws. The people were duped into agreeing: ***‘All ran headlong to their chains, in hopes of securing their liberty;..t for they had just wit enough to perceive the advantages of political institutions, without experience enough to enable to foresee the dangers.’42 Such was the origin of government and law which bound new fetters on the poor and gave new powers to the rich. Nations then entered into a state of nature with each other.

*need means to org around legit needs

**magis esse quam videri.. wilde not-us law.. et al

***security ness and gershenfeld something else law

Rousseau considered liberty as the ‘noblest faculty of man’; it is ‘a gift which they hold from nature as being men’.43 He rejected outright those apologists of slavery who argue that man has a natural propensity to servitude. With all the eloquence of sincere anger, Rousseau exclaims:

when I see free-born animals dash their brains out against the bars of their cage, from an innate impatience of captivity; when I behold numbers of naked savages, that despise European pleasures, braving hunger, fire, the sword, and death, to preserve nothing but their independence, I feel that it is not for slaves to argue about liberty.44

Rousseau therefore argued that government is an artificial institution set up by free men in the hope of making life easier. But while government did not begin with arbitrary power, it eventually brought about ‘just the law of the strongest, which it was originally designed to remedy’.


Rousseau’s analysis of the origins of social inequality and government is brilliant, and most anarchists have followed him in seeing a close link between property and government. Indeed, he recognized in his Confessions that ‘everything depended radically on politics’ and ‘no people would ever be anything but what the nature of its government made it’.46 But despite his celebration of the natural state of man, and his favourable contrast between the ‘savage’ and the ‘civilized’, particularly since the former knows how to live within himself and the latter only knows how to live ‘in the opinion of others’, Rousseau did not call for a return to a primitive state of nature as is commonly supposed.47 In his second Discourse, he suggested that the ideal state of humanity, the happiest and most stable of epochs, must have been in the youth of society when the expansion of the human faculties kept ‘a just mean between the indolence of the primitive state and the petulant activity of our amour-propre’.

Rousseau undoubtedly gave priority to freedom as a basis of social life and celebrated individuality in many works.50 He opened his treatise on education, Emile (1762), with the resounding statement: ‘Everything is good as it comes from the hands of the author of nature, everything degenerates in the hands of man.’51 To remedy this state of affairs, he called for a system of Veil-regulated freedom’ to bring up a child in isolation from corrupting society. The aim of education, he insisted, must be to excite curiosity and to form the judgment, and the best way to encourage learning is by doing. It was a message which impressed Godwin and Kropotkin.

oi.. that’s why he has to .. fall back on authoritarian means.. myth of tragedy and lord et al

But despite his libertarian aims in education and his desire to create the autonomous individual, Rousseau falls back on authoritarian means. His ideal tutor is an all powerful puppet-master who manipulates the child without him knowing it, and tries to impose a certain cast of mind. In the end, Emile is psychologically bound to his master and cannot escape him. Although his tutor abdicates his authority and hands his charge over to his new wife – ‘your guardian from now on’ – the docile young couple ask him to continue to ‘advise’ and ‘govern’ them.52

supposed to’s of school/work et al


For all his concern with equality and popular sovereignty, Rousseau’s proposed social contract hardly adds up to a ‘society of free men’.56 On the contrary, it is clearly a recipe to create an absolute and omnipotent State. .. Moreover, the man who boldly declared ‘Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains’ and ‘To renounce liberty is to renounce being a man’ goes on to provide an excuse for generations of tyrants by arguing that in order to make a refractory citizen realize his better self and to obey the general will ‘he will be forced to be free’.57 In Rousseau’s hands, the general will becomes an all-consuming moral imperative, ‘the voice of all for the good of all’ – whether one likes it or not. It would be a society fit for Emiles, but not for free men and women.

As Godwin observed, ‘the superiority of his genius’ deserted Rousseau in his Contrat social (1762) and his Considérations sur le gouvernement de Pologne (1771).58 The great libertarian individualist ended up as an apologist for authoritarian and totalitarian democracy; in Bakunin’s words, ‘the true creator of modern reaction’.59 Rousseau’s notion of the general will is an abstraction which is impossible to discover and demands a terrifying unanimity. He not only advocates political imposture to maintain the rule of the State but also his writings abound with hymns to the rule of law.60

Rousseau failed to realize that being free and being subject at the same time is logical nonsense and practically impossible. Ultimately, he parts company with anarchists because for him law does not enslave but liberates.

He was always keen to assert his personal independence, yet longed for a supervising father-figure. Alienated and ostracized from his society, he sought the wholeness of true community. In his strengths and weaknesses, he speaks directly to our age.

Yet this does not excuse the authoritarian streak in his personality and thinking. It is clear in his view and treatment of women, for instance, that he had a strong patriarchal and chauvinist tendency. He not only resented the dominance of his mistress-patrons, but treated his servant-mistress abominably — sending her children by him to the public orphanage. He always considered women as the ‘sex which ought to obey’...Rousseau asserts that it is a law of nature that ‘woman is made to please and to be subjugated’ and ‘must make herself agreeable to man’.64 Where men are active and strong, women are weak and feeble.


While Godwin turned away from the later Rousseau, it is not surprising that the dictator Robespierre in the bloodiest stage of the French Revolution should canonize him. Nevertheless, Rousseau deserves a prominent place in the anarchist tradition for his stress on the close link between property and government, his attack on social inequality, his criticism of elitist culture, his concern with popular democracy and sovereignty, his belief in the natural goodness of humanity, and his praise for the simple life close to nature. He was fully aware of the psychological disorders fostered by Western civilization, especially the ways in which it made people anxious, restless, competitive and hypocritical. He showed how history is a depressing record of humanity’s failure to realize its full potential and how modern man is alienated from his true self and society. In his writings and his life, Rousseau demonstrated that by nature men are free, but they readily enslave each other. More than any other writer of the Enlightenment, he thus revealed the tensions between a libertarian and an authoritarian approach to democracy which eventually led to the split between the anarchist and statist wings of the socialist movement in the nineteenth century.

oi oi oi oi oi oi oi


7 – the british enlightenment

The ‘state of nature’ according to Locke, is a state of ‘perfect freedom’ but competition between roughly equal human beings would make life uncertain and property relations unstable. Hence the need for government and law to enable them to protect life, liberty and property. The latter was most important since for Locke life and liberty could be considered as a form of personal property. He therefore recommended that a social contract be made between people to set up a government to make common laws which would ensure the secure enjoyment of property:

It was an advance on the theory of the divine right of kings, but Locke summed up the ideology of the emerging middle class who wished to wrest power from the landed aristocracy. As such it was a theory of ‘possessive individualism’, which saw the ownership of private property as sacrosanct.2 The ideology was to find its ultimate expression in the American Constitution of 1776 which recognized that human beings (or rather male Europeans) are born free and equal and have a right to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’

although Swift had a low estimate of humanity and used savage satire to lambaste their foibles and vices, he undoubtedly wrote for their betterment and enlightenment. He hated tyranny and consistently opposed British imperialism, especially in Ireland.


George Orwell claims that Swift was intermittently ‘a kind of anarchist’ and that Book IV of Gulliver’s Travels is a picture of an anarchistic society. But for him it also illustrates the totalitarian tendency which he claims is explicit in the anarchist or pacifist vision of society. The only arbiter of behaviour is public opinion which can be less tolerant than any system of law: ‘When human beings are governed by “thou shalt not”, the individual can practise a certain amount of eccentricity: when they are supposedly governed by “love” or “reason”, he is under continuous pressure to make himself behave and think in exactly the same way as everyone else.



edmund burke – His starting-point, which he shares with the Taoists and the French philosophes, is a confidence in nature which ‘if left to itself were the best and surest Guide’.13

undisturbed ecosystem but whalespeaked


Paine also used the language of natural rights in his celebrated Rights of Man (1791–2), but his libertarian sensibility took him to the borders of anarchism. ..He liked to boast that ‘I neither read books, nor studied other people’s opinions. I thought for myself.’20 He believed that man was fundamentally good, and saw the world as a garden for enjoyment rather than as a valley of tears. Above all, he valued personal liberty: ‘Independence is my happiness,’ he wrote in his maturity, ‘and I view things as they are, without regard to place or person; my country is the world, and my religion is to do good.’21


But despite the example of the American colonists organizing their own affairs peacefully without government, Paine believed that it was necessary for the people to make a social contract in order to set up a minimal government on the secure basis of a constitution which would guarantee the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

oi.. whalespeak


He therefore proposed a minimal government — no more than a ‘national association’ – with a few general laws to protect the natural rights of man. .. Paine had a definite preference for republican and representative government based on majority rule, and he wished to anchor it firmly in a constitution. He even praised the American Constitution as ‘the political bible of the state’.38

By calling on the British people to follow the American and French to form a new social contract and set up a limited government based on a constitution, Paine ultimately departs from the anarchist tradition. At the end of the Rights of Man, he even gives a distributive role to government by proposing that it helps to educate the young and support the old through a progressive inheritance tax.

While Paine has been called the father of English socialism, he was in fact a staunch advocate of business enterprise: universal and free commerce would extirpate war. He never advocated economic equality and thought private property would always remain unequal. His capitalist way of thinking led him to defend representative government in terms of a limited company with citizen shareholders: ‘Every man is a proprietor in government, and considers it a necessary part of his business to understand. It concerns his interest, because it affects his property.’39 In his last major work, Agrarian Justice (1797), he did not call, like his contemporary Thomas Spence, for the nationalization and common ownership of land but for a society of small landowners to be achieved through a land tax of ten per cent. Paine’s final vision was of a representative and republican democracy of independent property owners in which every citizen has an equal opportunity to develop his talents.


part 3 – great libertarians


Government is begotten of aggression, by aggression. HERBERT SPENCER

I call it the State where everyone, good or bad, is a poison-drinker: the State where universal slow suicide is called — life. FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE

That government is best which governs not at all. HENRY THOREAU

Disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is man’s original virtue. It is through disobedience that progress has been made, through disobedience and through rebellion. OSCAR WILDE


1 – french libertarians


In his politics, de Sade challenged the fundamental premisses of European civilization. He had a very low opinion of politics; it is a ‘science born of falsehood and ambition’ which teaches ‘men to deceive their equals without being deceived themselves’.7 In every book, he stresses that society is divided into two antagonistic classes founded on property. Anticipating Proudhon, he defines property as ‘a crime committed by the rich against the poor’. The origin of the right of property is in usurpation: ‘the right is in origin itself a theft, so that the law punishes theft because it attacks theft’.8 Speaking from direct experience, de Sade knew that the lawcourts only dispense justice in favour of the wealthy: ‘The laws of a people are never anything but the mass and the result of the interests of the legislators.’9 As for war between nations, it is simply authorized murder in which hired men slaughter one another in the interests of tyrants: ‘The sword is the weapon of him who is in the wrong, the commonest resource of ignorance and stupidity.’

graeber man with stick law et al


Freedom for Fourier not only meant free choice, but freedom from the psychological compulsion to work. In place of the existing order, he proposed a hedonistic utopia called ‘Harmony’ in which there would be agreeable and voluntary labour, non-repressive sexuality, communal education and communal living. Passion, pleasure, abundance, and love would all find their place in his new moral world.

Each community of Harmony would be a Phalanx housed in a palace or ‘phalanstery’. Each Phalanx would consist of a self-managing and *self-sustaining association of co-operative workers. The members would work in voluntary groups of friends or a series of groups who have gathered together spontaneously and who are stimulated by active rivalries. *Work would be made as attractive as possible, and the division of labour would be carried to the supreme degree in order to allot suitable tasks to different individuals. While work would be co-operative and property enjoyed in common, members would *receive dividends proportional to their contributions in capital, work and talent. Everyone would have a *right to work and as a key principle Fourier insists on a ‘social minimum’, a guaranteed annual income. Every effort would be made to combine personal with social freedom and promote diversity in unity. The equality of unequals would prevail.

*so not legit free.. cooperatives ness et al.. same song.. oi


Every passion that is suffocated produces its counter passion, which is as malignant as the natural passion would have been salutary. This is true of all manias.’31

then goes on about part\ial ness/same song/whalespeak

Rather than being disruptive in society, the gratification of individual desire and passion serve the general good: ‘the man who devotes himself most ardently to pleasure becomes eminently useful for the happiness of all.’32 In his notebooks collectively entitled The New Amorous World, Fourier called for the satisfaction of material and psychological needs, a ‘sexual minimum’ as well as a ‘social minimum’. He was convinced that complete sexual gratification would foster social harmony and economic well-being. The only kind of sexual activity he condemned as vicious was where a person was abused, injured, or used as an object against his or her will. Only in Harmony could such ‘amorous anarchy’ prevail.33

Fourier’s imaginary world is undoubtedly libertarian in many respects, but as it appears in his most succinct formulation in Le Nouveau monde industriel et sociétaire (1829) it contains many contradictions. Women are to be liberated from patriarchal constraints, but they are still expected to serve the men domestically and sexually. Again, Fourier’s elegant tableaux of sexual and gastronomic delights reflect an aristocratic taste. His ‘amorous code’ manipulated by an elaborate hierarchy of officials in the ‘Court of Love’ is not for everyone. His description of sex appears somewhat mechanical and utilitarian. His child psychology is also naive and dogmatic. He not only denies infantile sexuality but asserts dogmatically that since ‘Two thirds of all boys have a penchant for filth’ they should be organized into ‘little hordes’ to do the disgusting and loathsome work.34 Little girls of course like finery.

Finally, the arrangements of everyday life in ‘Harmony’ are described so minutely that its members are left little room for manoeuvre or renovation. Those who like privacy would not feel at home. While Fourier tried to foster individual autonomy and self-realization in allocating attractive work to suit particular tastes, the life he proposes is undoubtedly regimented. Communal life is so well-organized that to some it might appear more like a prison than a paradise. The whole is orchestrated by the puppet strings of the master.


Nevertheless, despite all the regimented and static aspects of his utopia, Fourier was the most libertarian of the nineteenth-century French utopians. His wish to transform repulsive work into meaningful play, his call for the free satisfaction of sexuality, his stress on the social and sexual minimum, and his organic cosmology continue to inspire anarchists and ecologists alike.

oi oi oi


2 – german libertarians

Humboldt’s reputation as a libertarian thinker rests on one book. But while The Limits of State Action (1792) came close to anarchism, Humboldt ultimately remained in the liberal camp.1 The work was not published in English until 1854 as The Sphere and Duties of Government; it considerably influenced John Stuart Mill in his essay On Liberty (1859). However, the anarchist historian Max Nettlau has called Humboldt’s work ‘a curious mixture of essentially anarchist ideas and authoritarian prejudice’.2 More recently, Noam Chomsky

and blah blah blah to …


Nevertheless, Humboldt retains the need for the nightwatchman State to stand guard over its citizens. Its principal role is negative: to maintain security, against both the external attacks of foreign enemies and internal dissension. Like Thomas Paine, he sees that State is a necessary means; ‘and since it is always attended with restrictions of freedom, a necessary evil’.


Nietzsche did not call himself an anarchist. He claimed that the anarchist of his day was, like the Christian, a decadent, ‘the mouthpiece of a declining strata of society’ because his complaints about others and society came from weakness and a narrow spirit of revenge.18 Clearly this is true of some anarchists as well as some socialists. When the resentful anarchist demands with righteous indignation that his rights be respected he fails to see that his real suffering lies in his failure to create a new life for himself. 

the distraction/cancer of rights/refusal/protest et al – huge – keeping us from us


Emma Goldman, who was strongly influenced by Nietzsche, rightly insisted that he should not be decried as a hater of the weak because he believed in the übermensch: ‘It does not occur to the shallow interpreters of the giant mind that his vision of the übermensch also called for a state of society which will not give birth to a race of weaklings and slaves.’41 His ‘aristocracy’, she pointed out, was neither of birth nor of wealth but of the spirit: ‘In that respect Nietzsche was an anarchist, and all true anarchists were aristocrats.’42 Because of this, Nietzsche still speaks directly and eloquently to all those who wish to develop their full individuality, overthrow accepted values and received ideas, and to transform everyday life. He remains an inspiration, offering the hardest task of all, to create a free work of art out of oneself.

and whole section on nietzsche .. as showing interp ness and whalespeak ness.. cast first stone ness.. all are human and all are whales

humanity needs a leap.. to get back/to simultaneous spontaneity ..  simultaneous fittingness.. everyone in sync..


3 – british libertarians


He even went further than most anarchists in pointing out the dangers of public opinion and social pressure in trying to make people conform, a tyranny which could be more oppressive than political authority.

public consensus always oppresses someone(s).. maté trump law.. structural violence.. et al

It is Mill’s belief in the guiding role of an intellectual elite which prevents him from being regarded as an anarchist. He may have been a great libertarian in his defence of the freedoms of thought, expression and individuality, but he frequently stresses the need for intellectual authority rather than ‘intellectual anarchy’.12 He often pictured the happy society as one in which the people are voluntarily led by an elite of wise guardians. In the long run, the elitist in Mill gets the better of the democrat and the libertarian.

oi.. any form of people telling other people what to do.. any form of m\a\p.. cancer


Spencer declared that ‘all socialism involves slavery’. The essence of slavery is to make everything a possession; under socialism the citizen becomes owned by the State:


Spencer considered existing societies to be of ‘the semi-militant semi-industrial type’, whereas genuine freedom could only exist in an industrial society based on voluntary co-operation and competition. The socialists however wanted to recreate a military society based on compulsory cooperation. If they got their way, the ultimate result would be like the rigid and tyrannical society of ancient Peru.

screaming loudest for x gets you -x ness.. same song ness


Like many anarchists at that time, Carpenter turned to anthropology to back up his call for a new kind of humanity

In his analysis of the causes of modern civilization, Carpenter followed Rousseau and Shelley in thinking that it corrupted and disintegrated natural man. The institution of private property in particular broke up the unity of his nature and drew him away from his true self and made him prey to every form of disease. Civilization founded on property had introduced: ‘slavery, serfdom, wage-labour, which are various forms of the domination of one class over another; and to rivet these authorities it created the State and the policeman’.32 Having destroyed the organic structures of earlier society, the institution of property had thus given rise to strong central government which was ‘the evidence in social life that man has lost his inner and central control, and therefore must result to an outer one’.33 Crime moreover is a symptom of social illness, poverty, inequality and restriction.


But all is not lost and there is a cure for civilization. If every person were *linked organically to the general body of his fellows, then no serious disharmony would occur. Carpenter thought it possible for a free and communist society to exist without external government and law which are only ‘the travesties and transitory substitutes of Inward Government and Order’. Anarchy could therefore exist with no outward rule as ‘an **inward and invisible spirit of life’.35

*need: means to undo our non hierarchical listening

**itch-in-the-soul.. imagine if we

Carpenter returned to this theme in his Non-Governmental Society (1911), a work which deeply impressed Gandhi and Herbert Read. Like Kropotkin, Carpenter was convinced that human societies can maintain themselves in good order and vitality without written law and its institutions. Indeed, he felt that custom, which takes a gentler form and is adaptable to the general movement of society when exerting pressure on individuals, is far superior to law. A study of ‘native races’ showed that the competition and anxiety of modern society need not exist if people were left to themselves. A ‘free non-governmental society’ could them emerge which would be practicable because it was vital and organic:

a spontaneous and free production of goods would spring up, followed of course by a spontaneous free exchange — a self-supporting society, based not on individual dread and anxiety, but on the common fulness of life and energy.36

Work would be based on voluntary choice according to taste and skill and there would be common property. A non-governmental society would therefore be a free and communal society.


*In Morris’s ‘utopian romance’, there is no government, private property, law, crime, marriage, money or exchange. Society consists of a federation of communes (based on the old wards and parishes). **Affairs are managed by general custom reached by general assent. If differences of opinion arise, the Mote or assembly of neighbours meets and discusses the matter until there is general agreement which is measured by a show of hands; the majority will never impose its will on the minority, however small. If agreement cannot be reached, which is rare, the majority must accept the status quo.

*needs to be sans any form of m\a\p

**ie of form of m\a\p.. oi

It is a world in which Morris’s ideal commonwealth has become a reality, in which human beings live in equality of condition, fully aware that harm to one would mean harm to all. They enjoy an abundance of life, and there is space and elbow-room for all. Factories have been replaced by workshops and people find joy in their work. Nothing is made except for genuine use and all work which is irksome to do by hand is done by improved machines. The only reward of labour is the reward of life and creation. *Their happiness is thus achieved ‘by the absence of artificial coercion, and the freedom for every man to do what he can do best, joined to the knowledge of what productions of labour we really wanted’.48 They live simple yet beautiful lives in harmony with nature. … no unvarying conventional set of rules by which people are judged; no bed of Procrustes to stretch or cramp their minds and lives’.

*doesn’t jive w previous paragraph.. oi


it was the love and practice of art that made him hate capitalist civilization.

legit love/art wouldn’t have time for hate.. no?

Morris’s principal theoretical objection to anarchism was over the question of authority. In a letter to the Socialist League’s journal Commonweal of 5 May 1889, he reiterated his belief in communism, but argued that even in a communist society some form of authority would be necessary. If freedom from authority, Morris maintained, means the possibility of an individual doing what he pleases always and under all circumstances, this is ‘an absolute negation of society’. If this right to do as you please is qualified by adding ‘as long as you don’t interfere with other people’s rights to do the same’, the exercise of some kind of authority becomes necessary. He concluded: *‘If individuals are not to coerce others, there must somewhere be an authority which is prepared to coerce them not to coerce; and that authority must clearly be collective.’ Furthermore, in an equal society some desires could not be satisfied without clashing with ‘collective society’ and in some instances ‘collective authority will weigh down individual opposition’.56 **He did not want people to do exactly as they please; he wanted them to consider and act for the good of the commonweal.

*if legit free.. no coercion.. irrelevant

**if legit free.. one in the same.. we just have never let go enough to see/trust that


While sharing Morris’ concern with the problem of the anti-social individualist, they believe that persuasion rather than coercion is the best means of dealing with such people in the long run. 

oi.. same song

Wilde admired Morris as a poet and as a book designer, and they shared a common friend in the Russian revolutionary Stepniak. Their concern with freedom was mainly inspired by their concern for art and their desire to create a beautiful life. They both came to realize that art for art’s sake is an insufficient standard; it is not enough merely to call for the beautification of life, for there must be a political and social context to aestheticism. Wilde concluded that only in a free society without government would an artist be able to express himself fully.

art (by day/light) and sleep (by night/dark) as re\set.. to fittingness/undisturbed ecosystem

From his early childhood, he had a strong utopian sensibility which led him to conjure up imaginary islands. He remained convinced that

a map of the world that does not include utopia is not worth glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail. Progress is the realization of utopias.60

revolution – instigating utopia everyday

Wilde’s love of liberty was encouraged by his mother who saw herself as ‘a priestess at the altar of freedom’.61 Unlike her, however, he saw nothing noble in suffering and sought to create a beautiful life without ugliness and pain and compulsion. As a student at Oxford, he came to the conclusion not only that ‘La beauté est parfaite’ but that ‘Progress in thought is the assertion of individualism against authority.’

oscar wilde – most people are other people

After leaving Oxford, Wilde wrote in his twenties a play called Vera; or, The Nihilist (1880). He was already calling himself a socialist, but it is clear from the play that he considered socialism to be not a levelling down but the flowering of personality. Prince Paul declares: ‘in good democracy, every man should be an aristocrat.’63 The nihilists detest torture and martial law and demand the abolition of marriage and the right to labour. To make them as authentic as possible, Wilde even borrowed an oath from Nechaev’s Catechism of a Revolutionary which Bakunin may have helped edit.


Wilde gave his own considered version of anarchism in his brilliant essay The Soul of Man under Socialism (1891), a work which was translated into many languages and proved particularly influential in Tsarist Russia.

not in anarchist library

Wilde had long been drawn to socialism and had expressed his sympathies publicly early in 1889 in a review of a book edited by Carpenter, Chants of Labour: a Song-Book of the People. He found in socialism a new motif for art and hoped art could help in the construction of an ‘eternal city’. Yet he was clearly already concerned to make socialism humanitarian and libertarian, ‘for to make socialists is nothing, but to make socialism human is a great thing’. He took up the theme, two years later, in his great essay. It was initially inspired by a meeting on socialism which he attended in Westminster where the chief speaker was Bernard Shaw. But Wilde’s socialism could not be more different from Shaw’s for it is as pure an anarchism as you can get: ‘there is no necessity to separate the monarch from the mob; all authority is equally bad’, he declares.70


 People are good only when they are left alone.


undisturbed ecosystem ness..


need to get out of sea world to be legit left alone.. hari rat park law et al

With the abolition of private property, there will no longer be any marriage; love will then be more beautiful and wonderful. In the long run, it is not material things that are important; what is really valuable is within.

marriage\ing.. wilde property law et al

kingdom is within you.. on each heart.. itch-in-the-soul

begs imagine if we ness

There are other great advantages to follow from the dissolution of political authority. Punishment will pass away — a great gain since a community is infinitely more brutalized by the habitual employment of punishment than it is by the occasional occurrence of crime. What crime will remain after the eradication of its principal cause in property will be cured by care and kindness. No compulsion should be exercised over anyone and every person should be free to choose his or her work.

According to Wilde, it is nonsense to talk about the dignity of manual labour: ‘Man is made for something better than disturbing dirt.’77 Most of it is degrading and should be done by machines, the helots of the future, so that all can enjoy cultivated leisure. Useful things can thus be made by machines, beautiful ones by the individual. The value of art is immense for

kropotkin dirty jobs law et al


Wilde faces the stock objections to his ideal of anarchy that it is impractical and goes against human nature. *Firstly, the only thing that one really knows about human nature is that it changes, and once existing conditions are changed human nature will change. Evolution is a law of life and the tendency of evolution is towards individualism. Secondly, Wilde claims that his form of individualism will not be selfish or affected. Man is naturally social. Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live. It aims at creating an absolute uniformity of type. Unselfishness, on the other hand, is ‘letting other people’s lives alone, not interfering with them’.81 **When man has realized true individualism, he will also realize sympathy and exercise it freely and spontaneously. In a society without poverty and disease, man will have joy in the contemplation of the joyous life of others.

*yeah.. i think that’s whalespeak.. or diff defn of human nature.. the mask changes.. but not the nature.. almaas holes law et al

**short findings restate et al

Furthermore, the experience inspired one of the most moving poems in the English language, The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1896), the simple form of which expresses the deepest of emotions. The poem concerns a soldier who is about to be hanged for murdering his lover; the theme implied is that such cruelty is widespread (‘each man kills the thing he loves’), but Wilde insists that the murderer’s punishment by a guilty society is the greater cruelty. He directly sympathizes with the condemned man, drawing the inevitable conclusion:

But this I know, that every Law That men have made for Man, Since first Man took his brother’s life, And the sad world began, But straws the wheat and saves the chaff With a most evil fan. The vilest deeds likes poison weeds Bloom well in prison-air, It is only what is good in Man That wastes and withers there: Pale Anguish keeps the heavy gate, And the Warder is Despair.

cast first stone ness

the ballad of reading gaol (prison) via 20 page kindle version from anarchist library – []:


But why he said so strange a thing
No Warder dared to ask:
For he to whom a watcher’s doom
Is given as his task,
Must set a lock upon his lips,
And make his face a mask.

Or else he might be moved, and try
To comfort or console:
And what should Human Pity do
Pent up in Murderers’ Hole?
What word of grace in such a place
Could help a brother’s soul?

wilde not-us law et al

then some on prison ness.. incarceration


And there, till Christ call forth the dead,
In silence let him lie:
No need to waste the foolish tear,
Or heave the windy sigh:
The man had killed the thing he loved,
And so he had to die.

And all men kill the thing they love,
By all let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword!


Wilde is the greatest of all libertarians. He recognized that art by its nature is subversive and the artist must rebel against existing moral norms and political institutions, but saw that only communal property can allow individuality to flourish. *He argued that every person should seek to make themselves perfect by following their own inner impulses. This could be made possible only by the break-up of habit and prejudice, a thorough transformation of everyday life. He placed **art and thought at the centre of life, and realized that true individualism leads to spontaneous sympathy for others. He had a wonderful sense of play and wit, and was blessed with overflowing creative energy. As a result, Wilde’s libertarian socialism is the most attractive of all the varieties of anarchism and socialism. Bernard Shaw observed that contemporary Fabian and Marxian socialists laughed at his moral and social beliefs, but Wilde as usual got the last laugh. He will be long remembered after they have been forgotten.

*imagine if we just focused on listening to the itch-in-8b-souls.. first thing.. everyday.. and used that data to augment our interconnectedness.. we might just get to a more antifragile, healthy, thriving world.. the ecosystem we keep longing for..

what the world needs most is the energy of 8b alive people

**art (by day/light) and sleep (by night/dark) as re\set.. to fittingness/undisturbed ecosystem


4 – american libertarians


The individual can therefore rely on his direct experience for guidance; hence Emerson’s motto ‘Trust thyself.’

not trust if ed and dm.. (which he rallied for per previous paras)


In fact, Thoreau was a gradualist and ‘unlike those who call themselves no-government men, I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government.’ He might not like the government and the State, but this did not mean that he would have nothing to do with it: ‘I quietly declare war with the State, after my fashion, though I will still make what use and get what advantage of her I can.’27 While he refused to pay tax to finance war, he was willing to pay tax for roads and schools. Like the Greek Stoics whom he admired, he considered himself beyond politics, and however the State dealt with his body, his mind would always be free: ‘If a man is thought-free, fancy-free, imagination-free … unwise rulers or reformers cannot fatally interrupt him.

*best you can do if still in sea world.. that’s why hari rat park law .. why leap.. et al.. for (blank)’s sake

**but none of us are free et al


part 4 – classic anarchist thinkers


Freedom without Socialism is privilege and injustice … Socialism without freedom is slavery and brutality. MICHAEL BAKUNIN


1 – william godwin: the lover of order


The most important influence was to come from a reading of the French philosophes. In Rousseau, he read that man is naturally good but corrupted by institutions, that private property was the downfall of mankind, and that man was born free, but everywhere was in chains. From Helvétius and d’Holbach, he learned that all men are equal and society should be formed for human happiness. When he closed the covers of their books, his whole world-view had changed.

‘But our moral dispositions and character depend very much, perhaps entirely, upon education’

oi.. any form of m\a\p.. killing us

none of us are free ness


He also wrote a letter at this time to the Whig politician Sheridan declaring that ‘Liberty leaves nothing to be admired but talents & virtue … Give to a state but liberty enough, and it is impossible that vice should exist in it.’9 As his daughter Mary later observed, Godwin’s belief that ‘no vice could exist with perfect freedom’ was ‘the very basis of his system, the very keystone of the arch of justice, by which he desired to knit together the whole human family.’

hari rat park law et al

He (godwin) developed a theory of justice which took the production of the greatest sum of happiness as its goal and went on to reject domestic affections, gratitude, promises, patriotism, positive rights and accumulated property. His changing view of government further gave rise to an occasional inaccuracy of language. He did not enter the work, he acknowledged, ‘without being aware that government by its very nature counteracts the improvement of individual mind; but … he understood the proposition more completely as he proceeded, and saw more distinctly into the nature of the remedy.’11 The experience of the French Revolution had already persuaded him of the desirableness of a government of the simplest construction but his bold reasoning led him to realize that humanity could be enlightened and free only with government’s utter annihilation. Godwin thus set out very close to the English Jacobins like Paine, only to finish a convinced and outspoken anarchist — the first great exponent of society without government.

Again, when the government introduced its notorious Gagging Acts to limit the freedom of speech, assembly and the press, Godwin responded with some incisive Considerations (1795) signed by ‘A Lover of Order’.

carhart-harris entropy law et al


While Godwin was as vigorous and uncompromising as ever in defending hard-won liberties, he believed that genuine reform was best achieved through education and enlightenment in small independent circles. Such circles anticipated the ‘affinity groups’ of later anarchists.

oi to ed.. to any form of m\a\p

In the mean time, Godwin had become intimate with Mary Wollstonecraft, the first major feminist writer who had asserted in her celebrated Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) that mind has no sex and that women should become rational and independent beings rather than passive and indolent mistresses. Although Godwin was diffident and occasionally pedantic, Wollstonecraft recognized in him an independent spirit who was capable of deep emotion as well as high thinking. They soon became lovers, but aware of the dangers of cohabitation, decided to live apart.

Wollstonecraft had an illegitimate daughter by a previous relationship and had experienced the full force of prejudice in the rigid society of late eighteenth-century England. She had already tried to commit suicide twice. When she became pregnant again with Godwin’s child, she felt unable to face further ostracism and asked Godwin to marry her. Although Godwin had condemned the European institution of marriage as the ‘most odious of all monopolies’, he agreed. His enemies were delighted by this apparent turnabout, and the accusation that he had a hot head and cold feet has reverberated ever since. Godwin however as a good anarchist believed that there are no moral rules which should not give way to the urgency of particular circumstances. In this case, he submitted to an institution which he still wished to see abolished out of regard for the happiness of an individual. After the marriage ceremony, he held himself bound no more than he was before.

marriage\ing ness

While revising the second edition of Political Justice, Godwin also wrote some original reflections on education, manners and literature which were published as a collection of essays called The Enquirer (1797). The work contains some of the most remarkable and advanced ideas on education ever written. Godwin not only argues that the aim of education should be to generate happiness and to develop a critical and independent mind, but suggests that the whole scheme of authoritarian teaching could be done away with to allow children to learn through desire at their own pace and in their own way.

ie: imagine if we


The period spent with Wollstonecraft was the happiest in Godwin’s life: it was a union of two great radical minds. Through them the struggles for men’s freedom and women’s freedom were united at the source. But it was to be tragically short-lived: Wollstonecraft died in giving birth to their daughter Mary. Godwin consoled himself by editing her papers and by writing a moving and frank memoir of her life which was predictably dismissed by the Anti-Jacobins as a ‘convenient Manual of speculative debauchery’.16 Godwin never got over the loss of his first and greatest love. All he could do was to recreate her in his next novel St Leon (1799) which showed the dangers of leading an isolated life and celebrated the domestic affections.

Godwin did his best to stem the tide of reaction in some calm and eloquent Thoughts. Occasioned by the Perusal of Dr Parr’s Spital Sermon (1801), the apostasy of a former friend. He took the opportunity to clarify his notion of justice by recognizing the claim of the domestic affections. He also refuted his chief opponent Malthus by arguing that moral restraint made vice and misery unnecessary as checks to population. But it was to no avail. Godwin was pilloried, laughed at and then quietly forgotten. Never again in his lifetime was he able to capture the public imagination.

Although Godwin lived a quiet and retired life, younger spirits took up his message. A poet called Percy Bysshe Shelley, who had been expelled from Oxford for writing a pamphlet on atheism and spurned by his wealthy baronet father, burst into Godwin’s life in 1812, with Political Justice in his pocket and fiery visions of freedom and justice in his imagination. Godwin was at first delighted with his new disciple, although he tried to check his ardour in fomenting rebellion in Ireland. His sympathy however changed to indignation when Shelley proceeded to elope with his sixteen-year-old daughter Mary (a ‘true Wollstonecraft’) in keeping with his own best theories of free love. His stepdaughter Mary Jane (also known as Claire) joined them and ended up having a child called Allegra with Byron. Mary went on to write Frankenstein (1818) and other impressive novels.

For his part Shelley raised vast loans for Godwin on his expected inheritance, in keeping with their view that property is a trust to be distributed to the most needy. On the other hand, Shelley’s intellectual debt to Godwin was immense. What the Bible was to Milton, Godwin was to Shelley.


 If Godwin is the greatest philosopher of anarchism, Shelley is its poet.

 In his politics, he points out to the reformers who were calling for the secret ballot that it is a symbol of slavery rather than liberty. He is still ready to imagine that ‘men might subsist very well in clusters and congregated bodies without the coercion of law.

After a long and difficult life, Godwin’s faith in the perfectibility of humanity remained unshaken, and he ends the book in the confident belief that ‘human understanding and human virtue will hereafter accomplish such things as the heart of man has never yet been daring enough to conceive.’

we have no idea (black science of people/whales law) what legit free people are like.. only what caged whales/rats are like


Human nature no less than external nature is governed by laws of necessity. Godwin rejects the theory of innate ideas and instincts and asserts, as one of his chapter titles puts it, that the ‘Characters of Men Originate in their External Circumstances’. We are born neither virtuous nor vicious but are made so according to our upbringing and education.

are made whales.. oi


While all human beings are entitled to equal consideration, it does not follow that they should be treated the same. When it comes to distributing justice I should put myself in the place of an impartial spectator and discriminate in favour of the most worthy, that is, those who have the greatest capacity to contribute to the general good. Thus in a fire, if I am faced with the inescapable choice of saving either a philosopher or a servant, I should choose the philosopher. Even if the servant happened to my brother, my father, my sister, my mother or my benefactor, the case would be the same. ‘What magic’, Godwin asks, ‘is there in the pronoun “my” mat should justify us in overturning the decisions of impartial truth?’



Godwin’s defence of the right of private judgement is central to his scheme of rational progress and *leads him to reject all forms of coercion. As people become **more rational and enlightened, they will be more capable of governing themselves, thereby making external institutions increasingly obsolete. But this can only happen if they freely recognize truth and act upon it. Coercion must therefore always be wrong: it cannot convince and only alienates the mind. Indeed, it is always a ‘tacit confession of imbecility’.35 The person who uses coercion pretends to punish his opponent because his argument is strong, but in reality it can only be because it is weak and inadequate. Truth alone carries its own persuasive force. This belief forms the cornerstone of Godwin’s criticism of government and law.

*well.. not all forms.. because any form of m\a\p is coercion/cancer et al ie: **intellect ness et al

On similar grounds, Godwin objects to the view that promises form the foundation of morality. Promises in themselves do not carry any moral weight for they are based on a prior obligation to do justice: I should do something right not because I have promised so to do, but because it is right to do it. In all cases, I ought to be guided by the intrinsic merit of the case and not by any external considerations. A promise in the sense of a declaration of intent is relatively harmless; a promise may even in some circumstances be a necessary evil; but we should make as few of them as possible. ‘It is impossible to imagine’, Godwin declares, ‘a principle of more vicious tendency, than that which shall teach me to disarm future wisdom by past folly.’36 It follows that all binding oaths and contracts are immoral.

bauwens contracts law et al

Given Godwin’s concern with the independent progress of the mind and rejection of promises, it comes as no surprise that he should condemn the European institution of marriage. In the first place, the cohabitation it involves subjects its participants to some inevitable portion of thwarting, bickering and unhappiness. Secondly, the marriage contract leads to an eternal vow of attachment after encounters in circumstances full of delusion. As a law, marriage is therefore the worst of laws; as an affair of property, the worst of all properties. Above all, ‘so long as I seek to engross one woman to myself, and to prohibit my neighbour from proving his superior desert and reaping the fruits of it, I am guilty of the most odious of all monopolies.’37 The abolition of marriage, Godwin believed, would be attended with no evils although in an enlightened society he suggested that relationships might be in some degree permanent rather than promiscuous.


His (godwin) overriding aim was to create a society which was free and yet ordered. His bold reasoning led him to conclude that ultimately order could only be achieved in anarchy.

carhart-harris entropy law et al

It was the ‘errors and perverseness of the few’ who interfered with the peaceful and productive activities of people which made the restraint of government apparently necessary. But while government was intended to suppress injustice, its effect has been to embody and perpetuate it. By concentrating the force of the community, it gives occasion to ‘wild projects of calamity, to oppression, despotism, war and conquest’. With the further division of society into rich and poor, the rich have become the ‘legislators of the state’ and are perpetually reducing oppression to a system.39

Government moreover by its very nature checks the improvement of the mind and makes permanent our errors. I


In fact, Godwin asserts that all government is founded in opinion. It is only supported by the confidence placed in its value by the weak and the ignorant. But in proportion as they become wiser, so the basis of government will decay.

oi.. not about intellect ness.. have to let go of any form of m\a\p.. no prep.. no train

Godwin’s criticism of law is one of the most trenchant put forward by an anarchist. Where liberals and socialists maintain that law is necessary to protect freedom, Godwin sees them as mutually incompatible principles. All man-made laws are by their very nature arbitrary and oppressive. They represent not, as their advocates claim, the wisdom of ancestors but rather the ‘venal compact’ of ‘superior tyrants’, primarily enacted to defend economic inequality and unjust political power.44 There is no maxim clearer than this, ‘Every case is a rule to itself,’ and yet, like the bed of Procrustes, laws try to reduce the multiple actions of people to one universal standard. Once begun laws inevitably multiply; they become increasingly confusing and ambiguous and encourage their practitioners to be perpetually dishonest and tyrannical. ‘Turn me a prey to the wild beasts of the desert’, Godwin’s hero in his novel Caleb Williams exclaims, ‘so I be never again the victim of a man dressed in the gore-dripping robes of authority!’45

fuller too much law et al

Punishment, which is the inevitable sanction used to enforce the law, is both immoral and ineffective. In the first place, under the system of necessity, there can be no personal responsibility for actions which the law assumes: ‘the assassin cannot help the murder he commits, any more than the dagger.’ Secondly, coercion alienates the mind and is superfluous if an argument is true. Punishment or ‘the voluntary infliction of evil’, is therefore barbaric if used for retribution, and useless if used for reformation or example.46 Godwin concludes that wrongdoers should be restrained only as a temporary expedient and treated with as much kindness and gentleness as possible.

your own song ness

With his rejection of government and laws, Godwin condemns any form of obedience to authority other than ‘the dictate of the understanding’.47 The worst form of obedience for Godwin occurs however not when we obey out of consideration of a penalty (as for instance when we are threatened by a wild animal) but when we place too much confidence in the superior knowledge of others (even in building a house). Bakunin recognized the latter as the only legitimate form of authority, but Godwin sees it as the most pernicious since it can easily make us dependent, weaken our understanding, and encourage us to revere experts.


Indeed, patriotism or the love of our country has been used by impostors to render the multitude ‘the blind instruments of their crooked designs’.


The principal means of reform for Godwin is through education and his original reflections on the subject make him one of the great pioneers of libertarian and progressive thought. Godwin, perhaps more than any other thinker, recognizes that freedom is the basis of education and education is the basis of freedom. The ultimate aim of education, he maintains, is to develop individual understanding and to prepare children to create and enjoy a free society.

oi oi oi

In keeping with his view of human nature, he believed that education has far greater power than government in *shaping our characters. Children are thus a ‘sort a raw material put into our hands, a ductile and yielding substance’.61 Just as nature never made a dunce, so genius is not innate but acquired. It follows that the so-called vices of youth derive not from nature but from the defects of education. Children are born innocent: confidence, kindness and benevolence constitute their entire temper. They have a deep and natural love of liberty at a time when they are never free from the ‘grating interference’ of adults. Liberty is the ‘school of understanding’ and the ‘parent of strength’; indeed children probably learn and develop more in their hours of leisure than at school.

*let go of shaping ness.. of putting into our hands ness.. oi

For Godwin all education involves some form of despotism. *Modern education not only corrupts the hearts of children, but undermines their reason by its unintelligible jargon. It makes little effort to accommodate their true capacities. National or State education, the great salvation of many progressive reformers, can only make matters worse. Like all public establishments, it involves the idea of permanence and actively fixes the mind in ‘exploded errors’: as a result, the knowledge taught in universities and colleges is way behind that which exists in unshackled members of the community.63

*rather.. all ed.. any form of m\a\p

In addition, a system of national education cannot fail to become the mirror and tool of government; they form an alliance more formidable than that of Church and State, teaching a veneration of the constitution rather than of truth. In these circumstances, it is not surprising that the teacher becomes a slave who is constantly obliged to rehandle the foundations of knowledge; and a tyrant, forever imposing his will and checking the pleasures and sallies of youth.

Godwin admits that education in a group is preferable to solitary tuition in developing talents and encouraging a sense of personal identity. In existing society, he therefore suggests that a small and independent school is best. But Godwin goes further to question the very foundations of traditional schooling.

The aim of education, he maintains, must be to generate happiness. Now virtue is essential to happiness, and *to make a person virtuous he or she must become wise. Education should develop a mind which is well-regulated, active and prepared to learn. This is best achieved not by inculcating in young children any particular knowledge but **by encouraging their latent talents, awakening their minds, and forming clear habits of thinking.

*whalespeak.. no prep.. no train

**the prep/train/wise ness assumedly required is what causes the latency/slumber/habits/cancer


Godwin, however, goes on to suggest that if a pupil learns only because he or she desires it the whole formidable apparatus of education might be swept away. No figures such as teacher or pupil would then be left; each would be glad in cases of difficulty to consult someone better informed, but they would not be expected to learn anything unless they desired it Everyone would be prepared to offer guidance and encouragement. In this way, a mind would develop according to its natural tendencies and children would be able to develop fully their potential.

yeah that.. if we could only let go enough to see..

anything else is coercion et al

imagine if we just focused on listening to the itch-in-8b-souls.. first thing.. everyday.. and used that data to augment our interconnectedness..

we might just get to a more antifragile, healthy, thriving world.. the ecosystem we keep longing for..

what the world needs most is the energy of 8b alive people


Godwin recognizes that in a transitional period a temporary co-ordinating body might be necessary in order to solve disputes between districts or to repel a foreign invader. He therefore suggests that districts might send delegates to a general assembly or congress of the federation, but only in exceptional emergencies. The assembly would form no permanent or common centre of authority and any officials would be unpaid and supported voluntarily.

not free.. any form of m\a\p.. this is why we haven’t yet seen/been legit free people.. why we keep not letting go enough to see


If the social system were simplified, Godwin is confident that the voice of reason would be heard, consensus achieved, and the natural harmony of interests prevail. As people became accustomed to governing themselves, all coercive bodies would become increasingly superfluous and obsolete. Government would give way to the spontaneously ordered society of anarchy. People would live simple but cultivated lives in open families in harmony with nature. Marriage would disappear and be replaced by free unions; any offspring would be cared for and educated by the community.

red flags

need: why leap ness.. for (blank)’s sake

In such a free and equal society, there would be the opportunity for everyone to develop their intellectual and moral potential. With the abolition of the complicated machinery of government, the end of excessive luxuries, and the sharing of work by all, the labour required to produce the necessaries of life would be drastically reduced — possibly, Godwin calculates, to half an hour a day.

need to try a legit diff experiment.. focus on 3 and this 30

In this he anticipates Kropotkin’s vision in Fields, Factories and Workshops.

peter kropotkin


It is also true that society for Godwin forms no organic whole and is nothing more than the sum of its individuals. He pictured the enlightened person making individual calculations of pleasure and pain and carefully weighing up the consequences of his or her actions. He stressed the value of autonomy for *intellectual and moral development; we all require a sphere of discretion, a mental space for creative thought. He could see no value in **losing oneself in the existence of another:

*not about that

**brown belonging law.. maté trump law.. et al

While Godwin certainly values personal autonomy, he repeatedly stresses that we are social beings, that we are made for society, and that society brings out our best qualities. Indeed, he sees no tension between autonomy and collectivity since ‘the love of liberty obviously leads to a sentiment of union, and a disposition to sympathize in the concern of others’.76 Godwin’s novels show only too vividly the psychological and moral dangers of excessive solitude and isolation. His whole ethical system of universal benevolence is inspired by a love for others.

short findings restate et al

In fact, Godwin believes that people in a free and equal society would be at once more social and more individual: ‘each man would be united to his neighbour, in love and mutual kindness, a thousand times more than now: but each man would think and judge for himself.’ ..As such, Godwin’s anarchism is closer to the communism of Kropotkin than the egoism of Stirner or the competition of Proudhon.


Godwin was not an absolute pacifist, but non-violence was his strategy of liberation. He did not think human reason sufficiently developed to persuade an assailant to drop his sword. Armed struggle might also be necessary to resist the ‘domestic spoiler’ or to repulse an invading despot.78 Nevertheless, **he accepted the minimal use of physical force only when all persuasion and argument had failed. It follows that the duty of the enlightened person is to try to postpone violent revolution.

*huge key/mistake.. not about reason.. that’s why need **this force et al.. not about any form of m\a\p.. ie: persuasion and argument.. oi

Godwin thus looked to a revolution in opinions, not on the barricades. The proper means of bringing about change is through the diffusion of knowledge: ‘Persuasion and not force, is the legitimate instrument of influencing the human mind.’ True equalization of society is not to reduce by force all to a ‘naked and savage equality’, but to elevate every person to wisdom. The reform Godwin recommends (that ‘genial and benignant power!’) is however so gradual that it can hardly be called action.79 Since government is founded in opinion, as people become wiser and realize that it is an unnecessary evil, they will gradually withdraw their support. Government will simply wither away. It is a process which clearly cannot be realized by political parties or associations.

oi oi oi.. whalespeak.. knowledge.. elevate to wisdom.. gradual.. oi oi oi

While Godwin’s gradualism shows that he was no naive visionary, it does give a conservative turn to his practical politics. He criticized the kind of isolated acts of protest that Shelley engaged in. He felt it was right to support from a distance any movement which seemed to be going in the right direction. In his own historical circumstances, he declared: ‘I am in principle a Republican, but in practice a Whig. But I am a philosopher: that is a person desirous to become wise, and I aim at this object by reading, by writing, and a little conversation.’80 He thought at one time during the 1790s that he might be in Parliament, but quickly dismissed the idea since it would infringe his independence and would grate against his character which was more fitted for contemplation than action.

Godwin failed to develop an adequate praxis. His cautious gradualism meant that he was obliged to abandon generations to the disastrous effects of that political authority and economic inequality which he had so eloquently described. While he demonstrated vividly how opinions are shaped by circumstances, *he sought only to change opinions rather than to try and change circumstances. He was left with the apparent dilemma of believing that human beings cannot become wholly rational as long as government exists, and yet government must continue to exist while they remain irrational. His problem was that he failed to tackle reform on the level of institutions as well as ideas.

*that’s same song.. begs structural violence.. need.. hari rat park law et al

need: a nother way


2 – max stirner: the conscious egoist


It was during this period that he wrote ‘The False Principle of Our Education’, which was published in Marx’s journal, Rheinische Zeitung, in d !42. The essay shows the libertarian direction Stirner was already taking. Distinguishing between the ‘educated man’ and the ‘freeman’, he argued that, in the former case, knowledge is used to shape character so that the educated become possessed by the Church, State or Humanity, while in the latter it is used to facilitate choice:

If one awakens in men the idea of freedom then the freemen will incessantly go on to free themselves; if, on the contrary, one only educates them, then they will at all times accommodate themselves to circumstances in the most highly educated and elegant manner and degenerate into subservient cringing souls.8

any form of m\a\p

The Free Ones came to be known as the Left Hegelians because they met to discuss and eventually oppose the philosophy of the great German metaphysician. It was in reaction to Hegel and the habitues of the Free Ones that Johann Kaspar wrote his only claim to fame, The Ego and His Own. The work is quite unique in the history of philosophy. Its uneven style is passionate, convoluted and repetitive; its meaning is often opaque and contradictory. Like a musical score it introduces themes, drops them, only to develop them at a later stage; the whole adds up to a triumphant celebration of the joy of being fully oneself and in control of one’s life – something Stirner himself never achieved.

because has to be all of us.. for the dance to dance

Stirner has an almost Wittgensteinian awareness of the way language influences our perception of reality and limits our world. ‘Language’, he writes, ‘or “the word” tyrannizes hardest over us, because it brings up against us a whole army of fixed ideas. He stresses that the ‘thrall of language is entirely a human construct but it is all-embracing. Truth does not correspond to reality outside language: ‘Truths are phrases, ways of speaking . . . men’s thoughts, set down in words and therefore “just as extant as other things.’9 Since truths are entirely human creations expressed in language they can be consumed: ‘The truth is dead, a letter, a word, a material that I can use up.’1 Il But *since this is the case, Stirner recognizes the possibility of being enslaved by language and its fixed meanings. Italso implies that it is **extremely difficult to express something new. Ultimately, Stirner is reduced to verbal impotence in face of the ineffable, of what cannot be said or described. He calls the ‘!’ ‘unthinkable’ and ‘unspeakable’: ‘Against me, the unnameabie, the realm of thoughts, thinking, and mind is shattered.’11

*language as control/enclosure.. begs.. **idiosyncratic jargon ness.. and a means to undo our hierarchical listening


The problem still remains that if we are *’perfect’, why do we need more knowledge and awareness? 

rather *enough.. no train.. just uncovering et al.. need a means to listen deep enough for/to that


*Even if it could be shown that every individual had expressed the same will, any law enforced by the State would freeze the will an d make the past govern the future. As for democracy based on majority rule, it leaves the **dissenting minority in the same position as in an absolute monarchy. Since sovereignty inevitably involves domination and submission, Stirner concludes that there can be no such thing as a ‘free State’. This criticism of the social contract theory is undoubtedly as trenchant as Godwin’s.

*need imagine if we ness.. 1st thing every am/second et al

**even if not monarchy.. wasting energies dissenting et al

The State’s behaviour is violence, and it calls its violence “law”; that of the individual, “crime”.’39 But the State is not merely a legal superstructure imposed on society, issuing orders as laws; it penetrates into the most intimate relationships of its subjects and creates a false bonding; it is ‘a tissue and plexus of dependence and adherence; it is a belonging together, a holding together…


structural violence and brown belonging law et al

Given the ontological priority of the individual, *there is no organic society which can preserve individual freedom. The only way forward is therefore to transform both existing society and the State which by their very natures oppose and oppress the individual.

*no organic society in sea world.. need hari rat park law et al


Unlike society which acts as a fused group, crystallized, fixed and dead, the union of egoists is a spontaneous and voluntary association drawn together out of mutual interest.

imagine if we just focused on listening to the itch-in-8b-souls.. first thing.. everyday.. and used that data to augment our interconnectedness..

But surely if everyone tried to seize whatever they desired for themselves, an unequal society would result? Not so, says Stirner. In his proposed union of egoists, all would be able to secure enough property for themselves so that poverty would disappear. Stirner even urges workers to band together and strike to achieve better pay and conditions, and be prepared to use force to change their situation if need be.

oi.. ie of not letting go.. of any form of m\a\p


The reason why the State and even formal institutions of society can be done away with and replaced by a union of egoists is because we are more or less equal in power and ability. It is enough for people to become fully and consciously egoist to end the unequal distribution of power which produces a hierarchical society with servants and masters. A long period of preparation and enlightenment is not therefore necessary, as Godwin argues, before establishing a free society. People simply have to recognize what they are: ‘Your nature is, once for all, a human one; you are human natures, human beings. But just because you already are so, you do not still need to become so

huge.. but also hugely misunderstood/mistaken/misplayed


The problem with Stirner is that, given his view of human beings as self-seeking egoists, it is difficult to imagine that in a free society they would not grasp for power and resort to violence to settle disputes. Without the sanction of moral obligation, there is no reason to expect that agreements would be enacted. If such agreements were only kept out of prudence, then it would seem pointless making them in the first place. Again, to say that because human beings have a substantial equality, a truce would emerge in the struggle for power seems unlikely. Finally, an extreme egoist might well find it in his interest to seize State power or manipulate altruists to serve his ends rather than form voluntary unions of free individuals .

so not demanding the seemingly impossible?


Stirner is an awkward and uncomfortable presence. By stating things in the most extreme way, and taking his arguments to their ultimate conclusions, he jolts his readers out of their philosophical composure and moral smugness. His value lies in his ability to penetrate the mystification and reification of the State and authoritarian society. His criticism of the way communism can crush the individual is apt, and he correctly points out that a workers’ State is unlikely to be any freer than the liberal State. Beyond this, he demonstrates brilliantly the hold ‘wheels in the head’ have upon us: how abstractions and fixed ideas influence the very way we think, and see ourselves, how hierarchy finds its roots in the ‘dominion of thoughts, dominion of mind’ .60 He lifts the social veil, undermines the worship of abstractions, and shows how the world is populated with ‘spooks’ of our own making. He offers a powerful defence of individuality in an alienated world, and places Subjectivity at the centre of any revolutionary project. While his call for self-assertion could lead to violence and the oppression of the weak, and his conscious egoism is ultimately too limited to embrace the whole of human experience, he reminds us splendidly that a free society must exist in the interest of all individuals and it should aim at complete self-fulfilment and enjoyment. The timid and nondescript teacher at a girls’ academy turned out to be one of the most enduringly unsettling thinkers in the Western tradition.


3 – pierre-joseph prouhon: the philosopher of poverty

A s his famous maxims ‘Property i s Theft’, ‘Anarchy is Order’, and ‘God is Evil’ imply, Proudhon gloried in paradox. He is one of the most contradictory thinkers in the history of political thought, and his work has given rise to a wide range of conflicting interpretations. He is also one of the most diffuse writers: he published over forty works and left fourteen volumes of correspondence, eleven volumes of notebooks and a large number of unpublished manuscripts.

pierre-joseph proudhon and carhart-harris entropy law et al

To have a clear understanding of Proudhon is no easy task. He did not always digest his learning and he made no attempt to be systematic or consistent in the presentation of his arguments. He could appreciate both sides of any question but was often uncertain which side to adopt: truth for him tended to be the movement between two opposites. The exact meaning of his work is further obscured by the fact that he changed his mind several times throughout his career.

graeber unpredictability/surprise law .. find the bravery to change your mind.. et al

His style did not help matters either. At its best, it can be clear and eloquent, but it too often becomes diffuse and turbid. He was given to polemical exaggeration, and did not know when to stop. Much to the bemusement of his opponents and the confusion of his critics, he was a self-conscious ironist.

Like many social thinkers in the mid-nineteenth century, Proudhon combined social theory with philosophical speculation. He dived boldly into almost every sphere of human knowledge: philosophy, economics, politics, ethics and art were all grist to his mill. He held outrageous views on government, property, sexuality, race, and war. Yet behind his voluminous and varied output there was an overriding drive for justice and freedom.

He shared his century’s confidence that reason and science would bring about social progress and expand human freedom. He saw nature and society governed by laws of development and believed that if human beings lived in harmony with them they could become free. Freedom thus becomes a recognition of necessity: only if man knows his natural and social limits can he become free to realize his full potential. From this perspective Proudhon considered himself to be a ‘scientific’ thinker and wanted to tum politics into a science. But although he liked to think that his ‘whole philosophy is one of perpetual reconciliation’, the dialectical method he adopted often failed to reach a satisfactory resolution of its contradictory ideas


Proudhon would often present himself as an isolated and eccentric iconoclast. In 1848, he wrote: ‘My body is physically among the people, but my mind is elsewhere. My thinking has led me to the point where I have almost nothing in common with my contemporaries by way of ideas.’ He liked to think of himself as the ‘excommunicated of the epoch’ and was proud of the fact that he did not belong to any sect or party.3 In fact, this was more a pose than a correct assessment.

After the publication of What is Property? in 1840, Proudhon soon began to wield considerable influence. Marx hailed it as a ‘penetrating work’ and called it ‘the first decisive, vigorous and scientific examination of property’. 4 Proudhon began to haunt the imagination of the French bourgeoisie as l’homme de fa terreur who embodied all the dangers of proletarian revolution. As the French labour movement began to develop, his influence gtew considerably. His ideas dominated those sections of the French working class who helped form the First International and the largest single gtoup in the Paris Commune of 1871 were Proudhonians. After Bakunin’s rupture with Marx, which marked the parting of the ways of the libertarian and statist socialists, the organ of the first militant anarchist group based in Switzerland asserted: ‘Anarchy is not an invention of Bakunin . . . Proudhon is the real father of anarchy’.5 And Bakunin himself was the first to admit that ‘Proudhon is the master of us all‘.6 Proudhon’s stress on economic before political struggle and his caU for the working class to emancipate themselves by their own hands also made him the father of anarcho-syndicalism.

Proudhon’s influence was not only restricted to France. During the 1870S, his ideas inspired Pi y MargaU and the federalists in Spain, and the narodniks in Russia. The great Russian socialist Alexander Herzen became a close friend. Tolstoy was struck by his ideas on property and government, sought him out, and borrowed the tide of Proudhon’s War and Peace (1861) for his great novel. In Germany, he had an enormous influence on the early socialist movement; in the 1 840S, Lassalle was regarded as the greatest hope of Proudhonism in the country. In America, his views were given wide publicity, especially by Charles Dana of the Fourierist Brook Farm, and William B. Greene. Benjamin R. Tucker – ‘always a Proudhonian without knowing it’ – took Proudhon’s bon mot ‘Liberty is not the Daughter but the Mother of Order’ as the masthead of his journal Liberty. In Britain, his ideas pervaded the syndicalist movement before the First World War, and even G. D. H. Cole’s version of guild socialism closely resembled his proposals.

This century Proudhon has remained as controversial as ever. His attempt to discover the laws which govern society has earned him the reputation as a founding father of sociology. His ideas have been adopted by socialist writers as applicable to developing countries in the Third World.s He has also been taken up by the nationalists on the Right for his defence of small-property owners and French interests. He has not only been hailed as one of the ‘masters of the counter-revolution of the nineteenth century’, but as a ‘harbinger of fascism’.9 He continues to be most remembered, however, as the father of the historic anarchist movement.


Proudhon’s workshop printed the publications for the local diocese and they inspired his own religious speculation. Not content to proof-read and set the writings of others, he started composing his own. He contributed to an edition of Bible notes in Hebrew (learning the language in the process) and later wrote for a Catholic encyclopaedia. The Bible became his principal authority for his socialist ideas. At the same time, his extensive knowledge of Christian doctrine did not deepen his faith but had the reverse effect and made him staunchly anti-clerical. He went on to reject God’s providential rule and to conclude that ‘God is tyranny and poverty; God is evil.’13

More important to his subsequent development, Proudhon came into contact with local socialists, including his fellow townsman Charles Fourier who rejected existing civilization with its repressive moral codes. He even supervised the printing of Fourier’s greatest work Le Nouveau monde industn’el et sociitaire (1829) which gave the clearest account of his economic views. It also advocated a society of ideal communities or ‘phalansteries’ destined ‘to conduct the human race to opulence, sensual pleasures and global unity’.14 Fourier maintained that if human beings attuned to the ‘Universal Harmony’, they would be free to satisfy their passions, regain their mental health, and live without crime. Proudhon acknowledged that he was a captive of this ‘bizarre genius’ for six whole weeks and was impressed by his belief in immanent justice, although he found his phalansteries too utopian and his celebration of free love distasteful.


Proudhon replied to his own question ‘What is Property?’ with the bold paradox: ‘Property is Theft’. It became his most famous slogan and its implications have reverberated ever since. But although Proudhon claimed that the principle came to him as a revelation and was his most precious thought, Morelly had expressed a similar idea in the previous century and Brissot had been the first to declare it during the French Revolution.

In fact, Proudhon had a very specific view of property and his slogan was not as revolutionary as it might appear. Stirner was quick to point out that the concept of , theft’ can only be possible if one allows the prior validity of the concept of property.19 Proudhon did not attack private property as such; indeed, in the same work he called those communists who wanted to collectivize it as enemies of freedom. He was principally opposed to large property-owners who appropriated the labour of others in the form of revenue, “who claimed the droit d’aubaine. At this stage, he was in favour of property as long as it meant ‘possession’, with the privileges of ownership restricted to the usufruct or benefits accruing from it.


Proudhon, as he acknowledged in a foomote, was fully aware that the meaning usually given to the word ‘anarchy’ is ‘absence of principles, absence of laws’, and that it had become synonymous with ‘disorder’.22 He deliberately went out of his way to affirm the apparent paradox that ‘anarchy is order’ by showing that authoritarian government and the unequal distribution of wealth are the principal causes of disorder and chaos in society. By doing so, he became the father of the historic anarchist movement.

What is Property? was under threat of being proscribed, but the Ministry of Justice eventually decided that it was too scholarly to be dangerous. Undeterred, Proudhon followed up his strident squib by a new memoir entitled Warning to the Property Owners (1842). He called for economic equality and insisted that the man of talent and genius should accept it gracefully. This time Proudhon was prosecuted but was acquitted by a jury who again thought the work was too complicated for ordinary people to understand.

language as control/enclosure et al


Proudhon was furious. He considered writing a reply for a time but contented himself with a note in his diary (23 September 1847) to the effect that ‘Marx is the tapeworm of socialism!’ 


Even direct democracy is unacceptable since it often prevents subjects executing their own decisions; on occasion, it can be worse than autocracy since it claims legitimacy in oppressing its citizens.

rather.. even decision making is unacceptable (cancerous) .. et al

In place of laissez-faire and State control, he put forward a ‘natural’ economy based on work and equality, a kind of socialism based on exchange and credit. Accepting the labour theory of value, he argued that workers should form associations to exchange the products of their work, the value of which would be calculated by the amount of necessary labour time involved.

this is similar (cancerous) part\ial ness as direct democracy ness above.. oi

It would not however be a state of complete equality, for the industrious would be rewarded more than the lazy. Proudhon had a strong Puritan streak which made him see idleness as a vice and work as a virtue in itself: ‘It is not good for man to live in ease’, he declared. He also praised poverty for being clean and healthy: ‘the glorification of poverty in the Gospel is the greatest truth that Christ ever preached to men’.37 The positive aspect of Proudhon’s frugality is the contention that if men limited their needs and lived a simple life, nature would provide enough for all. He did not moreover condemn luxury outright. He did not think that abundance would ever exist in the sense of there being more goods and services than were consumed, but he was ready to admit affluence into his mutualist scheme if it were spread fairly around.

yeah.. see.. same song.. oi


Above all, he insisted: ‘We want the unlimited liberty of man and of the citizen, except for the respect of the liberty of others: liberty of association, liberty of assembly, liberty of religion, liberty of the press, liberty of thought and speech, liberty of work, commerce and industry, liberty of education, in a word, absolute liberty’.38

of’s make it not legit free.. oi

As he wrote of this time:

As soon as I set foot in the parliamentary Sinai, I ceased to be in touch with the masses; because I was absorbed by my legislative work, I entirely lost sight of the current of events . . . One must have lived in that isolator which is called the National Assembly to realize how the men who are most completely ignorant of the state of the country are almost always those who represent it . . . fear of the people is the sickness of all those who belong to authority; the people, for those in power, are the enemy.40



4 – michael bakunin: the fanatic of freedom

BAKUNIN IS A PARADOXICAL THINKER, overwhelmed by the contradictory nature of the world around him. His life too was full of contradictions. He was a ‘scientific’ anarchist, who adopted Marx’s economic materialism and Feuerbach’s atheism only to attack the rule of science and to celebrate the wisdom of the instincts. He looked to reason as the key to human progress and yet developed a cult of spontaneity and glorified the will. He had a desire to dominate as well as to liberate and recognized that ‘the urge to destroy is also a creative urge’. He called for absolute liberty, attacking all forms of institutionalized authority and hierarchy only to create his own secret vanguard societies and to call for an ‘invisible’ dictatorship.

Not surprisingly, Bakunin in his own lifetime inspired great controversy, and it continues until this day. On the one hand, he has been called one of ‘the completest embodiments in history of the spirit of liberty'” On the other, he has been described as ‘the intellectual apologist for despotism’, guilty of ‘rigid authoritarianism’.2 Camus maintained that he ‘wanted total freedom; but he hoped to realize it through total destruction’.3 It is usual to present him as a man ‘with an impetuous and impassioned urge for action’, or as an example of anarchist ‘fervour in action'” Yet it has also been argued that he was primarily an abstract thinker who elaborated a philosophy of action.5 Far from being the intellectual flyweight dismissed by Marx as a ‘man devoid of all theoretical knowledge’; he increasingly appears to be a profound and original thinker.6

What is indisputable is that Bakunin had great charisma and personal magnetism. Richard Wagner wrote: ‘With Bakunin everything was colossal, and of a primitive negative power . . . From every word he uttered one could feel the depth of his innermost convictions . . . I saw that this all destroyer was the love-worthiest, tender-hearted man one could possibly imagine’.7 His magnanimity and enthusiasm coupled with his passionate denunciation of privilege and injustice made him extremely attractive to anti-authoritarians. In the inevitable comparisons with Marx, he appears the more generous and spontaneous. But his character remains as enigmatic as his theory is ambivalent. He attacked authority and called for absolute freedom, but admired those who were born to command with iron wills. He rejected arbitrary violence, but celebrated the ‘poetry of destruction’ and felt unable to condemn terrorists. He had a strong moral sense and yet doted on fanatics who believed that the revolution sanctifies all.

The contradictory nature of his life and thought has been put down to his ‘innate urge to dominate’ alongside a desire to rebel.8 Others have hinted more darkly that Bakunin’s eccentricity tottered on the verge of madness, that he was a ‘little cracked’ and showed ‘hints of derangement’.9

crazywise (doc) et al

It has even been argued that his violence and authoritarianism were rooted in Oedipal and narcissistic disorders and that his concern with freedom was born of ‘weakness, fear and flight’.10 From this perspective, his most genuine voice is that of a frightened youth.

Certainly Bakunin was brought up in a very special situation, and his relationships with his parents and siblings played a major part in shaping his personality. But he also suffered from being a superfluous aristocrat and intellectual who had no positive role to play under the despotic rule of Nicholas II. Herzen correctly observed that Bakunin had within him ‘the latent power of a colossal activity for which there was no demand’.11 His early longing to feel part of the whole, fired by his passionate involvement with German idealism, also left an indelible mark which led him to seek salvation in the cataclysmic upheaval of revolution.


Despite recent interest in him as a case study of utopian or apocalyptic psychology, Bakunin made an outstanding contribution to anarchist thought and strategy. He undoubtedly broke new ground. His critique of science is profound and persuasive. He reveals eloquently the oppressive nature of modern States, the dangers of revolutionary government, and, by his own lamentable example, the moral confusion of using authoritarian means to achieve libertarian ends, of using secret societies and invisible dictators to bring about a free society. He developed anarchist economics in a collectivist direction.

He has not only be called the ‘Activist-Founder of World Anarchism’ but hailed as the ‘true father of modern anarchism’.12 Indeed, he became the most influential thinker during the resurgence of anarchism in the sixties and seventies.

It is extremely difficult to assess Bakunin as a thinker. He was more of a popularizer than a systematic or consistent thinker. He was the first to admit that: ‘I am not a scholar or a philosopher, not even a professional writer. I have not done much writing in my life and have never written except, so to speak, in self-defence, and only when a passionate conviction forced me to overcome my instinctive dislike for any public exhibition of myself.’14 His writings were nearly always part of his activity as a revolutionary and as a result he left a confused account of his views written for different audiences. As in his life, there is a bewildering rush in his writing; just as he is beginning to develop an argument well, he drops it to pick up another. He not only appeals to abstract concepts like justice and freedom without properly defining them, but he often relies on cliches: the bourgeoisie are inevitably ‘corrupt’, the State always means ‘domination’, and freedom must be ‘absolute’. His mental universe is Manichean, with binary opposites of good and evil, life and science, State and society, bourgeoisie and workers.

He wrote when he could during a lifetime of hectic travelling and agitation, but when begun his works sprawled in all directions. He rarely managed to finish a complete manuscript, and of his main works only Statism and Anarchy was published in his lifetime and God and the State soon after his death. The bulk of his writings therefore remain unedited drafts. As a result, he often repeats himself and appears inconsistent and contradictory. He talks for instance of the need for the ‘total abolition of politics’ and yet argues that the International Working Men’s Association offers the ‘true politics of the workers’. 15 He uses the term ‘anarchy’ both in its negative and popular sense of violent chaos as well as to describe a free society without the State.16 This can partly be explained by the inadequacy of existing political language for someone trying to go beyond the traditional categories of political thought, but it also resulted from a failure to correct his drafts or order his thoughts. Yet for all the fragmentation, repetition, and contradiction, there emerges a recognizable leitmotif.

ode to idiosyncratic jargon ness


While he recommends the ‘religion of divine reason and divine love’ to be the basis of their life, he had already decided to devote his life to expanding the freedom of all beings:

Everything that lives, that exists, that grows, that is simply on the earth, should be free, and should attain self-consciousness, raising itself up to the divine centre which inspires all that exists. Absolute freedom and absolute love – that is our aim; the freeing of humanity and the whole world – that is our purpose.

if only


‘To know truth’, he wrote to his family at the time, ‘is not only to think but to live; and life is more than a process of thought: life is a miraculous realization of thought.’

or rather.. life is living.. rather than thinking we have to be thinking

Bakunin in fact did not abandon philosophy for mere action, but rather began to develop a new philosophy of action. And far from recovering from the disease of German metaphysics, he retained much of its influence, particularly its dialectical movement and search for wholeness. The longing to become one with the Absolute was transformed into a desire to merge with the people. His yearning to be a complete human being and save himself now combined with a drive to help others. At the end of 1842, he characteristically had a discussion with Ruge about ‘how we must liberate ourselves and begin a new life, in order to liberate others and pour new life into them’.29 The need for movement and excitement was the same, only the object changed. As he wrote later in his Confessions:

There was always a basic defect in my nature: a love for the fantastic, for unusual, unheard-of adventures, for undertakings that open up a boundless horizon and whose end no one can foresee. I would feel suffocated and nauseated in ordinary peaceful surroundings . . . my need for movement and activity remained unsatisfied. This need, subsequently, combined with democratic exaltation, was almost my only motive force.

quote from ruge’s book bakunin liked: The perfect society has no government, but only an administration, no laws but only obligations, no punishments, but means of correction.’31 Coupled with a reading of the ‘immortal Rousseau’, Weitling helped Bakunin stride towards anarchism.

oi oi oi .. admin, obligations, et al.. oi red flags

But he was not entirely under Weiding’s sway for he criticized his ideal society as ‘not a free society, a really live union of free people, but a herd of animals, intolerably coerced and united by force, following only material ends utterly ignorant of the spiritual side of life’.33

It proved a crucial period in his development. He met Proudhon, still basking in the notoriety of What is Property? (1840) and putting the finishing touches to his Economic Contradictions, or Philosophy of Poverty (1844). He exclaimed to an Italian friend while reading Proudhon: ‘This is the right thing!’34 They engaged in passionate discussions, talking all night about Hegel’s dialectic. Bakunin was impressed by his critique of government and property, and Proudhon no doubt also stressed the authoritarian dangers of communism and the need for anarchy. But it was Proudhon’s celebration of freedom which most fired Bakunin’s overheated imagination


He believed that distribution should take place according to work done, not according to need.

oi oi oi

cancerous if any form of m\a\p


It is not enough to excuse Bakunin’s predilection for tightly organized, authoritarian, hierarchical secret organizations by appealing to his ‘romantic temperament’ or the oppression of existing States.102 His invisible dictatorship is a central part of his political theory and practice, and shows that for all his professed love of liberty and openness there is a profound authoritarian and dissimulating streak in his life and work. His habit of simultaneously preaching absolute liberty in his polemics with the Marxists while defending a form of absolute dictatorship in his private correspondence with members of his clandestine Alliance would certainly seem to point to ‘acute schizophrenia’ on Bakunin’s part.103 His love of destruction and struggle also prevented him from realizing that it is impossible to employ violence and force as means to achieve libertarian and peaceful ends.


It is the ability to think and to act deliberately which enables human beings to negate the animal element in themselves and to develop their consciousness and freedom. It is man’s rational will which enables him to free himself gradually from the hostility of the external world. Whereas Jehovah wanted man to remain an ‘eternal beast’, ignorant and obedient, Satan urged him to disobey and eat of the tree of knowledge. As such, Satan is ‘the eternal rebel, the first freethinker and the emancipator of worlds’.114 Indeed, Bakunin believed that in general the vitality and dignity of an animal can be measured by the intensity of its instinct to revolt. The ‘goddess of revolt’, he declared in one of his resounding phrases, is the ‘mother of all liberty’.

oi oi oi


 We are born with a capacity to be egoistic or sociable, but not innate moral characteristics. Our moral behaviour will result from our social tradition and education.

oi oi oi

on each heart .. no train ness.. oi

For all his evolutionary perspective and stress on the animal origins of man, Bakunin is no ecologist and believes that we must continually struggle against external nature: ‘Man .. . can and should conquer and master this external world. He, on his part, must subdue it and wrest from it his freedom and humanity.’

Thus the only liberty which Bakunin believes worthy of the name is

the liberty which consists in the full development of all the material, intellectual and moral powers which are to be found as faculties latent in everybody, the liberty which recognizes no other restrictions that those which are traced for us by the laws of our own nature; so that properly speaking there are no restrictions, since these laws are not imposed on us by some legislator, beside us or above us; they are immanent in us, inherent, constituting the very basis of our being, material as well as intellectual and moral; instead, therefore, of finding them a limit, we must consider them as the real conditions and effective reason for our liberty.

ed ness.. any form of m\a\p.. is state/coercive/authoritative/abusive/cancerous.. et al.. oi


Intimately connected with his notion of liberty is authority. Indeed, Bakunin defines liberty as an ‘absolute rejection of any principle of authority ‘.127 Authority is the principal evil in the world: ‘If there is a devil in human history, the devil is the principle of command. It alone, sustained by the ignorance and stupidity of the masses, without which it could not exist, is the source of all the catastrophes, all the crimes, and all the infamies of history.’l28 Since authority is the ‘negation of freedom’, Bakunin called for the revolt of the individual against all divine, collective and individual authority and repudiated both God and Master, the Church and the State.

authority exists in any form of m\a\p

Again, Bakunin may have rejected all imposed authority and usurped power in the form of the State and its laws, but he acknowledged that there was such a thing as the ‘authority of society’. Indeed, the authority of society is ‘incomparably more powerful than that of the State’. Where the State and the Church are transitory and artificial institutions, society will always exist. As a result, the action of social tyranny is ‘gentler, more insidious, more imperceptible, but no less powerful and pervasive than is the authority of the State’. But while it is easier to rebel against the State than society around us, Bakunin is convinced that it is possible to go against the ‘stream of conformity’ and revolt against all divine, collective and individual authority in society.

oi.. maté trump law.. brown belonging law.. oi


Bakunin is thus ready to accept in general the ‘absolute authority of science’ because it is rational and in keeping with human liberty. But outside this legitimate authority, he declares all other authorities to be ‘false, arbitrary and fatal’.

oi.. science ness et al

Bakunin set out not to destroy science but rather to reform it and keep it within legitimate boundaries. It would be better for the people to dispense with science altogether than be governed by savants, for ‘Life, not science, creates life; the spontaneous action of the people themselves alone can create liberty.’

sans any form of m\a\p.. otherwise.. no spontaneous ness.. no legit free\dom


He saw the intimate connection between liberty and authority and recognized natural and social boundaries to liberty. His notion of freedom is a form of collective self-discipline within the inescapable boundaries of nature and society. It was not so much a case of exerting ‘maximum authority’ over the conditions of one’s life, but rather of accepting the context of freedom. 140 Far from offering a theory of liberty based on a ‘hotchpotch of empty rhetoric’ or ‘glib Hegelian claptrap’, Bakunin’s position is both realistic and plausible.

oi.. realistic? (rather sea world ic).. plausible? (rather definable.. as in naming the colour death ness).. oi

replace state w any form of m\a\p.. oi


By contrast, the new commune in an emancipated society would consist of a voluntary association of free and equal individuals of both sexes. Unlike Proudhon, who extended his anarchist principles to only half the human species, Bakunin insists on the complete emancipation of women and their social equality with men. Perfect freedom can only exist with complete economic and social equality: ‘I am free only when all human beings surrounding me – men and women – are equally free. The freedom of others, far from limiting or negating my liberty, is on the contrary its necessary condition and confirmation.’ Every person would be personally free in that he or she would not surrender his or her thought or will to any authority but that of reason. They would be ‘free collectively’, that is by living among free people. Thus freedom involves the development of solidarity. Such a society would be a moral society, for socialism is justice and the basic principle of socialism is ‘that every human being should have the material and moral means to develop his humanity’. 

none of us are free


Human relations would be transformed. With the abolition of the patriarchal family, marriage law and the right of inheritance, men and women would live in free unions more closely united to each other than before. The upbringing and education of children would be entrusted to the mother but remain mainly the concern of society. Indeed, an integral ‘equal education for all’ is an indispensable condition for the emancipation of humanity. Such a system of education would not only eradicate existing differences, but prepare every child of either sex for a life of thought and work, imbibe him or her with ‘socialist morality’, and encourage respect for the freedom of others which is the ‘highest duty’. Children cannot, however, choose not to be educated or to remain idle.

oi .. supposed to’s of school/work et al.. oi

Bakunin lays down the law here: ‘Everyone shall work, and everyone shall be educated’, whether they like it or not. No one will be able to exploit the labour of others. Every one will have to work in order to live, for ‘social and political rights will have only one basis – the labour contributed by everyone’. Without the use of positive law, the pressure of public opinion should make ‘parasites’ impossible, but exceptional cases of idleness would be regarded ‘as special maladies to be subjected to clinical treatment’.157 Such authoritarian statements open up a potential world of tyranny and oppression in Bakunin’s so-called free society.

oh my oh my oh my


It is absurd to want to abolish political authority in the form of the State at a stroke for a ‘revolution is certainly the most authoritarian thing there is; it is the act whereby one part of the population imposes its will upon the other.’ – engels


He was so thoroughly corrupted by the love of power that he singularly failed to see that the dangers he described in Marx’s revolutionary dictatorship were equally applicable in his own.


Since the Second World War, there has been a renewed interest in Bakunin, not only from the students’ movements in the sixties but from intenectuals like Noam Chomsky. Bakunin’s cult of spontaneity, his celebration of revolutionary win and instinctive rebellion, his advocacy of workers’ control, his faith in the creative energies of the people, his critique of science – an have appealed to the rebellious young in modem technological States. Even Che Guevara was hailed as the ‘new Bakunin’. Bakunin’s search for wholeness in a divided society is not merely the product of a diseased form of romanticism or an unbalanced psyche, but rather a bold and inspiring attempt to reclaim one’s humanity in an alienated world.






free cities

free cities – Communalism and the Left

essays by murray bookchin compiled by eirik eiglad (beginning time of murray’s death 2006 – published 2008)

notes/quotes via kindle version from anarchist library []:


creating free cities (eiglad)


Several notions in anarchism inspired Bookchin, but his ideas about municipal government, direct democracy, and confederation could not be contained within an anarchist framework. Breaking with anarchism, he urged left libertarian radicals to embrace a new set of ideas, indeed a new ideology – he called it communalism – that could transcend all classical radical theories, both Marxist and anarchist. As an attempt to revive Enlightenment radicalism, Bookchin intended communalism to be a coherent ideological platform upon which we might develop libertarian ideas today and provide the Left with a politics.

not transcending/able


In these essays Murray made recurring references to his basic works, From Urbanization to CitiesThe Ecology of Freedom, and Remaking Society, and though I have trimmed down the number of references here, I would strongly advise the reader unfamiliar with these works to consult them. Sometimes Bookchin would discuss the same idea in several places, such as the distinction between politics and statecraft, or his tripartite distinction between the political sphere, the social sphere, and the State. Suffice to say, again, readers will deepen their understanding of these ideas by exploring them further in Bookchin’s larger works.

remaking society.. ecology of freedom..


“Nationalism and the ‘National Question,’” written in March 1993, was first published in Society and Nature 2, no. 2 (1994). It has long been one of my personal favorites among Bookchin’s essays, and I am happy to include it here as it gives a solid historical argument not only against statism but also against nationalism.


The 1990s debates over the nature of anarchism alienated Bookchin from the contemporary anarchist movement. Unfortunately he wrote no fundamental essays that explained his conclusions in great detail, although in retrospect we can see how Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism initiated his break with this ideology. Many of the features of “lifestyle anarchism” that he criticized were ones that he later concluded were symptomatic of anarchism as such. Murray explained his reasoning in a letter to Peter Zegers and the editorial board of Communalism (in November 2001), in which he considers even the more social forms of anarchism to be basically egoist. He also developed some of these ideas in a letter to Hamish Alcorn, written on July 30, 1999, just before his public break with anarchism. With Bookchin’s permission I have structured the essay “Anarchism as Individualism” around these two letters, incorporating as well some unpublished material from “Toward a Communalist Approach” and an early version of “The Communalist Project.” Despite its brevity, I think this essay may shed light on Bookchin’s reasons for breaking with anarchism – the political ideology with which he had been associated, and of which he had been a major representative, for four decades.

perhaps because he couldn’t let go of the min of min/max ness himself.. (later ref to gorz)


This essay contains his last important evaluation of the anarchist tradition from within, trying to emphasize its revolutionary, democratic, and socialist character. He later considered his efforts to have been an utter failure. Where he had earlier attempted to expand the federalist, cooperative, and municipalist trends within the anarchist tradition, he now tried to bring those valuable contributions into a new theoretical framework unburdened by the anti-social, anti-intellectual, and antiorganizational tendencies with which anarchism has always struggled.

min ness intro’d as an unburdening ness.. oi

The next essay, “The Future of the Left,” is in my view the jewel of this collection, tying all the other pieces together and giving this anthology its necessary coherence and breadth. 

so.. all are his favs

Although I have edited the essay, nothing of substance has been omitted, and though it broadens the focus of this anthology far beyond the collection of “strictly political” writings I had intended, it is this piece that contains Bookchin’s most mature ideas. It is fully communalist, posing a set of challenging questions for our generation of radicals to consider, and even as a stand-alone essay it gives this book a scope that stretches far into the future.


For Bookchin, to advance libertarian municipalism meant to defend and build upon the ideals of the Enlightenment, which he considered the greatest tradition of social development. Based on communalism and social ecology, libertarian municipalism is a fundamental attempt to define a political humanism and to formulate and create a rational society.

oi.. intellect ness et al.. red flag of not letting go enough.. of that min ness..

It is my genuine hope that readers will seek to familiarize themselves with Bookchin’s ideas, here and in his other works, not as an academic exercise but as a way of preparing to change the world.

preparing ness is same song as academic ness.. we need to org around something 8b souls already have a craving/groking for.. ie: 2 essentials



These essays are my final assessment of some 80 years of social reflections on the twentieth century. In a very real sense, they are the product of a lifetime of study and political work, distilled from a remarkable era of revolutionary history that spanned decades of social upheaval, from the 1917 Russian Revolution to the closing years of the twentieth century.

I make no pretense to claiming that these essays resolve any of the crises that beset the people who lived out the century. It would be remarkable indeed to know even how to properly define these crises, still less to be capable of solving them. I do not claim to be able to answer all of the questions we face, but they must be considered – hopefully as a basis for future and creative discourse. The questions we ask and the answers we give are socially and politically defining. Taken together, they actually form the battleground for the future of social life, and our responses are the basis for how we constitute ourselves as social beings.

i think that’s a distraction.. a cancer

I would like to suggest that these essays be seen as the political conclusions I have drawn from my historical and philosophical work in The Ecology of FreedomThe Philosophy of Social EcologyRe-Enchanting HumanityFrom Urbanization to Cities and last but not in the least The Third Revolution. Throughout these works I have tried to meld together the most challenging historical ideals into a body of theory that generally went by the name “social ecology”. These ideas combine as strands in a common thread: a search to understand the place of humanity in the natural world and the social factors that must be present if we are to actualize our ability (as yet incomplete) to bring to bear, in all the affairs of “raw” or first nature, a “sophisticated” or second nature informed by reason. By combining the words “ecology” and “freedom” I tried to show that neither nature nor reason could be properly conceptualized independently of the other; that the natural world could not be given any meaning without the social world or the human mind, that is, without the ability to abstract experience and generalize facts into far-reaching insights.


ecology of freedom.. et al

For most of human history, society, in effect, was familial, not civic; it was organized around blood ties (real or fictive), not legal tenets. Allocation of the means of life fulfilled necessities – especially rights and duties – among literal and figurative relatives in a nexus of shared, unquestioned responsibilities. Things were brought together in an indisputably “natural” manner, such that the “people” were unified – even more compellingly than by custom – by an inborn scheme of reality. They could not act otherwise, and their life-ways allowed for no discretion to follow any path other than what was given by the “eternal” nature of things.

The rise of organized communities – ultimately cities, civilization, and citizenship, as distinguished from habitats, customs, and folk – radically changed this state of affairs. Indeed, it marked the great rupture of Homo sapiens from merely a creative kind of animal into humans as such. The most powerful medium for achieving this radical new dispensation was a process of alienation called trade, a process that drastically remade the apprehension of reality from imagery into objectivity. The traditional world of imagination and analogical thinking gave way to a new world of systematic analysis and disciplined thought, engendered by commerceefficient production, and careful calculation. Trade rewarded predictability based on objectivity, and knowledge based on reality, with power and wealth. To know meant to live in palpable touch with reality.

marsh exchange law.. any form of m\a\p


Knowledge ceased to be an end in itself; it became a tool, an instrument of control and manipulation. Yet ultimately it created a new world of thoughts and things, a new universe that redefined what it meant to be alive – generating an appetite for wealth, for competition, for growth for its own sake, for private ownership, and for power over men. What humans could imagine, they brought into existence. Even the transformation of human beings from earth-bound to flying creatures constituted a remarkable advance in the conversion of image into object – and no less significantly, it reduced a frightening mystery to a prosaic problem of engineering. Nuclear physics transformed vast, ineffable legends into problems of ordinary mathematics, no less unsolvable than the questions posed by Euclidean geometry.

But how was this even possible? The people who now grappled with the fantastic problems that had occupied human beings even several millennia earlier were, in fact, no longer the same people. Their outlook was no longer animistic, and they no longer lived in organic societies. Owing to their habitation in villages and cities, to their written literature and systematic modes of thought, to their careful retrospection and introspection, to their substitution of mythopoeic fantasy with rational thought, they were becoming humanizedrationalized, and civilized – veritably a new species.

jensen civilization law.. whales

Treated like a new gospel, this “scientific” socialism was regarded as evidence, not of dogmatism, but of learning and of modern intellectual certainty.



These essays, then, do not work from the notion that there can be an “end to history.” Defining history as having an ultimate end would dissolve it into a meaningless conundrum, bereft of experience and development. Yet the word history is one of the few that alternately denotes both completeness and dynamism. Within a given “stage” history has a completeness to itself, but in history as a “process” a given period “flows” into the next with no terminus, so to speak. We thus find ourselves faced with a conundrum, more like a Kantian syllogism that has to be accepted as a given, or what Hegel would call a contradiction.

history ness et al

Not only do the grand works of philosophy have intrinsic dual meanings, they also reflect significant institutional changes that societies have undergone with the passage of time, from eras of obeisance to kings and nobles to our own. Sweeping social changes in a surprisingly brief period of time have created a need for profoundly new social terms, indeed for a dictionary more inclusionary than we have today. Such a compilation of terms, or expansions in meaning of words in common use today, amounts to the formulation of a new system of ideas. As we educe one idea from the others, we can derive from every one the potentialities of less inclusive but profoundly meaningful offspring, with a variety of divergent developments.

profoundly new social terms..? rather.. idiosyncratic jargon.. et al

From this perspective, history becomes an open prospect that suggests the potentiality for a multitude of radically new forms. I presented one of a number of courses that this approach to a social dialectic might take in my book The Ecology of Freedom; alternative courses were put forward by non-European societies, particularly in the pre-Columbian Americas. It is not an idle endeavor to try to imagine what a handicraft society, whose economy was deliberately mixed and small-scale in character, might have looked like – as a “rational” society – in contrast to the medieval world that actually preceded urban society in Western Europe. It is not accidental that William Morris’s News from Nowhere, which describes such a society, has attracted so many admirers in our own time as a “model” utopia, especially among libertarian socialists and syndicalists.

none to date radically new.. because.. wilde not-us law.. whalespeak.. et al.. all of us need detox


As someone who lived out this era, I was variously regarded – or regarded myself – as a communist (including one who adhered to successive views held by Trotsky), a libertarian socialist, and in a rather spotty fashion, an anarchist. In the 1970s and 1980s I expressed my ideas forcefully in a rather romantic anarchist framework. Later, however, I found it increasingly difficult to reconcile anarchism with my basic views. In the 1990s it was gradually becoming clear to me that an ideology that does little more than hail the “autonomy of the ego,” and that conceives of “liberty” in extremely individualistic terms, can never produce basic social change. A lifestyle rather than an ideology, anarchism, I came to realize, is concerned more with individual behavior than with political change and allows little room for a creative political practice.

My own experiences in the labor movement (as a foundryman and later as an autoworker) in the 1930s and 1940s had long ago convinced me that making basic and lasting change requires organization (as the IWW martyr Joe Hill voiced just before his execution). But most of the anarchists I encountered resisted organization, sometimes vehemently. And when I tried to properly define politics (as the directly democratic organization of the free municipality by popular assemblies) as the very opposite of statecraft (rule by professional bureaucrats, ultimately through a monopoly of the means of violence), my once-close anarchist associates assailed me as “statist.” Democracy, they asserted, is itself a form of “rule,” by the majority over the minority. A preposterous rejection of majority voting in favor of consensus decision-making played a major role in ruining the huge American anti-nuclear movement in the 1980s and potentially makes any movement organization and institution (beyond a small group) dysfunctional. In the end I found that I had either to close my eyes to the compelling need for organization in praxis, and for democratic institutions in public affairs in a future libertarian society, or else completely recast my views. I chose to do the latter.

oi.. again.. to min ness as poison/cancer.. need to let go of any form of m\a\p

carhart-harris entropy law.. aziz let go law.. et al


Reflecting as they do my most recent and, having passed the age of 80, my most mature ideas, these essays try to explain why social ecology can no longer be seen as a mere extension of traditional radical ideologies, either Marxist or anarchist. It is now my conviction that the ensemble of views that I call social ecology, libertarian municipalism, and dialectical naturalism should properly form the basis for a new libertarian ideology and politics – communalism – that takes full account of the sweeping changes that have occurred in capitalism since the failure of proletarian socialism in the second half of the twentieth century and that suggests the new methods that are needed to transform a market-based society into a truly libertarian socialist one.

no matter what you call it.. if still min ness ing.. still cancer ing.. still not new/diff.. just same song

The reader alone will decide whether these essays are correct or erroneous and whether my expectations for communalism are sound or fanciful, but their most essential purpose is to create a new departure from ideologies that were inspired by the problems of the Industrial Revolution of two centuries ago, a departure that takes full account of changing class relations and hierarchical forms, of demographical transformations and ecological dislocations, and of urbanization, to cite the most important factors.

yet not departing enough.. beyond changing ness

What I hold to, and what I try to impart through these essays, is my belief that the noblest role conscious human beings can play today is not only to seek the emancipation of people from the irrationalities of capitalist and hierarchical society but also to defend the Enlightenment and its message of reason in public affairs against the dark forces of irrationality, nihilism, and ultimately barbarism that stand at the gates of civilization. My own generation fought off Nazism and superstition with some success. The present and coming generations must have as their task to oppose the “dumbing down” of the human mind, its growing trivialization and juvenilization, and its appalling ignorance even of the recent past. . In the meantime, we still have time to build a coherent theoretical framework for our practice and to prepare for the “final conflict” that may yet come at some point in the present century.

oi.. so many red flags

Murray Bookchin
Burlington, Vermont
November, 2005


1 – ecological crisis and need to remake society

Hence, more than ever today, it is imperative that we develop the consciousness and the movement to remove domination from society, indeed from our everyday lives – in relationships between the young and the elderly, between women and men, in educational institutions and workplaces, and in our attitude toward the natural world. To permit the poison of domination – and a domineering sensibility – to persist is, at this time, to ignore the most basic roots of our ecological as well as social problems – problems whose sources can be traced back to the very roots of our civilization.

if ed and work.. still domination.. still people telling other people what to do


Blaming technology for the ecological crisis serves, however unintentionally, to *blind us to the ways technology could in fact play a creative role in a rational, ecological society. In such a society, the **intelligent use of sophisticated technology would be direly needed to restore the vast ecological damage that has already been inflicted on the biosphere, much of which will not repair itself without creative human intervention.

rather.. **intellect ness.. already *blinding us


Yes, we as individuals should change our lifestyles as much as possible, but it is the utmost shortsightedness to believe that that is all or even primarily what we have to do. We need to restructure the entire society, even as we engage in lifestyle changes and single-issue struggles against pollution, nuclear power plants, the excessive use of fossil fuels, the destruction of soil, and so forth. We must have a coherent analysis of the deep-seated hierarchical relationships and systems of domination, as well as of class relationships and economic exploitation, that degrade people as well as the environment.

full stop.. ie: a nother way


Perhaps the most disquieting feature of many radical groups today, particularly socialists who may accept the foregoing observation, is their commitment to at least a minimal state that would coordinate and administer a classless and egalitarian society – a non-hierarchical one, no less! One hears this argument from André Gorz and many others, who, presumably because of the many “complexities” of modern society, cannot conceive of the administration of economic affairs without some kind of coercive mechanism, albeit one with a “human face.”

andré gorz.. you.. all of us.. to date

we need to let go


The notion that human freedom can be achieved, much less perpetuated, through a state of any kind is monstrously oxymoronic – a contradiction in terms. 

same to your min org/govt ness.. oi

Let me emphasize that confederalism should not be confused with federalism, which is simply the coordination of nation-states in a network of agreements that preserve the prerogatives of policy-making with little if any citizen involvement. Federalism is simply the state writ large, indeed the further centralization of already centralized states, as in the United States’ federal republic, the European Community, or the recently formed Commonwealth of Independent States – all collections of huge continental superstates that remove even further whatever control the people have over nation-states.

both are forms of people telling other people what to do.. let go

A confederalist alternative would be based on a network of policy-making popular assemblies with recallable deputies to local and regional confederal councils – councils whose sole function, I must emphasize, would be to adjudicate differences and undertake strictly administrative tasks. One could scarcely advance such a prospect by making use of a state formation of any kind, however “minimal.” Indeed, to juggle statist and confederal perspectives in a verbal game by distinguishing “minimal” from “maximal” is to utterly confuse the basis for a new politics structured around a participatory democracy.

oi oi oi

Libertarian municipalism may indeed begin in a limited way in civic wards, here and there, as well as in small cities and towns, but its aim is nothing less than the total remaking of society along rational, nonhierarchical and ecological lines.

ie’s of your min ness


2 – nationalism and the national question


The primacy the anarchists and libertarian socialists have historically given to the abolition of the state, the agency par excellence of hierarchical coercion, led directly to their denigration of the nation-state and of nationalism generally, not only because nationalism divides human beings territorially, culturally, and economically, but because it follows in the wake of the modern state and ideologically justifies it.

any form of m\a\p does that

What makes us human, apart from our ability to reason on a high plane of generalization, consociate into mutable social institutions, work cooperatively, and develop a highly symbolic system of communication, is a shared knowledge of our humanitas

oh my

mufleh humanity lawwe have seen advances in every aspect of our lives except our humanity– Luma Mufleh


Goethe’s memorable words, so characteristic of the Enlightenment mind, still haunt as a criterion of our humanity: “There is a degree of culture where national hatred vanishes, and where one stands to a certain extent above nations and feels the weal and woe of a neighboring people as if it happened to one’s own.”

if only

If Goethe established a standard of authentic humanity here – and surely one can demand more of human beings than empathy for their “own people” – early humanity was less than human by that standard. Although a lunatic element in today’s ecology movement calls for a “return to a Pleistocene spirituality,” they would in all probability have found that “spirituality” very dispiriting in reality. In prehistoric eras, probably marked by band and tribal social organization, human beings were, “spiritually” or otherwise, first and foremost members of an immediate family, second, members of a band, and ultimately, members of a tribe. What determined membership in anything beyond one’s given family group was an extension of the kinship tie: the people of a given tribe were socially linked to one another by real or fictive blood relationships. This “blood oath,” as well as other “biological facts” like gender and age, defined one’s rights, obligations, and indeed one’s identity in the tribal society.

Moreover, many – perhaps most – band or tribal groups regarded only those who shared the “blood oath” with themselves as human. Indeed, a tribe often referred to itself as “the People,” a name that expressed its exclusive claim to humanity. Other people, who were outside the magic circle of the real or mythic blood linkages of a tribe, were “strangers” and hence in some sense were not human beings. The “blood oath” and the use of the name “the People” to designate themselves often pitted a tribe against others who made the same exclusive claim to be human and to be “the People,” even among peoples who shared common linguistic and cultural traits.

just shows same song if go back in time too


 A “second nature,” as Cicero called it, of humanistic social and cultural ties began to replace the older form of social organization based on the “first nature” of biological and blood ties, in which individuals’ social roles and obligations had been anchored in their family, clan, gender, and the like, rather than in associations of their own choice.

oi.. always spinach or rock

need: imagine if we ness


The eventual differentiation of the town populations into wealthy and poor, powerful and powerless, and “nationalists” who supported the monarchy against a predatory nobility, makes up a complex drama that cannot be discussed here.



In later years, even when speaking broadly of freedom and the oppressed, Marx and Engels considered the use of seemingly “inexact” words like “workers” and “toilers” to be an implicit rejection of socialism as a “science”; instead, they preferred what they considered the more scientifically rigorous word proletariat, which specifically referred to those who generate surplus value.


Cultural freedom and variety, let me emphasize, should not be confused with nationalism. That specific peoples should be free to fully develop their own cultural capacities is not merely a right but a desideratum. The world will be a drab place indeed if a magnificent mosaic of different cultures do not replace the largely deculturated and homogenized world created by modern capitalism. But by the same token, the world will be completely divided and peoples will be chronically at odds with one another if their cultural differences are parochialized and if seeming “cultural differences” are rooted in biologistic notions of gender, racial, and physical superiority. Historically, there is a sense in which the national consolidation of peoples along territorial lines did produce a social sphere that was broader than the narrow kinship basis for kinship societies because it such consolidation obviously is more open to strangers, just as cities tend to foster broader human affinities than tribes. But neither tribal affinities nor territorial boundaries constitute a realization of humanity’s potentiality to achieve a full sense of commonality with rich but harmonious cultural variations. Frontiers have no place on the map of the planet, any more than they have a place on the landscape of the mind.


The confederation of municipalities, as a medium for interaction, collaboration, and mutual aid among its municipal components, provides the sole alternative to the powerful nation-state on the one hand and the parochial town or city on the other. Fully democratic, in which the municipal deputies to confederal institutions would be subject to recall, rotation, and unrelenting public purview, the confederation would constitute an extension of local liberties to the regional level, allowing for a sensitive equilibrium between locality and region in which the cultural variety of towns could flourish without turning inward toward local exclusivity.


there’s a nother way


A municipalized economy would approximate a system of usufruct based entirely on one’s needs and citizenship in a community rather than one’s proprietary, vocational, or professional interests.

ssame song as long as we’re still in sea world.. rat cage rather than rat park


3 – nationalism and the great revolution


4 – the historical importance of the city

Let me state from the outset that I have never declared that libertarian municipalism is a substitute for the manifold dimensions of cultural or even private life. Yet even a modicum of a historical perspective shows that it is precisely the municipality that most individuals must deal with directly, once they leave the social realm and enter the public sphere. Doubtless the municipality is usually the place where even a great deal of social life is existentially lived, which does not efface its distinctiveness as a unique sphere of life.

we keep graphing to separate inseparables/embodiment.. oi.. of math and men

As a project for entering into the public sphere, libertarian municipalism calls for a radical presence in a community that addresses the question of who shall exercise power in a lived sense; indeed, it is truly a political culture that seeks to re-empower the individual and sharpen his or her sensibility as a living citizen.

and it’s all about power


In fact, short of the hazy Neolithic village traditions that Marija Gimbutas, Riane Eisler, and William Irwin Thompson hypostatize, we will have a hard time finding any tradition that was not patriarchal to one degree or another. Rejecting all patriarchal societies as sources of institutional study would mean that we must abandon not only the Athenian polis but the free medieval communes and their confederations, the comuñero movement of sixteenth-century Spain, the revolutionary Parisian sections of 1793, the Paris Commune of 1871 – and even the Spanish anarchist collectives of 1936–37. All of these institutional developments, be it noted, were marred to one degree or another by patriarchal values.

there never was a west ness.. so distraction to do history ness

No, libertarian municipalists are not ignorant of these very real historical limitations; nor is libertarian municipalism based on any historical “models.” Neither does anyone who seriously accepts a libertarian municipalist approach believe that society as it exists and cities as they are structured today can suddenly be transformed into a directly democratic and rational society. The revolutionary transformation we seek is one that requires education, the formation of a movement, and the patience to cope with defeats. As I have emphasized again and again, a libertarian municipalist practice begins, minimally, with an attempt to enlarge local freedom at the expense of state power. And it does this by example, by education, and by entering the public sphere (that is, into local elections or extralegal assemblies), where ideas can be raised among ordinary people that open the possibility of a lived practice. In short, libertarian municipalism involves a vibrant politics in the real world to change society and public consciousness alike, not a program directed at navel-gazing, psychotherapy, and “surregionalist manifestoes.” It tries to forge a movement that will enter into open confrontation with the state and the bourgeoisie, not cravenly sneak around them murmuring Taoist paradoxes.

oh my.. both same song


To examine what is really at issue in the questions of municipalism, confederalism, and citizenship, as well as the distinction between the social and the political, we must ground these notions in a historical background where we can locate the meaning of the city (properly conceived in distinction to the megalopolis), the citizen, and the political sphere in the human condition.

oi oi oi .. black science of people/whales law et al


The necessary conditions for freedom and consciousness – or preconditions, as socialists of all kinds recognized in the last century and a half – involved technological advances that, in a rational society, could emancipate people from the immediate, animalistic concerns of self-maintenance, increase the realm of freedom from constrictions imposed upon it by preoccupations with material necessity, and place knowledge on a rational, systematic, and coherent basis to the extent that this was possible. These conditions at least involved humanity’s self-emancipation from the overpowering theistic creations of its own imagination (creations largely formulated by shamans and priests for their own self-serving ends, as well as by apologists for hierarchy) – notably, mythopoesis, mysticism, anti-rationalism, and fears of demons and deities, calculated to produce subservience and quietism in the face of the social powers that be.

That the necessary and sufficient conditions for this emancipation have never existed in a “one-to-one” relationship with each other – and it would have been miraculous if they had – has provided the fuel for Cornelius Castoriadis’s rather disordered essays on the omnipotence of “social imaginaries,” for Theodor Adorno’s basic nihilism, and for frivolous anarcho-chaotics who, in one way or another, have debased the Enlightenment’s ideals and the classical forms of socialism and anarchism. True – the discovery of the spear did not produce an automatic shift from “matriarchy” to “patriarchy,” nor did the discovery of the plow produce an automatic shift from “primitive communism” to private property, as evolutionary anthropologists of the nineteenth century supposed. Indeed, it cheapens any discussion of history and social change to create “one-to-one” relations between technological and cultural developments, a tragic feature of Friedrich Engels’s simplification of his mentor’s ideas.

oi.. cornelius castoriadis et al

In fact, social evolution is very uneven and combined, which one would hope Castoriadis learned from his Trotskyist past. No less significantly, social evolution, like natural evolution, is profligate in producing a vast diversity of social forms and cultures, which are often incommensurable in their details. If our goal is to emphasize the vast differences that separate one society from another – rather than identify the important thread of similarities that bring humanity to the point of a highly creative development – “the Aztecs, Incas, Chinese, Japanese, Mongols, Hindus, Persians, Arabs, Byzantines, and Western Europeans, plus everything that could be enumerated from other cultures” do not resemble each other, to cite the naive obligations that Castoriadis places on what he calls “a ‘rational dialectic’ of history” and, implicitly, on reason itself.[22] Indeed, it is unpardonable nonsense to carelessly fling these civilizations together without regard for their place in time, their social pedigrees, the extent to which they can be educed dialectically from one another, or without an explanation of why as well as descriptions of how they differ from each other. By focusing entirely on the peculiarity of individual cultures, one reduces the development of civilizations in an eductive sequence to the narrow nominalism that Stephen Jay Gould applied to organic evolution – even to the point where the “autonomy” so prized by Castoriadis can be dismissed as a purely subjective “norm,” of no greater value in this postmodernist world of interchangeable equivalences than authoritarian “norms” of hierarchy.



But if we explore very existential developments toward freedom from toil and freedom from oppression in all its forms, we find that there is a History to be told of rational advances – without presupposing teleologies that predetermine that History and its tendencies. If we can give material factors their due emphasis without reducing cultural changes to strictly automatic responses to technological changes and without locating all highly variegated societies in a nearly mystical sequence of “stages of development,” then we can speak intelligibly of definite advances made by humanity out of animality, out of the timeless “eternal recurrence” of relatively stagnant cultures, out of blood, gender, and age relationships as the basis for social organization, and out of the image of the “stranger,” who was not kin to other members of a community, indeed, who was “inorganic,” to use Marx’s term, and hence subject to arbitrary treatment beyond the reach of customary rights and duties, defined as they were by tradition rather than reason.

Moreover, the city has been the originating and authentic sphere of politics in the Hellenic democratic sense of the term, and of civilization – not, as I have emphasized again and again, of the state. Which is not to say that city-states have not existed. But democracy, conceived as a face-to-face realm of policy-making, entails a commitment to the Enlightenment belief that all “ordinary” human beings are potentially competent to collectively manage their political affairs – a crucial concept in the thinking, all its limitations aside, of the Athenian democratic tradition, and, more radically, of those Parisian sections of 1793 that gave an equal voice to women as well as all men. At such high points of political development, in which subsequent advances often self-consciously built on and expanded more limited earlier ones, the city became more than a unique arena for human life and politics, and municipalism – civicism, which the French revolutionaries later identified with “patriotism” – became more than an expression of love of country. Even when Jacobin demagogues gave it chauvinistic connotations, “patriotism” in 1793 meant that the “national patrimony” was not the “property of the King of France” but that France, in effect, now belonged to all the people.

oi.. seat at the table et al

Over the long run, the city was conceived as the socio-cultural destiny of humanity, a place where, by late Roman times, there were no “strangers” or ethnic “folk,” and by the French Revolution, no custom or demonic irrationalities, but rather citoyens who lived in a free terrain, organized themselves into discursive assemblies, and advanced canons of secularity and fraternité, or more broadly, solidarity and philia, hopefully guided by reason. Moreover, the French revolutionary tradition was strongly confederalist until the dictatorial Jacobin Republic came into being – wiping out the Parisian sections as well as the ideal of a fête de la fédération. One must read Jules Michelet’s account of the Great Revolution to learn the extent to which civicism was identified with municipal liberty and fraternité with local confederations, indeed a “republic” of confederations, between 1790 and 1793. One must explore the endeavors of Jean Varlet and the Evêché militants of May 30–31, 1793, to understand how close the Revolution came in the insurrection of June 2 to constructing the cherished confederal “Commune of communes” that lingered in the historical memory of the Parisian fédérés, as they designated themselves, in 1871.

one must read/explore to understand.. huge red flag


The civitas, humanly scaled and democratically structured, is the initiating arena of rational reflection, discursive decision-making, and secularity in human affairs. ..No one who reads the chronicles of Western humanity can ignore the rational dialectic that underlies the accumulation of mere events and that reveals an unfolding of the human potentiality for universality, rationality, secularity, and freedom in an eductive relationship that alone should be called History. This History, to the extent that it has culminations at given moments of development, on which later civilizations built, is anchored in the evolution of a secular public sphere, in politics, in the emergence of the rational city – the city that is rational institutionally, creatively, and communally. Nor can imagination be excluded from History, but it is an imagination that must be elucidated by reason. For nothing can be more dangerous to a society, indeed to the world today, than the kind of unbridled imagination, unguided by reason, that so easily lent itself to Nuremberg rallies, fascist demonstrations, Stalinist idolatry, and death camps.

we have no idea..

oi.. there never was a west ness

The cultural and social barbarism that is closing around this period is above all marked by ideologies of regression: a retreat into an often mythic prelapsarian past; a narcissistic egocentricity in which the political disappears into the personal; and an “imaginary” that dissolves the various phases of a historical development into a black hole of “Oneness” or “interconnectedness,” so that all the moments of a development are flattened out. Underpinning this ideological flattening is a Heideggerian Gelassenheit, a passive-receptive, indeed quietistic, “letting things be,” that is dressed up in countervailing Taoist “contraries” – each of which cancels out its opposite to leave practical reason with a blank sheet upon which anything can be scrawled, however hierarchical or oppressive. The Taoist ruler, who John Clark adduces in his writings, who does not rule, who does nothing yet accomplishes more than anyone else, is a contradiction in terms, a mutual cancellation of the very concepts of “ruler” and “sage” – or, more likely, a tyrant who shrewdly manipulates his or her subject while pretending to be self-effacing and removed from the object of his or her tyranny.

oi.. we have no idea what legit free people are like.. hari rat park law et al


The Chinese ruling classes played at this game for ages – just as the pope, to this day, kisses the feet of his newly ordained cardinals with Christian “humility.” What Marx’s fetishism of commodities is for capitalism, this Heideggerian Gelassenheit is for present-day ideology, particularly for deep ecology in all its various mutations. Thus, we do not change the world; we “dwell” in it. We do not reason out a course of action; we “intuit” it, or better, “imagine” it. We do not pursue a rational eduction of the moments that make up an evolution; instead, we relapse into a magical reverie, often in the name of an aesthetic vanguardism that surrenders reality to fancy or imagination. Hence the explosion these days of mystical ecologies, primitivism, technophobia, anti-civilizationalism, irrationalism, and cheap fads from devil worship to angelology.

imagine if we ness vs supposed to’s of school/work et al

Instead of retreating to quietism, mysticism, and purely personalized appeals for change, social ecology seeks to think out the kinds of institutions that would be required in a rational, ecological society; the kind of politics we should appropriately practice; and the political movement needed to achieve such a society. Should we fail to initiate new movements, based on new ideas, and advance new programs to mobilize the great mass of humanity, this planet may well be degraded beyond redemption socially even before it is degraded beyond redemption ecologically. It is this terrible prospect social ecology seeks to avert.

nothing new if appropriate ness et al..


5 – anarchism as individualism

 In fact, the ideas of social and economic reconstruction that have in the past been offered in the name of “anarchy” have invariably been drawn to a great extent from Marxism and other forms of socialism. The fact that anarchism came wrapped in socialist concepts has often prevented anarchists from appearing as what they are: egoists.


If individuals must be free of constraint, anarchists have argued, so must the communes in a future society. (How communes could even exist when their members were all individually autonomous is an unresolved question.) Although Kropotkin called himself an anarcho-communist, he essentially agreed with Proudhon on his point: “the social revolution must be achieved by the liberation of the communes,” .. To bolster this notion, Kropotkin also rejects majority rule: he’s against people “submitting themselves to the majority-rule, which always is a mediocrity-rule.

only because we’ve not yet ever had legit free people.. (not yet ever seen an undisturbed ecosystem et al)

public consensus always oppresses someone(s).. maté trump law et al


By the same logic, anarchists claim that the future society must be one bereft of laws and constitutions, because they necessarily restrict the sovereign autonomy of the individual. When Proudhon was a member of the French Chamber of Deputies, he once declared that he refused to vote for a particular constitution, not because he opposed the content of it, but simply because it was a constitution. I fail to see how any free society can be constituted rationally without a constitution – and for that matter, laws, ordinances, rules, and the like. This condemnation of all constitutions, laws, and institutions – claiming they are all equivalent to a state – as all “great” anarchist thinkers did and others today continually do, is to appeal to wanton chaos, indeed to a sociality that essentially depends on good instincts and, hopefully, education (to which Bakunin added custom and others, habit). Such thinking reveals not only the basic socio-biologism that underpins most anarchist theory (if one can use the word theory at all), but also the tendency of anarchists to refer back to primordial levels for their moral philosophy – genes, custom, habit, tradition, and the like.

oh my murray..

The tension between individualism and collectivism or communism would not exist if the interests of individuals could somehow be conceived to be the same as or at least compatible with the interests of the larger society. Bakunin and Kropotkin tried to do just that. Bakunin asserted that individual and social interests were indeed compatible, blaming the idea that individual and social interests did not always harmoniously converge on, variously, the state or the religious doctrine of original sin. Kropotkin went further, maintaining that individual morality was in the end identical to social morality: he gave a socio-biological basis to the instinct for mutual aid, saying that most creatures, from the simplest to the most complex, are driven by an urge to cooperate. This being the case, he believed, the individual – freed from the trammels of the state – would make choices in behavior and thinking that were in harmony with the needs of his or her society. Thus Kropotkin could write: ‘Humanity is trying now to free itself from the bonds of any government whatever, and to respond to its needs of organization by the free understanding between individuals pursuing the same common aims…. Free agreement is becoming a substitute for law. And free cooperation a substitute for governmental guardianship…. We already foresee a state of society where the liberty of the individual will be limited by no laws, no bonds – by nothing else but his own social habits and the necessity, which everyone feels, of finding cooperation, support, and sympathy among his neighbors

But this socio-biologically based cooperation rests, of course, on a fallacy. In fact, individuals have often placed their own personal interest above those of their community. Since Kropotkin, moreover, was always prone to highlight the steady advance of mutual aid in the world in which he lived, he would have had a hard time to explain the brutalities that occurred from 1914 onward, which opened one of the bloodiest periods in history. Alas, cooperation is not embedded in our genes. But it is on such genetically based cooperation that Kropotkin’s “anarcho-communism” rests; and when it collapses, so does the whole edifice. What remains, again, is the individual ego.

oh my oh my.. gazing at rats in rat cage.. rather than in rat park.. we have no idea


But this socio-biologically based cooperation rests, of course, on a fallacy. In fact, individuals have often placed their own personal interest above those of their community. Since Kropotkin, moreover, was always prone to highlight the steady advance of mutual aid in the world in which he lived, he would have had a hard time to explain the brutalities that occurred from 1914 onward, which opened one of the bloodiest periods in history. Alas, cooperation is not embedded in our genes. But it is on such genetically based cooperation that Kropotkin’s “anarcho-communism” rests; and when it collapses, so does the whole edifice. What remains, again, is the individual ego.

oi.. hari rat park law

Martin A. Miller, a Kropotkin biographer, wrote that “Kropotkin argued for the full and complete liberty of the individual‚ as the ethical basis of anarchism. He stopped short of falling into the trap of having to accept egoism and extreme individualism only because he believed in the innate sociability and passivity of man, when allowed to be free without constraint from above.” This belief too was mistaken. Lacking the linchpin that unites individualism and socialism, “anarcho-communism” and “anarcho-collectivism” become oxymoronic words, bereft of meaning.

oi.. we have no idea.. so we ongoingly perpetuate the myth of tragedy and lord

Among anarchists, I find, such views are heinous. As Colin Ward puts it, “anarchy” is the wonderful society that, like soil, lies beneath the snow (of capitalism, the state, religion, and oppressive institutions generally); the snow only has to melt away, and then we will have our Wonderland. Kropotkin seems to have had no greater appreciation than other anarchist theorists for the mutual interaction between the legacy of domination and the legacy of freedom in history. Ward’s “snow” metaphor is moreover very much in tune with Bakunin’s continual reliance on an alleged instinct for revolution that lies latent in workers and peasants, and Kropotkin’s tendency to fall back on an instinct for mutual aid.


While I would argue that the rejection of any limitation on behavior is symptomatic of anarchism’s individualistic basis, the way anarchists are invoking “instinct” as an alternative social foundation not only makes a mockery of reason but also reduces us to a quasi-animalistic existence. The absence of any real historical sense – which makes anarchy possible anytime, even in the “affluent” societies of the Paleolithic and Neolithic – easily leads anarchists into primitivism and technophobia. Of course, the disregard for dialectical reason, indeed the antagonism toward it, fits in with the anti-rationalism that pervades much of anarchism; it is precisely the hypostatization of instinct, habit, and tradition, that leads anarchists into mysticism and anti-rationalism, and reinforces their proclivity for primitivism



Hence anarchism does not pay any attention to the “forms of freedom,” nor to the imperative material, technological, and cultural preconditions for a free and rational society. Few if any of the major anarchist theorists clearly faced the problem of such institutions, and certainly none of them today propose to deal with it. Dozens of questions and issues, ranging from philosophy to the interpretation of history, to the evaluation of politics, capitalism, organization, programs, and so on, simply remain beyond the purview of anarchism.

rather.. they are irrelevant s to legit free\dom.. we have no idea what legit free people are like


Apart from the syndicalists, many of whom were decidedly not anarchists, anarchism has shown little regard for institutions of direct democracy. In fact, the total identification of politics with the state leads anarchists to pit purely social actions and phenomena against the state, leading to incidents, “direct actions” such as “reclaiming the streets,” cooperatives, squats, and mere forms of merriment or theater that I can no longer take seriously as political work. Some of these actions are useful gymnastics or training on cooperation, but they exhibit no concern for or interest in power.

oi to power obsession

Libertarian municipalism, by contrast, is concerned with power – and who will have it. How can power be acquired and communally managed by the oppressed? In what libertarian institutions should it be collected? How does one move toward creating those institutions?


Popular assemblies, in my view, are the means by which direct democracy can be institutionalized. While anarchism has no politics, libertarian municipalism is intensely political. It is my hope that a libertarian municipalist program will resonate among responsible and thinking people who are concerned with where power will repose in a free and rational society.

oi.. so loaded

Libertarian municipalism is not only the end – the political infrastructure for the future society – but the means; a rare confluence of means and ends that has not been worked out in either Marxism or anarchism. Hence it is a matter of vital importance that when we run candidates to municipal elections, in order to achieve popular assemblies and confederal structures, they are as a matter of civic and political responsibility obliged to take office, or else there is no point in advocating a libertarian municipalist program. Thus to run candidates who will not occupy seats on city councils or similar institutions is to turn libertarian municipalism into a theater or propaganda for other ends. It does not show any true concern for how power will be institutionalized; indeed it makes a mockery of the potentialities of the municipality for creating an empowered people’s assembly.


*We are faced with a real dilemma. It is very difficult to govern or manage society from the “ground up” in an immensely populous and global world. ..Popular assemblies, which would ultimately validate laws and constitutions, **must operate with a deep sense of responsibility for one another by majority votes and within a framework that limits their right to walk out of a confederation without the consent of the majority of the entire confederation’s members.

*not if we imagine if we



I have come to the conclusion that these concerns merely float on the surface of a deeply flawed view of social reality. We must therefore clearly distinguish between anarchy and my ideas of libertarian municipalism. After 40 exhausting years in the anarchist scene, I’ve been forced to conclude that “anarchism” is more symptomatic of the decadence that marks the present era than a force in opposition to it.

everything to date.. marked by us being in sea world

It is my desire, in the time that I have left, to get out of the anarchist “loop” (as this generation likes to put it) before it turns into a noose and strangles me. I’ve tried to rescue a social anarchism, with social ecology and libertarian municipalism, from the rest of anarchism; but the response to these efforts have led me to conclude that this has been a failure among anarchists. With a few notable exceptions, they simply don’t want these ideas – and that is that. I would like to put all the distance I can between this scene and myself. Yet I would also like to believe that we can develop a synthesis of the best in Marx’s writings and in the anarchist tradition – a communalism that will be meaningful and relevant to serious, responsible people in the years ahead. This is the project that is now dearest to my heart, not an attempt to rescue movements and traditions that have been outlived by history.

oh my


6 – anarchism power & govt

The fact is that no society can exist without an orderly way of administering itself, which necessarily implies administration or regulation of some kind.

oi.. only in sea world/rat cage.. and/or as means of detox.. oh bruce alexander

undisturbed ecosystem

All states are governments, but not all governments are states. A government is a set of organized and responsible institutions that are minimally an active system of social and economic administration. *They handle the problems of living in an orderly fashion. A government may be a dictatorship; it may be a monarchy or a republican state; but it may also be a libertarian formation of some kind. **But without a rudimentary body of institutions to sort out the rights and duties of its members, hopefully in a democratic way, society would simply dissolve into a disorderly aggregation of individuals.

*aziz let go law et al

**carhart-harris entropy law.. undisturbed ecosystem.. taleb antifragile law et al

Indeed, the very notion of community is meaningless unless those who claim allegiance to it take on obligations that allow it to function, flourish, and meet everyone’s needs. Even self-government is therefore a form of government, for under systems of self-government community members contribute to its functioning. It is possible, and indeed necessary, for human beings to govern themselves in civilized and rational institutions. In fact, institutions as such are necessary for social organization.

oh my

Social revolutionaries have traditionally sought a social order that is concerned with “the administration of things, instead of the administration of men,” but people must first be organized institutionally in such a way that they can administer things. One, in effect, cannot be done without the other. Thus if a society is to socially own or control property, if it is to produce goods to meet the needs of all instead of allow profit for a few, if it is to organize a system of distribution so that all rather than an elite share equitably in the material means of life – then clearly definable administrative institutions have to be established that not only make them workable but also constrain irrational behavior. In short, forms of authority have to be created that are meant not to exploit or oppress human beings, but rather to ensure that some human beings are not exploited or oppressed by others and to ensure the means for acquiring the good life.

oi oi oi oi oi.. need to let go of any form of people telling other people what to do

Such institutions must exist in a society, even a libertarian one. Their absence would lead to a prevalence of chaos, disorder, instability, and disequilibrium – none of which necessarily has revolutionary or liberatory implications. That revolutions produce instability does not mean that instability is somehow a desirable condition or that it must produce a libertarian revolution. If “anarchy is the highest form of order,” as some anarchists have said, then it is also the highest form of administration and stability.



What kinds of governments, then, are not states? Tribal councils, town meetings, workers’ committees, soviets (in the original sense of the word), popular assemblies and the like are governments, and no amount of juggling with words can conceal that fact. They are organized institutions that serve generalized human needs, such as those of a revolutionary proletariat or peasantry, in a libertarian fashion. The end that a government serves, no less than its structure, is an integral part of its nature and definition.

we have no idea what our legit needs are..

A state, by contrast, is a government that is organized to serve the interests of a privileged and often propertied class at the expense of the majority. This historic rise of the state transformed governance into a malignant force for social development. When a government becomes a state – that is, a coercive mechanism for perpetuating class rule for exploitative purposes – it invariably acquires different institutional characteristics. First, its members are *professionalized to one degree or another, in order to separate them from the mass of the population and thereby impart to them an extraordinary status, which in turn renders them the full-time protectors of a ruling class. Second, the state, aided by **military and police functionaries, enjoys a monopoly over the means of violence. The members of a state’s armies and police may be drawn from the very classes they are organized to coerce – that is irrelevant; once they are separated from the population at large, uniformed, rigorously trained, disciplined, and placed in an explicit chain of command, they cease to belong to any class and become ***professional men and women of violence who are at the service of those who command them. The chain of command binds them together and places them at the disposal of their commanders.

*happens with any form of m\a\p

**happens w any form of m\a\p.. structural violence et al

***inspectors of inspectors et al

The tendency of anarchists to classify all governments as states is a mischievous distortion (just as the tendency of anarchists to identify constitutions and laws as such with statism verges on the absurd). Both tendencies are the product of a radical ego-orientation that denies the need for any constraints – indeed, that unthinkingly sees all constraints as evil.


This issue is by no means an idle discussion. It played a pivotal role during the Spanish Revolution of 1936–37, a history that even has profound implications for the future of left libertarian theory and practice.


Pure anarchism seeks above all the emancipation of individual personality from all ethical, political, and social constraints. In so doing, it fails to address the concrete issue of power that confronts all revolutionaries in a period of social upheaval. Rather than address how the people, organized into confederated popular assemblies, might capture power and create a fully developed libertarian society, anarchists have traditionally conceived of power as a malignant evil that must be destroyed. Proudhon, for example, once stated that he would divide and subdivide power until, in effect, it ceased to exist. Proudhon may well have intended that government should be reduced to a minimal entity, but his statement perpetuates the illusion that power can actually cease to exist.

Spain revealed the inability of this anti-intellectual, anti-theoretical, and ego-oriented ideology (however sincere and radical its adherents) to cope with the compelling issues of power and social reconstitution.

oi.. sea world history perpetuating myth of tragedy and lord


Power always exists, and it must always be institutionalized – whether in democratic forms like popular assemblies, committees, and councils, or perniciously, in chiefdoms, aristocracies, monarchies, republics, dictatorships, and totalitarian regimes. To suggest that power can be abolished, and that “everyone” may come to feel “personally empowered,” is to play with psychological fallacies that have in the past led more than one libertarian movement to come to grief. Confusion over the nature of popular power contributed to popular disempowerment, and to the disempowerment of popular institutions such as the sectional assemblies of 1794, the revolutionary clubs of 1848, the neighborhood committees of 1871, the soviets of 1917, and the committees and assemblies of 1936.

That which is “pure” exists only within the confines of the laboratory and the workings of the human brain. *In the real world, where real people, animals, and plants live, impurity is unavoidable; any development, change, or dialectic yields new elements and phenomena that instantly adulterate a seemingly pure process. Many of the stark dictums historically posed by the Left have been shown to belie the authenticity of the real world, yielding false results for social expectations. During the classical period of socialism many Marxists believed it inevitable that socialism would be achieved; similarly, many anarchists believe it inevitable that freedom can emerge without being conditioned by necessity. Unless those of us on the libertarian left are to accept the absurd notion of a decivilized “autonomous individual,” we must concede that society cannot exist without organized institutions that abridge pure autonomy by situating the individual within contextual limitations.

*rather.. in sea world


Social revolutionaries, far from removing the problem of power from their field of vision, must address the problem of how to give power a concrete institutional emancipatory form. To be silent with respect to this question, and to hide behind superannuated ideologies that are irrelevant to the present overheated capitalist development, is merely to play at revolution, even to mock the memory of the countless militants who have given their all to achieve it.

oi.. 61 et al.. oh my


7 – the revolutionary politics of libertarian municipalism

Libertarian municipalism in no way compromises with parliamentarism, reformist attempts to “improve” capitalism, or the perpetuation of private property


libertarian municipalism is revolutionary to the core,


More specifically, it aims for the confederal linking of libertarian communist municipalities, in the form of directly democratic popular assemblies as well as the collective control or “ownership” of socially important property.

huge compromise.. not to the core


In terms of its history as a civilizing tendency in humanity’s development, the municipality is integrally part of the sweeping process whereby human beings began to dissolve biologically conditioned social relations based on real or fictitious blood ties, with their primordial hostility to “strangers,” and slowly replace them by largely social and rational institutions, rights, and duties that increasingly encompassed all residents of an urban space, irrespective of consanguinity and biological facts. ..The municipality, however slowly and incompletely, formed the necessary condition for human association based on rational discourse, material interest, and a secular culture, irrespective of and often in conflict with ancestral roots and blood ties. Indeed, the fact that people can come together peacefully and share creatively in the exchange of ideas without hostility or suspicion today, despite our disparate ethnic, linguistic, and national backgrounds, is a grand historic achievement of civilization, one that is the work of centuries involving a painful discarding of primordial definitions of ancestry, and the replacement of these archaic definitions by reason, knowledge, and a growing sense of our status as members of a common humanity.

oh my

In great part, this humanizing development was the work of the municipality – the increasingly free space in which people, as people, began to see each other realistically, steadily unfettered by archaic notions of biological consanguinity, tribal affiliations, and a mystical, tradition-laden, and parochial identity. I do not contend that this process of civilization has been completely achieved. Far from it. Without the existence of a rational society, the municipality can easily become a megalopolis, in which community, however secular, is replaced by atomization and an inhuman social scale beyond the comprehension of its citizens – indeed, becomes the space for class, racial, religious, and other irrational conflicts.


Hence the municipality is the potential arena for realizing the great goal of transforming parochialized human beings into truly universal human beings, a genuine humanitas, divested of the darker animalistic attributes of the primordial world. The rational municipality in which all human beings can be citizens – irrespective of their ethnic background and ideological convictions – constitutes the true arena of a communalist society.


I do not presume to claim that a confederation of libertarian municipalities – a Commune of communes – has ever existed in the past. Yet no matter how frequently I disclaim the existence of any historical “models” and “paradigms” for libertarian municipalities, my critics still try to saddle me with the many social defects of Athens, revolutionary New England towns, and the like, as if they were somehow an integral part of my “ideals.”


 they did exist and functioned with varying degrees of success for generations, if not centuries.


 Indeed, it is the extent to which public issues are openly discussed in a city or town that truly defines the neighborhood as an important political and power space.

oi.. meetings.. talking.. defining

The spaces for political life may be multiple, but they are generally highly specific and definable, not random or ad hoc.

oi.. aziz let go law.. carhart-harris entropy law.. taleb antifragile law.. et al


Libertarian municipalism is concerned with this political sphere, including aspects of basic civic importance, such as economic issues, as well as the many cultural factors that must play a role in the formation of true citizens, indeed, of rounded human beings.


In a very fundamental sense, the libertarian municipalist arena may be a school for educating its youth and its mature citizens;


We must bear in mind that the French revolutionary sections did not have any prior tradition on which to rest their claims to legitimacy

oh my

In doing so, we are direly in need of a movement – indeed, a responsible, well-structured, and programmatically coherent organization – that can provide the educational resources, means of mobilization, and vital ideas for achieving our libertarian communist and municipalist goals.

oi oi oi ..


But it always strives to physically as well as politically fragment the great cities, until it achieves the great anarchist-communist and even Marxian goal of scaling all cities to human dimensions.

not what we think.. ie: freeman structure law (?).. gillis on small scale.. et al

Having reviewed carefully the course of almost every major revolution in the Euro-American world, I can say with some knowledge that, even in a completely successful revolution, it was always a minority of the people who attended meetings of assemblies that made significant decisions about the fate of their society. ..Even after an uprising is successful, it takes time for a substantial majority of the people to fully participate in the revolutionary process, commonly as crowds in demonstrations, more rarely as participants in revolutionary institutions.



 The assemblies, regardless of their size, will have problems enough, without having to deal with indifferent bystanders and passersby. What counts is that the doors of the assemblies remain open for all who wish to attend and participate, for therein lies the true democratic nature of neighborhood assemblies.

oi.. let go of meeting ness.. need: curiosity over decision making et al.. imagine if we


What the critics might well ask – but seldom do – is how we are to prevent persuasive individuals from making demagogic attempts to control any popular assembly, regardless of size. In my view the only obstacle to such attempts is the existence of an organized body of revolutionaries – yes, even a faction – that is committed to seeking truth, exercising rationality, and advancing an ethics of public responsibility. Such a faction or organization will be needed, in my view, not only before and during a revolution but also after one, when the constructive problem of creating stable, enduring, and educational democratic institutions becomes the order of the day.

oi.. ie of structural violence et al


Hence, more than ever, any revolutionary left libertarian movement must, in my view, recognize the importance of the municipality as the locus of new, indeed often trans-class problems that cannot simply be reduced to the struggle between wage labor and capital. Real problems of environmental deterioration affect everyone in a community; real problems of social and economic inequities affect everyone in a community; real problems of health, education, sanitary conditions, and the nightmare, as Paul Goodman put it, of “growing up absurd” plague everyone in a community – problems that are even more serious today than they were in the alienated 1960s decade. These trans-class issues can bring people together with workers of all kinds in a common effort to seek their self-empowerment, an issue that cannot be resolved into the conflict of wage labor against capital alone.

oi.. those issues are irrelevant s/distractions..

growing up absurd et al

As parents and young people, they are concerned with the problems of acquiring an education, entering a profession, and the like. They are deeply disturbed by the decay of urban infrastructures, the diminution of inexpensive housing, and issues of urban safety and aesthetics. Their horizon extends far beyond the realm of the factory or even the office to the residential urban world in which they and their families live. After I had spent years working in factories, I was not surprised to find that I could reach workers, middle-class people, and even relatively affluent individuals more easily by discussing issues relating to their lived environments – their neighborhoods and cities – rather than to their workplaces.

irrelevant s/distractions..

need to quit reaching.. and listen


For the problem of globalization, there is no global solution. 

has to be global.. what we need is the energy of 8b alive people

humanity needs a leap.. to get back/to simultaneous spontaneity .. simultaneous fittingness.. everyone in sync..

Let me stress that when I speak of a moral economy, I am not advocating a communitarian or cooperative economy in which small profiteers, however well-meaning their intentions may be, simply become little “self-managed” capitalists in their own right. In my own community I have seen a self-styled “moral” enterprise, Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, grow in typical capitalist fashion from a small, presumably “caring,” and intimate enterprise into a global corporation, intent on making profit and fostering the myth that “capitalism can be good.” Cooperatives that profess to be moral in their intentions have yet to make any headway in replacing big capitalist concerns or even in surviving without themselves becoming capitalistic in their methods and profit-oriented in their goals.

problem with cooperatives ness.. just trying to replace capitalist concerns (aka: whales concerns et al)

Capitalist society has effects not only on economic and social relations but on ideas and intellectual traditions as well, indeed, on all of history, fragmenting them until knowledge, discourse, and even *reality become blurred, divested of any distinctions, specificity, and articulation. The culture that promotes this celebration of diffuseness and fragmentation – a culture that is epidemic in American colleges and universities – goes under the name of poststructuralism or, more commonly, postmodernism. Given its corrosive precepts, the postmodernist worldview is able to level or homogenize everything that is unique or distinctive, dissolving it into a low common denominator of ideas.

*oi.. rather sea world data blurred ..


If the word “citizen” applies to every existing thing, and if the word “community” embraces all relationships in this seemingly “green” world, then nothing, in fact, is a citizen or a community. Just as the logical category “Being” is rendered as mere existence, Being can only be regarded as interchangeable with “Nothing.” So, too, “citizen” and “community” become a universal passport to vacuity, not to uniquely civic conditions that have been forming and differentiating dialectically for thousands of years, through the ancient, medieval, and modern worlds. To reduce them to an abstract “community” is to ultimately negate their wealth of evolutionary forms and particularly their differentiation as sophisticated aspects of human freedom.

data from sea world.. perpetuating myth of tragedy and lord et al

As a revolutionary politics, libertarian municipalism must nonetheless be conceived as a process, a patient practice that will probably have only limited success at the present time, and even then only in select areas that can at best provide examples of the possibilities it could hold if and when it is adopted on a large scale. We will not create a libertarian municipalist society overnight, and in this era of counter-revolution we must be prepared to endure more failures than successes. Patience and commitment are traits that revolutionaries of the past cultivated assiduously; alas today, in our fast consumerist society, the demand for immediate gratification, for fast food and fast living, inculcates a demand for fast politics. Individuals who are prone to adopt a fast lifestyle over one that acknowledges the need for slow growth, with all its disappointments, would do well to learn the art of throwing bricks and painting graffiti rather than commit themselves to the educational responsibilities required by a libertarian municipalist movement. What should count for us is whether libertarian municipalism is a rational means for achieving the rational culmination of human development, not whether it is suitable as a quick fix for present social problems.


humanity needs a leap.. to get back/to simultaneous spontaneity .. simultaneous fittingness.. everyone in sync..


Nor should we fetishize consensus over democracy in our decision-making processes. Consensus, as I have argued, is practicable with very small groups in which people know each other intimately. But in larger groups it becomes tyrannical because it allows a small minority to decide what will be the practice of a large or even sizable majority; and it fosters homogeneity and stagnation in ideas and policies. Minorities and their factions are the indispensable yeast for maturing new ideas – and nearly all new ideas start out as the views of minorities. In a libertarian group, the “rule” of the majority over a minority is a myth; no one expects a minority to give up its unpopular beliefs or to yield its right to argue its views – but the minority must have patience and allow a majority decision to be put into practice. This experience and the discussion it generates should be the most decisive element in impelling a group or assembly to reconsider its decision and adopt the minority’s viewpoint, spurring on the further innovation of practices and ideas as other minorities emerge. Consensus decision-making can easily produce intellectual and practical stagnation if it essentially compels a majority to forgo a specific policy in order to please a minority.

need to let go of decision making.. it is unmooring us


Among the other issues we must at some point consider are the place of law or nomos in a libertarian municipalist society, as well as constitutions that lay down important principles of right or justice and freedom. *Are we to vest the perpetuation of our guiding principles simply in blind custom, or in the good nature of our fellow humans – which allows for a great deal of arbitrariness? For centuries oppressed peoples demanded written founding constitutional provisions to protect them from arbitrary oppression by the nobility. With the emergence of a libertarian communist society, this problem does not disappear. For us, I believe, the question can never be whether law and constitutions are inherently “authoritarian,” but whether they are rational, mutable, secular, and restrictive only in the sense that they prohibit the abuse of power.

*yeah that..


Finally, we must assert the historic right of speculative reason – *resting on the real potentialities of human beings as we know them from the past as well as the present – to project itself beyond the immediate environment in which we live, indeed, to claim that the present irrational society is not the actual – or “real” – that is worthy of the human condition. Despite its prevalence – and, to many people, its permanence – the present society is untrue to the project of fulfilling humanity’s potentiality for freedom and self-consciousness, and hence it is unreal in the sense that it is a betrayal of the claims of humanity’s greatest qualities, the capacity for reason and innovation.

not legit data.. all like collecting data from sea world

oi.. greatest capacities.. oi..


But where change exists, so too do possibilities. The times cannot remain as they are – any more than the world can be frozen into immobility. What we can hope to do is to preserve the thread of rationality that distinguishes true civilization from barbarism – and barbarism would indeed be the outcome of a world that is permitted to tumble into a future without rational activity or guidance. For those who will a world of freedom and self-consciousness, there can be no accommodation with the status quo.



8 – the future of the left


How, in short, did it come to pass that the classical era, marked by its coherence and unity in revolutionary thought and practice, gave way to a completely decadent era in which incoherence is celebrated, particularly in the name of a postmodernism that equates chaotic nihilism with freedom, self-expression, and creativity – not unlike the chaos of the marketplace itself?

carhart-harris entropy law et al


It consistently adopted reformist programs designed to gain higher wages, shorter working days, longer vacations, and improved working conditions until thunderous events drove it to revolutionary action – together, it should be added, with non-proletarian strata. Virtually none of the classical socialist movements, it is worth noting, appealed to the workers as people, such as parents, city dwellers, brothers and sisters, and individuals trying to live decent lives in a decent environment for themselves and their offspring.

supposed to’s of school/work et al.. all whales


Most conventional Marxist theorists to the contrary, the worker is first of all a human being, not simply the embodiment of “social labor” that is definable in strictly class terms. The failure of classical socialism to make a human and civic appeal to the worker – even to seriously consider him or her as more than a class being – created a warped relationship between socialist organizations and their alleged “constituency.” ..The attempt to redefine the proletariat and make it a majority of a national population lost all credibility when capitalism began to create a huge “salariat” of office employees, managers, sales people, and an army of service, engineering, advertising, media, and governmental personnel who see themselves as a new middle class deeply invested in bourgeois property through stocks, bonds, real estate, pensions, and the like, however minor these may seem by comparison with the big bourgeoisie.

bs jobs from birth.. f & b & dm same law.. et al


This revelatory interpretation of how Anarchy makes its appearance in the world lies at the core of the anarchist vision. Anarchy, it would appear, has always been “there,” as Isaac Puente, the most important theorist of Spanish anarchism in the 1930s, put it, save that it was concealed over the ages by an historically imposed layer of institutions, entrenched experiences, and values that are typified by the state, civilization, history, and morality. Somehow, it must merely be restored from its unsullied past like a hidden geological stratum.

kind of about sea world.. but deeper.. not geo stratum.. but already on each heart


Can there be action without theory and insight into the nature of social ills and an understanding of the measures needed to resolve them? Can the activist even act meaningfully and effectively without drawing upon the rich body of experiences and ideas that have grown up over the years and that can show us the dangerous pitfalls that lie below the surface, or the many strategies that have been tested by earlier generations?

not if all data is from sea world.. we need a legit re\set

In what likely directions is capitalist society developing in the coming century, and what are the most basic problems it is raising for humanity? Is there any special sector, class, or group in society to which we must appeal if we are to hope to create a revolutionary movement? .. This mystification has not entirely been dispelled, but even so we must ask: which part of society can play a leading role in radical change today?

has to be all of us.. or the dance won’t dance

ie: imagine if we


Not only workers but the public must be educated in the reality that our emerging ecological problems stem from our irrational society.

oi.. intellect ness et al


A revolutionary Left that seeks to advance from protest demonstrations to revolutionary demonstrations must resolutely confront the problem of organization. I speak here not of ad hoc planning groups but rather of the creation and maintenance of an organization that is enduring, structured, and broadly programmatic. Such an organization constitutes a definable entity and must be structured around lasting and formal institutions to make it operational; it must contain a responsible membership that firmly and knowledgeably adheres to its ideals; and it must advance a sweeping program for social change that can be translated into everyday practice. ..The organization’s program must be the product of a reasoned analysis of the fundamental problems that face society, their historical sources and theoretical fundaments, and the clearly visible goals that follow from the potentialities and realities for social change.


One of the greatest problems that revolutionaries in the past faced (from the English revolutionaries in the seventeenth century to the Spanish in the twentieth) was their failure to create a resolute, well-structured, and fully informed organization with which to counter their reactionary opponents. Few uprisings expand beyond the limits of a riot without the guidance of a knowledgeable leadership. The myth of the purely spontaneous revolution can be dispatched by a careful study of past uprisings (as I have attempted in my own work on The Third Revolution). Even in self-consciously libertarian organizations, leadership always existed, even in the form of “influential militants,” spirited men and women who constituted the nuclei around which crowds transformed street protests into outright insurrections.

oi oi oi


By contrast, the bourgeoisie and its statesmen knew only too well how to organize themselves, thanks to their considerable experience as entrepreneurs, political leaders, and military commanders. But the workers too often lacked the knowledge and experience so vital to developing an overview. It remains a tragic irony that insurrections that were not defeated outright by superior military forces often froze into immobility once they took power from their class enemies and rarely took the organizational steps necessary to retain their power. Without a theoretically trained and militant organization that had developed a broad social vision of its tasks and could offer workers practical programs for completing the revolution that they had initiated, revolutions quickly fell apart for lack of further action. Their supporters, zealous at the outset and for a brief period afterward, soon floundered, became demoralized for want of a thoroughgoing program, lost their élan, and then were crushed physically.


Every revolution, indeed, even every attempt to achieve basic social change, will always meet with resistance from the elites in power. *Every effort to defend a revolution will require the amassing of power – physical as well as institutional and administrative – which is to say, the creation of a government. Anarchists may call for the abolition of the state, **but coercion of some kind will be necessary to prevent the bourgeois state from returning in full force with unbridled terror.

*whalespeak.. **rather .. org around legit needs.. gershenfeld something else law et al


Law as such is not necessarily oppressive: indeed, for thousands of years the oppressed demanded laws, as nomos, *to prevent arbitrary rule and the “tyranny of structurelessness.” In the free municipality, law must always be rationally, discursively, and openly derived and subject to careful consideration. At the same time we must continually be aware of **regulations and definitions that have harnessed oppressed humanity to their oppressors.

*oi.. freeman structure law (?) et al

**ie: any form of m\a\p


reactionary .. reinforces the existing social order

that’s what any form of m\a\p does

david on creative refusal included.. et al

The ills that currently exist, however troubling, seem correctable without challenging the premises of the existing society. 

part\ial ness is killing us.. for (blank)’s sake


Radically new technologies, still difficult to imagine, will undoubtedly be introduced that will have a transformative effect upon the entire world

ie: tech as it could be

But no greater damage could afflict human consciousness than the loss of the Enlightenment program: the advance of reason, knowledge, science, ethics, and even technics, which must be modulated to find a progressive place in a free and humane society. Without the attainments of the Enlightenment, no libertarian revolutionary consciousness is possible. In assessing the revolutionary tradition, a reasoned Left has to shake off dead traditions that, as Marx warned, weigh on the heads of the living, and to commit itself to create to a rational society and a rounded civilization. A Marxism that retains a meaningless focus on proletarian hegemony, and an anarchism that has never stirred the “soil” beneath the “snow” of reason, civilization, and technics, may well serve to make irrelevant the components of past revolutionary ideologies that are still vital, components whose lasting achievements our time greatly needs.

oi.. whalespeak


9 – toward a communalist approach


Anarchism (which should not be confused with syndicalism and communism) in its pure form meant little more than unrelenting resistance to and protest against attempts by society and particularly the state to confine individual liberty. It appealed mainly to marginal, déclassé elements, ranging from the dispossessed to idiosyncratic artists and writers.

let’s do this first: free art\ists via the idiosyncratic jargon in self-talk as data


Communalism is in every way a decidedly political body of ideas that seeks to recover the city or commune in accordance with its greatest historical traditions, and to advance its development. It seeks to create popular assemblies as vital decision-making arenas for civic life. It advances a civic ethics predicated on reason, and a municipalized economy.. In advancing these goals, communalism seeks to actualize the traits that potentially make us human.

oi.. any form of m\a\p keeps us from us

 These ad hoc, often chaotic and “spontaneous” anarchic escapades in autonomy, even in “temporary autonomous zones,” usually express individualistic, indeed egocentric, impulses that in practice lead to demands for the unrestricted rights of sovereign individuals without requiring of them any obligatory duties. Anarchists and their affines often dismiss obligations of any sort as authoritarian or worse. But one of the great maxims of the First International, to which all factions subscribed, was Marx’s slogan: “No Rights Without Duties, No Duties Without Rights.” In a free society, as revolutionaries of all kinds generally understood, we would enjoy freedoms (“rights”), but we would also have responsibilities (“duties”) we would have to exercise. The concept of individual autonomy becomes meaningless when it denies the obligations that every individual owes to society as social responsibilities.

oi.. rights ness and obligation ness

Pragmatically, a communalist polity requires a written constitution and, yes, regulatory laws, to avoid a structurelessness that would yield mindless anarchy. The more defined the rights and duties of citizens are, the more easily can they be upheld as part of the general interest against the intrusion of petty tyrannies. It is not the clarity of definitions that has oppressed humanity; rather, wrong definitions have been used cannily to uphold privilege and domination. Indeed, constitutions and laws served to free the ancient bondsman of arbitrary despotism and even women of patriarchal control. From the earliest times oppressed peoples have raised the demand for constitutions and laws; in their absence “barons” (to use Hesiod’s term in the seventh century BCE) arbitrarily inflicted rule and terror on the masses. Anarchist demands to eliminate law as such, without providing for substantive ways to avoid the oppressions of structurelessness and arbitrary behavior, have produced mayhem and tyranny more reliably than liberty and autonomy. Historically, constitutions and laws have indeed been oppressive, often grossly so, but this raises the question of their content, not the fact of their existence. Indeed, only a peculiarly egocentric mentality will assume that a rationally constituted society and a rationally formulated body of laws must necessarily violate personal autonomy and hence social freedom. Nothing more clearly sheds light on the individualistic basis of present-day anarchism and its Proudhonesque origins than this personalistic fear of any limitation on individual behavior. Taking recourse to biologistic “instinct” as a guide to a libertarian lifestyle, rooting freedom in human nature and in prehistory, anarchists inadvertently petrify freedom rather than ensure it.

oi.. any form of m\a\p perpetuates myth of tragedy and lord


To reduce constitutions and laws ipso facto to trammels that bind free will is to make a mockery not only of reason but of humaneness – for what remains of the human being, after this reduction, is little more than animality and biology.


Communalism, in effect, declares that each individual should act with full regard for the needs of all, and that democracy decidedly includes the rights of a dissenting minority to freely and fully express itself. Within a confederation over broader regional areas the decisions of individual assemblies merge with those of all the assemblies; thus the popular decisions of the entire confederation are taken as a single assembly.

oi.. rather .. that’s seat at the table ness.. public consensus always oppresses someone(s)

Assuredly, a failure to deal rationally and humanely with necessity, which cannot be evaded in any aspect of life, is the most certain path to oppression and worse. Pure anarchism, whose crude individualism regards the ego as a natural entity rather than a socially formed subject, tends to negate everything about capitalist society and seek out its opposite without any qualifications, as though a libertarian society is the mere negation of bourgeois society. In its most extreme form, this express individualism demands the disbanding of society as such; hence the fascination of so many anarchist writers with primitivism, their technophobic outlook, their aversion to regulation of any kind, and indeed their hatred of necessity.

need: means to undo our hierarchical listening so we can org around legit needs

Communalism demands great advances in theory (not its denigration) as well as permanent activity (in the form of firmly established institutions, deeply rooted in a community and marked by their continuity) – not ad hoc escapades that dissipate after a demonstration, riot, or the establishment of a “temporary autonomous zone.” If activism is reduced to demonstrations, riots, and TAZs, then revolution is nothing but a few hours of frolicking, after which the real authority of the state and ruling class takes over. Capitalism has nothing to fear from frolicking; indeed, its fashion designers and lifestyle specialists are only too eager to turn juvenile expressions of dissent into highly merchandisable commodities.

also has nothing to fear from any form of m\a\p


No less disturbing is the passion that many devotees of pure anarchism exhibit for consensus as a form of decision-making. The veneration of individual autonomy can become so radical that it would permit no majority, no matter how large, to override even “a majority of one,” as some anarchist writers have put it. In this extreme fetishization of individualism, the core anarchic concept of the all-sovereign ego stands, in all its splendor, against the wishes of the majority. By permitting the self-sufficient ego, by its merest inclinations, to override the wishes of the community, anarchism becomes untenable. Coordinated political organization become impossible,

oi.. need to listen to every voice.. (every itch-in-the-soul) .. everyday.. to be legit free

ie: imagine if we

The establishment of an organization places certain constraints on the autonomy of its members, but that in itself does not necessarily make it authoritarian. “Libertarian organization” is not a contradiction in terms. In the early twentieth century leading Spanish anarchists had opposed the very formation of the CNT because it was an organization and as such demanded of its members the fulfillment of onerous duties. But organization as such is not authoritarian.

well.. yeah it does.. yeah it is.. any form of m\a\p

To begin with, politically concerned individuals who feel the need to explore communalist ideas and practices may form a study group in a given neighborhood or town. The study groups seek to inform and develop those interested in social and political change into fully competent individuals and leaders. At a time when the knowledge of philosophy, history, and social theory has retreated appallingly, the objects of study may range from immediate political issues to the great intellectual traditions of the past. Minimally, however, the group should give social theory and the history of ideas pronounced attention, particularly insofar as these subjects enlarge members’ understanding of a municipalist approach to democracy and social change.

oi to intellect ness et al.. history ness..

The study groups, whose members are by now composed of individuals who are committed to a serious exploration of ideas, should begin to function within the neighborhood, town, or city in which they are located. They seek to enter and remain in the public domain – to be a continual revolutionary presence by virtue of their ideas, their emphasis on organization, their methods, and their goals. Communalists refuse to withdraw from the public domain in the name of individual sovereignty, artistic expression, or self-absorption. They wear no ski masks, either metaphorically or physically, and do not allow mindless dogmatic assumptions and simplifications to stand in their way. They are always accessible and transparent, involved and responsible. They can be expected to establish a well-informed, carefully structured organization, if possible with neighborhood branches.

oi.. all the red flags.. all the whalespeak


The organization’s goals should be carefully formulated into a concrete program, based on communalist principles, that consistently demands the formation of policy-making municipal popular assemblies. As a component of a minimum program, no issue is too *trivial for communalists to ignore, be it transportation, recreation, education, welfare, zoning, environment, housing, public safety, democracy, civil rights, and the like. The primacy that communalists give to the establishment and development of popular assemblies does not mean that they ignore other issues of concern to the citizenry. To the contrary they resolutely *fight – both within municipal institutions and outside them – for all steps to improve civic life in their communities and elsewhere. On specific issues, such as globalization, environmental problems, ethnic and gender discrimination, communalist organizations freely enter into coalitions with other organizations to engage in common struggles, but they should never surrender their ideological or organizational independence or their claim to their own independent action. Their identity, ideas, and institutions are their most precious possessions and must never be impugned in the interests of “unity.”

*trivial/fighting ? rather.. distracting.. oi

The communalist organization, while always retaining its identity and program, initiates regular public forums to engage in discursive, face-to-face democratic exploration of ideas – partly to spread its program and basic ideas and partly to create public spaces that provide venues for radical civic debate, until actual popular assemblies can be established. While it will clearly become involved in local issues, its primary focus should be the public domain where real power is vested: municipal elections, which allow for a close association between communalist candidates (for city councils or their equivalents) and the people.

oh my

The ablest members of the communalist organization should stand in municipal elections and call for the changing of city charters so as to legally empower the municipal assemblies. The new communalist organization should expressly seek to be elected to municipal positions with a view to using charter or extralegal changes to significantly shift municipal power from existing state-like and seemingly representative institutions to popular assemblies as embodiments of direct democracy. Where no city charter exists that can be changed electorally, communalists should attempt (both educationally and organizationally) to convene direct democratic assemblies on an extralegal basis, exercising moral pressure on statist institutions, in the hope that people will, in time, regard them as authentic centers of public power with the expectation that they can thereby gain structural power. Communalism never compromises by advocating delegated or statist institutional structures, and in contrast to organizations such as the Greens, it refuses to exist within the institutional cage of the nation-state or to try to gild it with reforms that ultimately simply make the state more palatable.

any form of m\a\p as cage.. so.. all the above.. all of history.. oi

life/living not about debate/discussion/decision making


A communalist group or movement that refuses to run candidates in municipal elections where it can, and thereby removes its focus on the centers of institutionalized municipal power, will shrivel into an ad hoc, rootless, sporadic, polymorphous form of anarchic protest and quickly fade away. It will be communalist in name only, not in content. It is concerned not with the locus of power but with mere defiance at best, which leads nowhere or terminates in frolicking with the system at worst. In the communalist vision, public assemblies in confederation are a means for destroying the state and capitalism, as well as the embodiments of a rational society. To hop from demonstration to demonstration without attempting to recreate power in the form of public assemblies by taking control of city councils (which means practicing politics in opposition to parliamentary statecraft) is to make a mockery of communalism

oh my murray

An advanced, highly conscious political organization should provide leadership, yet always retaining its independence institutionally and functionally. By the same token, not everyone in an organization has the same level of experience, knowledge, wisdom, and leadership ability. Leadership that is not formalized will be informal, but it will not disappear. Many individuals in revolutionary groups were outright leaders, whose views had more significance than others; it is a disservice to perpetuate the deception that they were simply “influential militants.” Leadership always exists, however much libertarians try to deny the fact by concealing its existence beneath euphemisms.

oi.. expert in the room et al..


Finally, communalism is not simply a vehicle for establishing a communalist polity and the appropriate institutions. It is also an outlook that includes a philosophical approach to reality as well as society and toward the natural world as well as human development. It contends that the ongoing crisis in our culture and values stems not from an overabundance of civilization but from an insufficiency of it. It defends technological development, used rationally and morally, as reducing labor and creating free time that potentially allows citizens to participate in public affairs, time for creativity, a reasonable abundance in the means of life, and even, in a rational and ecological society, the ability to improve upon the impact of natural forces. Post-scarcity abundance (not to be confused with the mindless consumerism fostered by capitalism) must be wisely tempered and controlled by municipal assemblies and the free confederal institutions that an emancipated society can create.







bey articles

hakim bey: articles on hakim bey from ceasefire magazine (2017-19 – andy robinson) 121 pgs via kindle version from anarchist library.. []

intro’d while reading anarchy after leftism

Peter Lamborn Wilson (October 20, 1945 – May 22, 2022) was an American anarchist author and poet, primarily known for his concept of Temporary Autonomous Zones, short-lived spaces which elude formal structures of control. During the 1970s, Wilson lived in the Middle East, where he explored mysticism and translated Persian texts. Starting from the 1980s he wrote (under the pen name of Hakim Bey) numerous political writings, illustrating his theory of “ontological anarchy”. His style of anarchism has drawn criticism for its emphasis on individualism and mysticism, as did some of his writings where he defended pederasty.

Andy McLaverty-Robinson is a political theorist and activist based in the UK. He is the co-author (with Athina Karatzogianni) of Power, Resistance and Conflict in the Contemporary World: Social Movements, Networks and Hierarchies (Routledge, 2009). He has recently published a series of books on Homi Bhabha. His ‘In Theory’ column appears every other Friday.




1 – intro


Discussing mystical poetry in Scandal, Bey/Wilson argues that insight starts with a moment of pure intuition of the unity of being. This happens at the level of the heart or spirit. It quickly begins to form into archetypal images, which the poet then arranges into organised form.

need to get back to original/ongoing itch-in-the-soul.. let go of org forms


The poet seeks to draw the listener towards the altered state of consciousness the poet wishes to invoke. ..He offers readers a playful, poetic style of politics in which nothing is fixed in place and everything is open to re-use. Indeed, he seems to offer his work to readers in this way – as a collection of items from which readers can borrow or steal at will. His writing style sometimes imitates William S. Burroughs’ cut-up technique. Hence, something goes missing when I summarise his ideas in prosaic form – unlike some theorists, there is no substitute for reading the original.

As readers will have noticed, my own preferred writing style is direct and literal. I sometimes criticise academic writers for unnecessarily complex, poetic presentation which interferes with communication. In Bey’s case, however, his style complements the substance of his work. In Scandal, writing as Wilson, he suggests that representational language is too easy, and says too little of importance. It activates one area of consciousness to the exclusion of others – intellect rather than intuition. Only poetry and story can speak to consciousness as a whole. Art is the language of rebirth or transformation. It is associated with open-mindedness. On the other hand, prose writing is associated with closed systems of thought. Once an idea or image acquires representational or prose forms, it tends to fixate on categories. It creates polemics, dualisms and definitions. It stops expanding percpetions. Dogmatic systems are composed of ideas, not images. If Bey/Wilson is right, then the difficulty with some poststructuralists is not their use of poetic style as such. It’s the fact that the style is image-light, and seeks to frustrate readers rather than open their minds.


For instance, Leonard Williams sees Bey’s work as exemplary of a shift in anarchism from a focus on the state to a political culture of alternative living and aesthetic practice. This practice claims to be a triumph of life over dogma. He suggests that Bey’s theory avoids political and educational purpose. Instead it draws on artistic expressivism, emphasising themes of art, imagination, immediacy and experience. Bey’s approach to all belief-systems, including anarchism, is to seek to channel their vital energy – their ‘life-forces, daring, intransigence, anger, heedlessness‘ – while discarding their spooks, or fixed categories. This leads to an approach in which he loots or appropriates from different theories and traditions, without endorsing their foundational assumptions. Bey terms this ‘cultural bricolage‘, or as ‘thieving‘, or ‘hunting and gathering’, in an informational world. He takes, for instance, passion from revolutionary socialism, grace and ease from monarchism, self-overcoming or higher awareness from mysticism.


A non-standard type of self or subject is at the heart of this process. In order to perform acts of bricolage, there must be some kind of selecting self. But this is not necessarily an ego associated with a spook. The self is the Stirnerian Unique One, irreducible to categories. In Bey’s work, the Unique One is associated with the higher Self of mystical and spiritual traditions. Yet Bey also suggests that the Unique One paradoxically requires the Other, as a witness or key to holism. In his approach, the ideal is that the process of bricolage is driven by desire. Bey’s work is deliberately inspirational. He seeks to cause hearers or readers to reach for happiness, to purge barriers to freedom, and to open themselves to difference.


notes to readers: Hakim Bey/Peter Lamborn Wilson is a controversial figure due to his apparent support for child sexual abuse. While there is some disagreement over what exactly he believes, it is clear that at the very least, he has provided apologia for child sexual abuse. I believe he takes this position seriously, and is not just engaged in playful provocation as some supporters claim. In my view, his position is inconsistent with his wider positions on sexual consent and abuse, and on children’s liberation. I believe Wilson/Bey is wrong on this question. However, most of the theorists covered in this column take at least one position which is oppressive or problematic (Aristotle supported slavery, Bakunin was anti-Semitic, Aquinas was homophobic, Althusser killed his wife…). If I required purity on all issues of oppression from all the theorists I write on, and effectively ‘no-platformed’ any theorist who might be complicit in one or more oppressions, I would have to exclude the overwhelming majority of historical thinkers. I have therefore generally refrained from omitting thinkers from the series based on single oppressive position, if I feel their theory is otherwise useful. I also believe that the inner structure of a theorist’s thought – the “problematic” or “theoretical machine” which drives the generation of ideas – is separable from the historical personage who formulates the thought. I believe the rest of Bey’s theory can be used, without entailing endorsement of sexual abuse. Bey’s position, and the problems with it, will be examined in detail in part 15, where I also explain in more detail my disagreements with some of Bey’s critics and defenders, and my rejection of a ‘no-platform’ position towards his work.


2 – chaos never died

Chaos, Bey tells us, is ‘continuous creation’. He also repeatedly states that ‘Chaos never died‘. Chaos has survived the supposed foundation of order. It is a basic ontological reality we should embrace and celebrate.

instigating utopia everyday

Chaos is something prior to thought and social construction. Bey conceives Chaos as a creative potential underlying all reality. It means that living things can generate their own spontaneous orders..t It also undercuts the legitimacy of all hegemonic and hierarchical systems. Bey suggests that something comes into thought which consciousness attempts to structure. The structure appears to be the foundational level, but it isn’t. This analysis rules out representation, but not thought as such. Indeed, thought and images are both important. Letters or hieroglyphs are both thoughts and images. Bey celebrates a type of in-betweenness which deals with both thought and images.

carhart-harris entropy law.. graeber unpredictability/surprise law.. et al

Chaos is primary over order. In fact, order is an illusion. We are always in chaos, but sometimes we fall for the lie that order exists. This lie leads to alienation..t The world is real, but consciousness is also real since it has real effects. In one passage, Bey suggests that the self cannot produce things, nor be produced. Everything simply is what it is, spontaneously. In ‘The Information War’, Bey argues that information is chaos, knowledge is spontaneous ordering from chaos, and freedom is surfing the wave of that spontaneity. He counterposes this view to the gnostic dualism of those who use information (or spirit) to deny the body. Instead he seeks a ‘great complex confusion’ of body and spirit.

humanity needs a leap.. to get back/to simultaneous spontaneity .. simultaneous fittingness.. everyone in sync..


The zone of altered consciousness is also the zone of hybridity, the zone where the boundaries provided by interpretive categories break down.. Psychological liberation consists in actualising, or bringing into being, spaces where freedom actually exists. This is not something unimaginably other. Bey suggests that many of us have attended parties which have become a brief ‘republic of gratified desires’. The qualitative force of even such a brief moment is sometimes greater than the power of the state. It provides meaning, and attracts desire and intensity. Similar claims are made elsewhere in post-left anarchy. For instance, Feral Faun suggests that we all knew this kind of intensity in childhood..t

not yet scrambled ness

The only viable government is that of attraction or love among chaotic forces. Only desire creates values. Values arise from the turbulent, chaotic process of forming relations. Such values are based on abundance, not scarcity, and are the opposite of the dominant morality. Bey describes ‘peak experiences‘ as value-formative on an individual level. They transform everyday life and allow values to be changed or ‘revalued’. Creative powers arise from desire and imagination, and allow people to create values. Catastrophe has negative connotations today, but it originally meant a sudden change, and such a change is sometimes desirable.


(In a sense, if everything is chaos, oneness, or becoming, then nothing of a categorisable type is real in any case). What matters is the role of these figures, and belief in them, in producing altered consciousness and intensity.

marsh label law et al


For Bey, techniques and technologies are associated with ‘action at a distance’. Technology is a kind of magic. 


Bey suggests that the basic principle after the system is destroyed would be freedom from coercion of individuals or groups by others.. The ‘revolutionary desire‘ of freely acting people would then arrive at the appropriate level of technology.. t

need: means to undo our hierarchical listening.. ie: tech as it could be

mufleh humanity law et al


Later, however, in Riverpeople, Bey/Wilson has come round to the view that people were ‘meant to live’ like indigenous hunter-gatherers or gardeners. This is the high stage of human development – not today’s ‘Civilisation’. Hunter-gatherers may know hunger, but not scarcity. He calls for a return to gathering, hunting, or swidden (slash-and-burn) cultivation, and the renunciation of literacy.

jensen civilization law.. garden-enough ness

In Shower of Stars, Bey argues that hunter-gatherers have a way of thought based on the generosity of the material bodily principle, similar to peasant carnivals. He also argues that wilderness can be recovered. Even if it has disappeared today, it can be restored or summoned back. We need to forget (but not forgive) the system, and become radically other to it, remembering our ‘prophetic selves’ and bodies.

imagine if we


3 – bey: chaos, altered consciousness, and peak experiences

A TAZ is a case of life ‘spending itself in living‘, rather than simply surviving. It can entail risking the abyss. This position involves a particular kind of affective politics. Bey clearly sees boredom or lack of meaning as the major problem in contemporary life.

Awareness of chaos is intensified by altered states of consciousness and intense experiences, including those arising from psychedelic drugs, shamanism, meditation, and aestheticised living. Such practices are ways of sucking everything present into the Other World, the spiritual or chaotic world. They are attempts to reconnect with ‘original intimacy‘, prior to cognition..t Without such ‘higher states of consciousness‘, anarchism dries up in resentment and misery. Hence the need for an anarchism both mystical and practical. Bey lists a wide range of possible sources of such intense, unmediated perception, including inspiration, danger, architecture, drink and sexuality. 

getting back to not yet scrambled ness.. to carhart-harris entropy law et al.. proprioception


This idleness, ‘natural to childhood, must be strenuously defended’. Bey effectively calls for us to avoid being broken-in by capitalism, to remain in or return to a childhood orientation to play and immediacy. 

1 yr to be 5 ness..

Bey suggests that language does not have to be representational. The structure of language may turn out to be chaotic, or complex and dynamic. Grammar might be a strange attractor, rather than a structuring law. Language is a bridge (of translation or metaphor) and not a structure of resemblance. Language should be ‘angelic‘ – similar to the figure of the angel as messenger or intermediary. It should carry magic between self and other. Instead it is infected with a virus of sameness and alienation. This virus is the source of the master-signifier in language..t

language as control/enclosure

need: let go enough for idiosyncratic jargon ness..

In many ways, Bey’s work can be understood as a theory of alienation. Alienation (whether social, psychological or ecological) separates us from awareness of, and life in, ontological chaos. For instance, belief in order leads to normativities of good and evil, body-shame, and so on. The family is criticised for encouraging miserliness with love. Christianity, even in its liberationist variants, is condemned. The point is to seize back presence from the absence created by abstraction. Life belongs neither to past nor future, but to the present. Idealised pasts and futures are rejected as barriers to presence. Time can become authentic and chaotic by being released from planned grids..t

let’s do this first


Everything becomes equally meaningless. Negative consciousness is a predictable effect of the present system. But for Bey it is a kind of ‘spook-sickness’ caused by alienation. It serves the status quo, because it keeps people afraid, and reliant on leaders for salvation. This makes attacks on leaders seem stupid..t It creates a binary between pointless action and sensible passivity. This argument is similar to my own work on theories of constitutive lack.


Bey, following Bob Black, favours the abolition of work. . Bey thinks that relations among autonomous beings might find ways of working themselves out. 

abolition of work.. undisturbed ecosystem ness


4 – bey: alienation and state

Bey’s work is thoroughly anti-capitalist. Critics sometimes miss this fact because of Bey’s unusual terminology. He rarely talks about ‘capitalism’. Nevertheless, his theory is clearly directed at a more-or-less unitary adversary, identifiable as capitalism or modern society. Bey seeks to challenge the whole system, rather than be distracted by any particular issue. He does not see power as localised, diffuse, or irrelevant. In this column and elsewhere, I’ve generally paraphrased Bey using the words ‘system’ and ‘Spectacle’. In fact, Bey tends not to talk about the system in such general terms. He assumes it in the background of his theory. When he names it at all, he uses terms like ‘consensus reality’, ‘scarcity’, and ‘images’. Sometimes, Bey uses the Hegelian term ‘Totality‘ to refer to what he considers the false consensus expressed on behalf of society. He also sometimes uses the term Spectacle, derived from Situationism. Other times, Bey refers to the Planetary Work Machine (from P.M.’s Bolo’Bolo), or to Empire (from Hardt and Negri. While these terms don’t necessarily connote a dominant system for some readers, they are used in a way which clearly refers to a systemic structure. In a related discussion, Sellars suggests that Bey’s view of the system is basically Debord’s.

michael hardt antonio negri et al

Bey’s theory of capitalism draws heavily on the Situationist idea of the Spectacle. This approach sees capitalism as a type of life mediated by images. Bey similarly sees the system as a regime in which images dominate life. If someone is within ‘consensus thought’, they accept the dominant beliefs of the current system. For example, they only recognise the existence of things that are represented, not those that are present. Representing something (within the Spectacle) makes it ‘semiotically richer but existentially impoverished’. This process gives something a more symbolic meaning, but a less emotional or lived meaning. A represented thing becomes a potential commodity. This, in turn, destroys the existential meaning of objects, especially those which produce altered consciousness. Take an example such as dance music. As part of a rave, it is hard to represent. At the same time, it generates intense energy, such as ecstatic experiences and collective bonding. Now suppose the same music is recorded, sold, and classified. It gains symbolic meaning. It becomes easier to name, categorise and compare with other things. But it loses some of its emotional meaning. It is no longer part of the context of intense practice.

representation as red flag et al


Capitalism is emptiness – what Bey in a poem terms a ‘lukewarm necromantic vacuum of dephlogisticated corpse breath’. It is figured archetypally as death, rather than life or joy. For instance, the dead were the first to get privatised space and to invest in futures.


The structure of social life, which really makes everyone miserable, goes unnoticed.. People can be subordinated and captured through their own appearance – for example, through self-branding.

wilde not-us law et al

Recuperation through representation is identified by Bey as the main problem facing dissent. The system captures and redirects everything simply by representing it, and changing its context.. The global crisis does not in fact result from scarcity, but from the ideology of scarcity. The world doesn’t run out of resources. Rather, it runs out of imagination, or creative energy..t Today there is too little, too thinly spread.

imagine if we just focused on listening to the itch-in-8b-souls.. first thing.. everyday.. and used that data to augment our interconnectedness.. we might just get to a more antifragile, healthy, thriving world.. the ecosystem we keep longing for..

what the world needs most is the energy of 8b alive people

However, illusions can kill. Only desire creates values. Civilisation is based on the denial of desire. In other words, it is a kind of upside-down value which values its own denial. Knowledge has also been alienated today. It is replaced by a simulation – the same ‘data’, but in a dead form. It is alienating because it fails to interact with the body, or with imagination. The illusions created by finance capital have become consensus reality, but remain illusions. Bey seeks to recover the call of a submerged reality accessible only rarely – the reality of intensity.

The persistence of this system offers a kind of de-intensified, meaningless experience. We’re at the end of history, götterdämmerung, and yet it’s also ‘goddam dull’. In one poem in Black Fez Manifesto, he suggests that we hide in ‘squatted character armor’ which is not our own, like hermit crabs. In another poem (this time in Ec(o)logues), Wilson discusses his native New Jersey. Modern agriculture is associated with death. It is opposed by ‘secret ludic economies’ connected with meadows, woods and wild spaces. Today, the system tries to force people into mediation. Today, unmediated pleasures are nearly always illegal. Even simple enjoyments like outdoor barbecues often violate bylaws. Pleasure becomes too stressful and people retreat into the world of television.

wilde not-us law by law


It (media) sells an illusion that each of us has expressed her/himself by buying a lifestyle or appearing within representation. The system still had ‘glitches’ in the 1960s because the media failed to convince. War appeared as Hell, not glorious; the counterculture appeared exciting, not evil. This led to cognitive dissonance, or a gap between experience and representation. When the system is able to produce experiences in line with its discourses, it eliminates virtually all cognitive dissonance. The 1960s movement saw and exploited the glitch, but fell into the trap of seeking to seize the media, and thus becoming images and commodities themselves. In any case, these tactics are no longer viable. However, in ‘Utopian Blues‘, Bey argues that the ‘con’ of alienated civilisation is wearing thin to the point of transparency. Capitalism is threatened by a ‘mass arousal from the media-trance of inattention’.

this book as bey via mediation/translation/interp/rep.. et al.. oi


This elite then focused on war instead of food production.. t

Bey suggests that any map (or language) will fit any territory (or experience), given enough violence. Capitalism seeks to fit the whole world into a single conceptual language..t This contrasts with the hermeticist and indigenous views of multiplicity, in which many worldviews contain part of the truth of a world based on difference. The hegemony of a single image of the world obstructs the circulation of images and undermines the expression of difference. Instead, the same discourse is endlessly recycled or reproduced.

language as control/enclosure et al.. need to let go and try ie: idiosyncratic jargon ness

Anything which provides unmediated experience is a threat to the Spectacle..t and at risk of being banned.


Bey argues that dissident media is impossible without censorship. American-style free speech absorbs or co-opts dissent as images, thus rendering it ineffectual. Today, reform is impossible, because partial victories are always absorbed as commodity relations. For example, Bey suggests that legalisation would absorb drugs as a ‘new means of control’. It could be used, for instance, to control drug research more effectively, as the underground would disappear. The 10% of the world economy which is ‘grey’ or quasi-criminal is a new frontier for capital to recuperate. This article shows clearly Bey’s emphasis on recuperation as a greater danger than repression

part\ial ness is killing us.. for (blank)’s sake

There is also a clever control strategy in which the system threatens something very extreme, and when it falls short, people are relieved and find it tolerable..t The surveillance state creates a danger of ‘information totality’ in which the map finally covers the whole territory. Such a regime would amount to unchallenged terror and the triumph of order and death. Our hopes in such a system are computer glitches and venal human controllers.

hari rat park law.. hari present in society law.. et al


Bey suggests that anarchism is actually a mutation of monarchy, in which each person becomes sovereign in a creative sphere.


5 – bey: capitalism. the state & the spectacle

Bey also analyses capital as a machine for the production of scarcity and the destruction of intensity. Capitalism seeks, not to satisfy desire, but to exacerbate longing through utopian traces. This idea – which Bey attributes to Benjamin – plays on the idea that commodities are advertised in terms of future promises. The commodity will provide enjoyment or validity or reality, or validate one’s experiences. Capital needs the promise of such future benefits to sell products. Yet it also needs to avoid actually delivering on these promises. If it delivered, then there would be no need to buy further products.

Hence, capitalism constantly reproduces scarcity to stimulate demand. This renders art threatening to capitalism. Art, or creativity, is based on the gesture of reciprocity, or presence. Everyone is an artist, in the sense of co-creation through lived experience, play, and meaning. But capitalism intervenes to mediate between people..t It interrupts reciprocity and introduces scarcity and separation. Capitalism is vampiric. It relies on consuming others’ creativity. It liberates itself by enslaving desire. Much of what the system offers has no real use – it is ‘snake oil‘ – but it works because it has a placebo effect.

art (by day/light) and sleep (by night/dark) as re\set.. to fittingness/undisturbed ecosystem


Today, capital seeks to detach images from experienced life entirely. In tourism, even the real world is experienced as an image. Tourists are seduced by the utopian trace of difference, but bear the virus of sameness into living spaces. Bey likens this process to the indigenous idea of soul loss.


Bey’s reaction to 9/11 in ‘Crisis of Meaning‘ is based on the idea that meaning is already in crisis. This is not changed by ‘5000 murders’. Yet others thought something had changed. For instance, articles after 9/11 were arguing that advertising now seemed shameful. Wasn’t it already shameful, since death and tragedy happen every day?

Bey argues against the view that any trauma or tragedy is so great that art or poetry are no longer possible. They have already survived the Holocaust, Hiroshima, and the Gulag, in spite of predictions to the contrary. Bey predicts – probably rightly – that 9/11 would quickly be sublimated into the collective unconscious, after an orgy of fear, hate, and destruction of freedoms.

In a later interview, Bey suggests that globalism has emerged stronger than ever, because it now has the enemy it had been looking for since the Soviet collapse. America is able to sustain globalism and hegemony together. People were hypnotised by the media for two or three weeks after 9/11. This produced a ‘neurotic, obsessive, trance-like consciousness’. I would suggest that this kind of hypnosis is commonly repeated when tragedies or atrocities occur. It has become an important mechanism of stabilisation.


For Bey, civilisation is a ‘trance-like state‘ which produces a ‘bad consciousness’, somewhat like a bad drug trip.

Bey considers many forms of transformation to be alchemical. The system uses a lot of ‘evil alchemy’, a category which includes nuclear weapons, commodification, and acts such as 9/11. Both drug addiction and the war on drugs are ‘shamanism gone bad’.

Bey argues that the media’s extension across the social field also creates problems for power. The media has paradoxically approached a limit of ‘image-enclosure’ (by analogy with the Enclosures of land). This leads to a ‘crisis of the stasis of the image, and of the complete disappearance of communicativeness’.

In other words, because all images are captured by the media, images lose the ability to communicate. Everything the media says refers to itself, and lacks an external connection to an outside. This idea is derived from Baudrillard, and points to transformative strategies focused on horizontal communication and intimate media. Soviet communism failed because it failed to embrace the Spectacle. Capital adapted, and so will disintegrate instead of imploding.


In Abecedarium, Wilson argues that writing is a form of alienation, which brings with it the state. It enables communication and therefore action at a distance. This tends to destroy earlier, direct forms of community.

lit & num as colonialism

Symbolism through images arises in non-state societies. However, writing based on abstract letters is inherently statist. States seem to require writing, along with irrigation and metallurgy, to exist. Writing is a kind of magic, or ‘action-at-a-distance’, which entraps people for the state.


6 – bey: taz

Bey deliberately avoids defining the concept of TAZ, which he sees as self-explanatory when experienced in action. However, it is not a meaningless concept, but one with imaginal resonances. If someone has experienced a TAZ, they will be able to tell a TAZ from a non-TAZ. Once the phrase is lodged in someone’s mind, Bey predicts they will begin to see TAZs everywhere. Roughly speaking, a TAZ is a deliberately short-lived (or else precarious) spatial zone in which peak experiences and altered consciousness are realised, in a context of ‘autonomy’ or the absence of hierarchy. A TAZ is necessarily immediate and present, rather than an ideal which fuels sacrifice for the future.

A TAZ is open because it is not ‘ordered’. Even if it is planned, it is the spontaneous ‘happening’ which defines it. TAZ is festive, and fighting ‘for the right to party’ is not a parody when enjoyment is usually mediated. It is a kind of endlessly replicating, temporary revolution.

revolution.. carhart-harris entropy law et al


This means that TAZs can invisibly occupy the zones of substance neglected by the system. The TAZ is thus a ‘tactic of disappearance’. It is thus rather different from the confrontation typical of revolutionary politics. However, disappearance cannot simply entail ‘never coming back’. It must be possible to conceive of everyday life in a liberated zone. A TAZ provides the peak experience of insurrection without the risk of martyrdom.

A well-formed TAZ is clandestine, invisible, not represented in the media or the Spectacle, and undefinable in the system’s terms. It is therefore able to avoid being recuperated or repressed by a system which cannot see it.

naming the colour ness et al

Aesthetics is important in realising an effective TAZ. Economically, a TAZ might be based on what Bey calls the ‘surplus of social overproduction’ or ‘pirate economics‘. This involves extracting part of the surplus left over from consumerism and capitalism. Bey suggests that the question of land is a recurring problem for anarchy. The central question is how to separate space from control, so as to create liberated spaces.


He denies that he invented the TAZ. Instead, he insists he merely gave a name to ways of maximising some conception of freedom that come naturally to those who resist.

The association of TAZ with the Internet and cyberculture has been one of the major lines of promotion of Bey’s work. For example, André Lemos termed Minitel, the French proto-Internet system, a TAZ because it is self-organising and rhizomatic. However, Bey was always hesitant about virtual applications of the TAZ idea. He argued that the counter-net, or network of dissident information, needs to be expanded. The zines and BBS’s of the 1990s are said to insufficiently provide goods and services for everyday life. In a new preface from 2003, Bey argues that the discussion of the Internet is the least contemporarily relevant part of TAZ. He criticises a counterculture which now mistakes ‘a few thousand “hits”‘ for political action, and which neglects physical presence.


There is an ambiguity in the Internet, because it is designed in a structure similar to indigenous warfare (i.e. diffuse power) to avoid destruction. It is ‘designed to be out of control‘. However, this does not render it safe or free. Those who control the means of communication have power over those who communicate. The Internet is not really in heaven, because it can be controlled from outside. As a result, it is a false transcendence of the culture-nature dichotomy

begs.. gershenfeld something else law et al


This strategic perspective declines after the collapse of the Soviet Union, with neoliberalism claiming to be the only possible world. As a result, recurring and permanent TAZs become conceivable. In ‘Periodic Autonomous Zone‘, Bey discusses festivals and carnival as varieties of recurring TAZ. They create a liminal (inbetween) zone between culture and nature. This sometimes reflects ecological and economic cycles. For instance, summertime gathering seems like play compared to spring/autumn farming. In this piece, Bey also argues for the re-emergence of camps, as sites for autonomous zones. Such ‘neo-camps’ will need to be disguised from the state, and provide a month or two of temporary freedom. This is better than no autonomous zones at all, giving a taste of autonomy.

refugee camps et al


In works written after TAZ, Bey has increasingly focused on small-scale, immediate, often clandestine groups, with the terms ‘tong’ and ‘bee’ often recurring. In ‘The Criminal Bee‘, Bey argues that TAZ and related structures rely on illegality, even when they break no laws. They break the framework of consensus reality. He advocates ‘bees’, or small-scale, task-focused groups, as the ‘only viable immediate means of realizing passional series in real-time, everyday life’. They are based on evasion and nomadism, rather than confrontation and seizing power.

In Immediatism, Bey claims to refocus from disappearance to reappearance, and, hence, organisation. Capitalism now recuperates artistic intensity almost instantly. The tong is again proposed as an organisational form. Bey defines a tong as a secret mutual benefit group for marginal or illegal purposes. Today’s tongs may be virtually secret simply by means of avoiding mass-media attention. Avoiding the media is crucial for maintaining the power of an activity. A tong may also be selective in whom it admits, and in how much information it shares. Bey denies that this is elitist, because the group does not restrict itself so as to coalesce power.

Overcoming isolation is itself a central goal of a modern tong. Such groups also operate to mutually enhance members’ lives. They would evolve into nuclei of ‘self-chosen allies’ seeking to seize back more and more space and time for play, eventually expanding into a network and a movement, and finally a new society..t However, its networking needs to be slow and corporeal.

imagine if we just focused on listening to the itch-in-8b-souls.. first thing.. everyday.. and used that data to augment our interconnectedness..

Bey later tries to systematise the different groups he discusses. They are different levels of expression of his project of ‘immediatism’. In ‘The Occult Assault on Institutions‘, he lists a series of increasingly broad groups which he portrays as levels of immediatist organisation:

  1. The gathering – any spontaneous action, such as a revolt, party, rave, or Be-in;
  2. The potlatch, or exchange party;
  3. The Bee, such as quilting bees – a group of friends meeting to work together on a project, or united by a common passion;
  4. The Tong or secret society, or its above-ground equivalent, the club;
  5. The TAZ, which can arise from any or all of the previous levels. A TAZ lasts between one night and a couple of years, but while it lasts, it fills the horizon of attention of its participants, becoming a whole society;
  6. The uprising or insurrection, in which the TAZ seeks to become the whole world.


Of these, the Tong is the highest that can be predetermined. The others cannot be ‘organised’ – at most one can maximise conditions for them to happen. In another passage, Bey argues that the social model implied by ontological anarchism is the band or gang. Whereas families result from scarcity, bands express abundance. This echoes anthropological studies of bands.

All of the group-types listed above have a similar purpose and function. ..The cohesion of the group stems from passion, which for Bey is the only viable integrative force.

itch-in-the-soul ness as energy we need

Immediatist groups are not based on ‘group-think’ or a common moral code. They are not meant to counter individuality. Instead, they are meant to enhance individuals by providing a ‘matrix of friendship‘, and combating loneliness and alienation. This type of group is both the most natural possible for humans, and the worst abomination for capital.

imagine if we ness.. using self-talk as data

Forming such groups is itself an act of resistance. Capitalism only allows a limited range of groups, based on production, reproduction or consumption. Simply coming together outside of these categories is already a victory – indeed, it has ‘achieved virtually everything Immediatism yearns for’. This defiance of alienation and boredom will generate play and art almost automatically.

Forming such a group is a struggle, because time and work pressures militate against it. One must overcome the feeling of being ‘too busy’ for Immediatist projects – this is the whole point, to defeat the structure of capitalism which prevents conviviality. Another problem Bey identifies is the temptation to sell the art created through such projects. The temptation is strong, because it allows one to avoid work. However, it risks mediation, and hence being seen, and hence repression of the secret group.

art (by day/light) and sleep (by night/dark) as re\set.. to fittingness/undisturbed ecosystem


7 – bey: pessimism of autonomy


Anarchism is the only movement capable of being taken seriously, in a post-ideological age. In Millennium, Bey also argues for the creation of spaces for artists outside the commodified world of art. These spaces would reaffirm creativity in everyday life..t

let’s do this first: free art\ists

another art world et al

Autonomy as such is now criminalised. Bey discusses the cases of MOVE and the Waco siege, and argues that both groups were attacked by the state because they wanted to be autonomous. The fact that people just want to ‘be weird – by themselves‘, or be a group on their own terms, outrages consensus reality..t Sociologically, millions of people from many backgrounds are dissatisfied. But they tend to be invisible, because they don’t vote or work in the formal sector. The middle-class is shrinking, which creates dangers of fascism and populism.

crazywise (doc) et al..

discrimination as equity et al.. public consensus always oppresses someone(s)


If one finds oneself in a zone of depletion, or No Go Zone, one’s prospects for autonomy increase with the withdrawal of power into the virtual. Such zones are unlikely to be able to assert political autonomy. However, there are possibilities for freedom in everyday life. Today, such zones are already vacuums of control, but mostly suffer ‘negative chaos’. To become emancipatory sites, they need to be filled with ‘positive chaos’. Such possibilities depend on an appropriate model of the economy and the social. Bey suggests this might operate as a kind of borderless bricolage, a ‘melange of whatever works’. Technology is likely to be low-tech and ad-hoc, but ‘more human than green’. It should be constructed to resist hierarchy through each person’s will to power. Failure may be the last refuge from the ‘Capitalist heaven‘ of simulation. One can at least be a beautiful spirit doomed to fail, rather than an ugly one.

gershenfeld something else law et al


Whatever slips past panoptical surveillance, perhaps because it seems futile, becomes the basis for this zone. In this poem, Bey appeals to the ‘paradoxical productivity of all that refuses to be computed, that which “doesn’t count”‘. Rebels disguise themselves as outcasts to slip through the cracks in the Empire.. t In another poem, ‘Herm’, he incites us to live like ‘Them’, the tri-racial isolates, as ‘rebels against progress’, as if with ‘bad genes’.

batra hide in public law et al

I would speculate that the state has found ways of seeing TAZs, firstly by defining anything it cannot predict as a threat, and secondly by focusing its gaze more closely on each micro-element of space and life.

graeber unpredictability/surprise law.. aka: alive humans as a threat

Another possible issue with TAZ is the apparent necessity of an adversary, so as to keep it temporary. ..Is a permanent TAZ even thinkable?


If capitalism claims to be a unitary world, yet excludes zones which cannot be commodified, then failure and autonomy go together. Knight suggests that Bey speaks as if his generation were the last one with a chance at revolution, as well as at overseas adventures.

It is true that Bey is sometimes strategically pessimistic. He is not confident that we can reach emancipation from the strategic options available today. However, he has a clear transformative perspective in which the ultimate goal is a society integrated by passion, operating as something like a permanent TAZ. Enlightenment is not an absent goal which never comes. Enlightenment means altered consciousness, which is a lived alternative.

integrated by itch-in-8b-souls.. everyday.. ie: imagine if we ness


Bey does not simply try to make the world a bit better. He has an antagonistic orientation to a dominant system, conceived as a ‘totality’ or Spectacle. Far from becoming more pessimistic with time, Bey becomes more revolutionary after the collapse of ‘communism’. He feels a need for uncompromising opposition to a system which accepts only full capitulation. On this question, I believe Bey is right, and Williams is wrong. The Gramscian strategy of fighting in the ‘trenches and fieldworks‘ of a complex society is increasingly ineffective in a ‘joined-up‘, high-speed, low-tolerance form of capitalism. The system’s demand for total capitulation makes it impossible to make the world a bit better – especially from a standpoint inside it. Today, even the most reformist demands seem to require a near-revolution to succeed. Those who give up on revolution, and use their included position to seek small reforms, will have to settle for less and less.

humanity needs a leap.. to get back/to simultaneous spontaneity .. simultaneous fittingness.. everyone in sync.. for (blank)’s sake

Despite all the changes since 1991, TAZs still exist. The ZAD in France is an archetypal TAZ. There are also shades of the TAZ in Tahrir Square, Gezi Park and Occupy, though they are oriented to visibility rather than invisibility. Social movement-controlled spaces in autonomous communities in Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia, South Africa and so on are arguably a variety of TAZ. Authors such as Graeber argue that autonomous zones continue to exist invisibly in areas such as rural Madagascar. The most effective TAZ’s, almost by definition, will be invisible to us, too. Yet the regulation of everyday life, and the extension of surveillance and repression to post-TAZ spaces, are rendering it harder to alternate TAZ with ordinary life. This, in turn, creates a need for something more permanent. Arguably, the possibility of TAZ relies on the semi-permanence of everyday practices of resistance, such as squatting, countercultural events, festival circuits and so on. If the everyday is too regulated, it becomes harder to carve a TAZ from the everyday.


However, such critiques do not seriously problematise Bey’s argument. Bey is not saying that we should do without existential attachments or meanings. He is saying that meanings are rooted in desire, which is accentuated in altered states of consciousness. The tenuous construction of personal meanings may be the last structuring force possible in a world of information overload. .t In any case, intensity can be experienced as euphoric rather than overwhelming, given certain conditions. Much of Bey’s theory seems designed to produce these conditions. Bey also observes that information excess can lead to darkness rather than enlightenment – a ‘lite age‘ in Bey’s terms. The problem is that the excess is itself mediated and de-intensified.

again.. ie: itch-in-8b-souls.. 1st thing everyday.. self-talk as data.. so we can org around legit needs


8 – bey: strategies of resistance

There is a danger that fighting the state helps sustain it as an effective illusion.

david on creative refusal et al.. as perpetuation of same song ness.. rather than a nother way


If mediation is the main enemy, the system’s main means of control, then effective resistance takes the form of disappearance, disengagement, immediacy (instead of mediation) and presence (instead of representation). Refusal to be mediated, or to engage with the Spectacle, creates spaces which are outside the system. While Bey also argues periodically for sabotage, reappropriation, and tactical use of the media, refusal seems to be the privileged tactic. His tactics are similar to the tactics of détournement used by Situationists. In an interview, Bey suggests that a strategy irrecuperable by the system has to involve altered consciousness. Altered consciousness or peak experience is irrecuperable because it cannot be represented, or reduced to mediated forms.

Strategically, Bey opposes a head-on collision with the state for two reasons. Firstly, he thinks it is futile. Secondly, he thinks the state is ‘terminal‘, or dying of its own accord. The system is violently spasming in its death throes. In this context, there is no point confronting a power-system which has lost all meaning and is just a simulation. The best tactic is to avoid this spectacular violence which cannot reach the substance of social life, instead disappearing.

In line with this perspective, Bey proposes a range of different tactics, the goal of which is to free desire from a state of capture or bondage to the system. Everyday life is the main field for insurrectionary self-empowerment against the system. Bey suggests that everyone knows what is going on and what to do, provided s/he can break free of ‘false consciousness‘,.t the Spectacle, interpretation, or scarcity. 

begs for means to undo our hierarchical listening


The aim is to get outside mediation by creating different ways of being.. t


a nother way

Bey’s main point here is that one should break the rules, instead of trying to reform them


In some works, Bey redefines the Islamic concept of jihad in terms of the struggle against alienation. The greater jihad is the struggle against the separated self and the suffocation of the true self. The lesser jihad is the struggle against the Spectacle. In ‘Jihad Revisited‘, Bey suggests that he was hoping for a kind of ‘Islamic Zapatismo’ when he wrote Millennium, possibly derived from neo-Sufism. This jihad he imagined has not come to pass and it is ‘probably too late’.

khan filling the gaps law


In the 1990s, Bey theorised disappearance as desirable, to avoid recuperation. Disappearance is a way to save something from dying of mediation. Capitalism has created a kind of closure in which a single image of the world dominates.

The point is to imagine ourselves, rather than to allow ourselves to be imagined through words or images. Things which are unrepresented and unseen – deliberately or fortuitously – tend to maintain their lived meaning. This in turn creates optimal conditions for the emergence of the ‘marvelous’ in lived experiences (or of altered consciousness).

naming the colour ness et al

In Immediatism, Bey proposes to practice art in secret, so as to avoid ‘contamination’ by mediation. All spectators should also be performers. Artistic products should be shared with participants only, and never sold. Techniques involving physical presence are preferred. This practice is framed as a response to alienation and to the ‘death of art’ due to mediation.

batra hide in public law

Art should be created from inspiration, as a free gift, which may or may not be reciprocated. Today, instead, it is produced for money. Art is meant to provide a kind of ‘healing laugh‘, which is serious, but not sober. It is to be a boast, not an excuse. Bey suggests that art which is not produced through alienation is today classified in terms such as ‘insane’ and ‘neo-primitive’. It appeals because of its imaginal presence.

art (by day/light) and sleep (by night/dark) as re\set.. to fittingness/undisturbed ecosystem


For instance, media employees might be sent powerful imagery or magic art-objects which are said to carry a curse. The curse is that it will cause them to realise their true desires. The aim of such a tactic is to infiltrate the images into their dreams and desires, to make their jobs seem boring and destructive.


9 – using images and media

Secrecy and invisibility are useful for this purpose. The art of the unseen, or clandestinity, can be used to avoid absorption in the Spectacle. Art is play. It requires secrecy and silence, and uneven rather than smooth time..t Things which are real but unseen have imaginative, erotic, or spiritual power. The very existence of unseen things challenges the regime of images, the Spectacle. By becoming invisible, we can become re-enchanted, and avoid being visible to the system. In a panoptical world, we must seek to explore the last tiny corner of the room which the eye cannot see. Geographically, this seemingly tiny corner might comprise large regions – such as Chiapas. In such zones, the right to be different is posited increasingly forcefully.

batra hide in public law.. another art world et al.. gershenfeld something else law as hiding ness

art (by day/light) and sleep (by night/dark) as re\set.. to fittingness/undisturbed ecosystem

Wilson also proposes that, to break the hypnotic trance exercised by media, especially on the unconscious, one sometimes needs to ‘just stop’. By taking a pause from media and reassessing it, one can limit the effects of the trance, as when Wilson himself avoided media after 9/11 to resist this effect. He likens this practice to Sufi ‘halting’, which is a meditative practice used to distance from and reassess fixed assumptions and habits.

Bey also suggests that tactical or ‘guerrilla’ media can be used to subvert dominant images and create glimmers of the unseen. Intimate media (such as zines) can also remain outside the totality of representation. Tactical media is messy or organic, as opposed to the sterility of strategic media. The tactical problem is to avoid, or stay ahead, of representation and capture. Wilson aims for ‘relative invulnerability’ to representation through mobility and invisibility. The problem here is that most tactical media continues to represent. The appropriate response is to make uncertainty or messiness a ‘principle’, to refuse to be ‘cleaned up’..t Ad hoc tactics tend to coalesce into a strategy of spontaneous ordering. New technologies have a magical aura. For instance, the Internet raised almost messianic expectations. It was a factor for liberation because it was out of control.

like idiosyncratic jargon ness


10 – poetic terrorism and art sabotage

In other words, poetic terrorism does to a myth or symbol what literal terrorism does to people or spaces.

Bey conceives this as a new, nonviolent way of fighting by bringing life. Artists conspire to spread generosity, life, and disappearance from the alienated world… ie: breaking into houses to leave gifts instead of stealing..


11 – sexuality & sexual repression


12 – drugs and entheogenesis

Drugs are a threat to capitalism because they provide the enjoyment capitalism only pretends to provide. They are the ‘perfect commodity’ in that they provide what adverts only claim that products provide, and thus undermine alienation and mediation. This is why they are criminalised, because they destroy the lack which otherwise sustains consumption..t

hari present in society law et al.. maté addiction law et al.. crazywise (doc) et al


13 – other forms of disalienation

In a critique of Surrealism, Bey argues that the liberation of desire turns into the commodification of desire, unless it escapes the matrix of the work-system..t

escapes/sans any form of supposed to’s of school/work.. any form of m\a\p

As we have seen, *Bey sees alienation partly in terms of the destruction of horizontal connections. Restoration of such connections is thus a powerful form of resistance..t In Immediatism, Bey argues that conviviality – **coming together face-to-face for reasons other than work, consumption or reproduction – is itself a victory against alienation. Isolation and absorption in media are among the major forces which oppress people today. Conviviality is thus a major purpose of the groups Bey proposes, perhaps even the main goal. The system forces us to keep ‘making a living’, but the real point is to make a life..t

*tech as it could be

**imagine if we ness


In architecture, Bey recognises a nostalgia and desire for cities which have designed themselves on the basis of conviviality, with narrow alleys, covered ways and so on. The arhcitecture of a convivial world would likely be grotesque, in the sense of being cave-like, akin to mystical grottos. Ritualised language can also challenge alienation. Language is a mask – a way of giving something a ritual or symbolic meaning. Such ritualisation is a way of destroying the suffocating paralysis of the alienated system.

walk\able and talk able..

Childhood has a special place as a site of resistance to alienation..In another piece, Bey describes childhood as a site of permanent insurrection, suggested by messiness, collections, intense enjoyment, band/gang formations, and running away. After the collapse of civilisation, it is children who restore awareness of the cosmic. Anti-work or Zerowork actions, including attacks on education and the ‘serfdom of children’, are also very important.

not yet scrambled.. 1 yr to be 5 et al

Rootless cosmopolitanism can express itself in the use of travel as a means to altered consciousness. In ‘The Caravan of Summer’, Wilson criticises tourism and argues for an alternative mode of travel based on Sufism. Sites of pilgrimage primarily provide ‘baraka’ or ‘mana’ (spiritual power, charisma). Pilgrimage is reciprocal rather than alienating. In contrast, tourists seek and consume difference, and use it up. Wandering dervishes gave baraka in return for hospitality, whereas tourists tend to break reciprocity and hospitality. In addition to Sufi ‘aimless wandering’, Wilson gives the example of the Trobriand Islanders, who travelled to give useless but aesthetically powerful gifts among the islands. Dervish wandering may be ineffective or impossible today, but its ‘conceptual matrix’ is still possible.

air b&b house sharing et al.. leaving gifts.. leaving better than found.. et al


A range of other practices also lead to altered consciousness. For instance, Tantric Hinduism restores the lost ‘Soma-function’ (roughly, altered consciousness) through transcendence of caste, use of banned substances such as wine, kundalini yoga, hemp, and extra-marital sex. Quilts can be psychedelic. They are connected to potlatch and gift economy. Cyberspace is almost psychedelic, producing a visionary inner space..Trepanning may produce permanent altered consciousness. Many things can be alchemical – for instance, cooking. Food can also offer intensities, if treated as nourishment rather than consumption. People are encouraged to develop a personal mythscape as a way of summoning vivid, intense images.

if only we used it for that.. (mufleh humanity law, carhart-harris entropy law, et al)..

ie: imagine if we ness


14 – tactics and strategies: discussion


This said, there is also a tendency for today’s drop-out communities (squatters, ravers, etc) to eschew visibility and to seek to remain below the radar of the media and police. .Many have no official address, no registration with the benefit or medical systems, and hence are largely invisible outside local networks unless they are arrested. David Graeber makes similar claims about the largely stateless people he studied in Madagascar – they simply minimise contact with the state. He suggests that, the more successful such ‘anarchic’ spaces are, ‘the less likely we are to hear about them’. This suggests that something similar to Bey’s idea of invisibility might be a common strategy among marginalised groups.

on kings et al


15 – indigenous anti hierarchical mechanisms: gift econ, clastrean struggle, and shamanism


The hunter-gatherer world is the closest humans have come to social harmony – not because people are/were naturally good, but because mechanisms exist to successfully ward off hierarchy. Farming societies, such as those of the Neolithic, also involve complex, intense (even ‘erotic’) relations with nature – not conquest, but intimacy. Such societies still have egalitarian technologies and are far preferable to states, even if they are not ‘proper anarchism’.

need: tech as it could be.. for non hierarchical listening

In another piece, Wilson suggests that he was earlier influenced by early critiques which saw farming as a ‘fall from grace’ in relation to hunter-gathering. However, he has reconsidered this view on the basis of botanical history. He now suspects that farming began with seeds growing spontaneously at human campsites. People started to cultivate certain favourite plants – mainly luxuries, not necessities. The earliest were barley (for beer), grapes (for wine) and marijuana. Without the creation of the state, people could have transitioned straight from horticulture to utopia.

Indigenous groups are based on a particular kind of small-group universe. A tribe or village is sometimes a self-contained cosmos. It is not true that this structure prevents individuality. Rather, there can be space for every kind of marginal person within such a complete universe. The exclusionary dynamics of villages and particularisms stem from constant attack or vampirism by the centre, in a situation where the village is not a cosmos. For instance, capital cities often suck money, energy, and creative people from villages.

brown belonging lawthe opposite of belonging.. is fitting in.. true belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are.. it requires you to be who you are.. and that’s vulnerable.. –Brené Brown


In tribal anarchy, nobody accumulates power, and everyone is considered noble. Each self has ‘honour’, which signifies an autonomous self whose freedom is the object of the entire system.

none of us are free ness

A second mechanism is the gift economy. Following Mauss, Bey argues that the gift is a balancing structure. It atones for the violence of the hunt and creates symbolic unity and renewal within the social group. It differs from modern exchange in focusing on reciprocity, instead of accumulation or the profit motive.

reciprocity/gift\ness.. still cancer

The third mechanism, shamanism, will be discussed in more detail below. Here, the importance of the relationship between shamanism and altered consciousness should be emphasised. While shamanism as an immanent spiritual practice is eliminated after the rise of the state, it leaves a ‘shamanic trace’. Aesthetics tends to reduce and mediate, but not to eliminate, the shamanic trace. The trace easily revives or re-appears at times of crisis in the dominant system. The crisis of the state is a time of opportunity for the Clastrean machine. The carnivalesque, in the Bakhtinian sense, is shamanic in that it entails altered consciousness. Wilderness and wildness often symbolise the shamanic space in the worldviews of farming and settled peoples. The Robin Hood myth is an example. European nobles also preserved aspects of nomadic shamanism, such as hunting and heraldry.

black wildness law et al.. not yet scrambled

Shamanism in a broad sense is a non-specialised practice of immanent religion. It does not represent spirits, but makes them present, through means such as psychedelic drug use and spirit possession. Sometimes it is practiced by the whole group. Bey associates shamanism with direct experience of altered consciousness, or of a second, spiritual or timeless world.

Bey suggests that elements of the three indigenous mechanisms persist in popular culture in medieval and modern societies. The myths and customs of indigenous groups resist the re-emergence of hierarchy and bullying. The pursuit of intensity and conviviality are part of this structure. Such myths and customs provide a ‘million year triumph of human spirit’ over fear, force, separation and hierarchy. Bey suggests that we don’t lose the ‘rights and customs’ of indigenous bands. Remnants of these practices preserve remnants of autonomy and pleasure. These fragments are not lost, but severely reduced in scope, and relegated to hidden corners. For instance, gift economy persists in the loose structures of shadow and informal economies.

almaas holes law et al.. (but not gift econ)

Resisting capitalism today requires us to recover a relation with such rights and customs, so as to restore pleasure and autonomy against separation and hierarchy. Bey analogises the situation to a house in ruins – the underlying pillars (indigenous war, gift economy, shamanism) can still be discerned. He believes that shamanism has particular importance in fighting capitalism. Shamanism often manifests itself as a hidden power beneath the power of the oppressed, even when it is extremely muted. It appears as a rising-up of direct experience and immediacy.

revolution of everyday life ness


16 – religion and shamanism


Bey suggests that there is an underground, hermetic tradition which preserves the old values in the forms of heresies. Movements such as the Free Spirit movement recover the trace of shamanism. Bey claims that shamanism has subverted colonial power – first turning hostility into romanticism, and then generating dependence on ‘native’ power. The field of the carnivalesque carries this trace. The permeable body of carnivalesque is both the fully realised self and the the desired body. Festival is the inner structure of autonomy..t Bey refers to Clastres’ discussion of shamanic movements seeking an earthly utopia by downing tools and adopting nomadism. He suggests that many indigenous groups are not archaic remnants, but deliberate drop-outs from statist history. While this is usually read as evidence against the likes of Clastres and Sahlins, Bey suggests it actually shows that people can succeed in overthrowing the supposedly ‘higher’ social forms of hierarchy and separation. Bey celebrates free religions – ‘half-serious, half-fun cults’ like his own Moorish Orthodox Church. He opposes authoritarian religions with normative moralities.

carhart-harris entropy law et al.. freeman structure law (?) et al

Discussing the Mound-Builders of North America, Bey suggests that the mounds are not at all mysterious. Their purpose is to enchant the landscape. They show the viewer something about the art of harmony and guardianship of nature. The shamanic trace is also clear in the Zapatista revolt. Bey suggests that shamanism reappears in religions which reject it. For example, in Islam, it appears in forms such as sufism, the Shi’ite hidden Imam or Mahdi, and the eschatological Shi’ite socialism of Ali Shariati. Popular religions – European witchcraft, Iranian traditions linked to Zoroastrianism – often preserve the shamanic trace. Some come to see themselves as devil-worshippers, as their enemies portray them. If all things are one, and are manifestations of God, then even the devil must be an aspect of God. The devil is necessary because light cannot exist without darkness. Whereas he appears to the alienated as an evil force destroying joy, to the esoteric he appears as a bearer of light and truth, as the multiplicity which is key to oneness.

The shamanic trace is carried in Europe by the ‘hermetic left’. In contrast with the right’s moral dualisms, the hermetic left celebrates the ‘ancient rights and customs’ of freedom, justice, equality, and bodily pleasure. Wilson/Bey reportedly sees his own Moorish Orthodox Church as the latest phase in a centuries-old psychological and spiritual war. This war pits Native Americans, African-Americans, poor whites, and drop-outs against Anglican, Puritan and imperialist hierarchies. Other new religions such as Discordianism and Chaos might also figure on the progressive side of this conflict, although co-opted varieties of the New Age and cyber-gnosticism do not. Wilson/Bey’s side has much existential appeal – for instance, Puritans kidnapped by Native Americans sometimes refused to be ‘rescued’. However, the repressive side has largely won out.

Organised religion is formed through the hierarchical degeneration of mystical traditions. This requires misreading the founding, mystical texts and experiences. Initial psychological doctrines such as the rebirth of the self (as disalienated) are given literal meanings, or freedom is reserved for those who are fully realised. For Wilson, transformation occurs as an ‘immediate psychological reality’, not in the afterlife or the far future. In mystical terms, ‘death’ stands for dissolution of the alienated ego, and ‘paradise’ refers to metaphysical realisation. ‘Hell’ stands for present alienation and misery, not a future punishment. All religions seek salvation, which is basically disalienation. They differ on the way to achieve it. However, organised religions deal in abstractions instead of actual disalienation. Those who have tasted disalienation have little time for abstract religious disputes..t

thurman interconnectedness lawwhen you understand interconnectedness it makes you more afraid of hating than of dying – Robert Thurman 


The basis of alienated religion is the claim of authorities to a monopoly on initiation. Without authority, there is taken to be no opening to the spiritual.. People are left waiting for signs of a coming messiah, rather than looking for the divine spark within themselves.. Organised religion prioritises ‘God the creator’ over ‘God the inner reality‘, or the mystical experience. 

kingdom w/in ness

The recognition that one is already part of the unitary spiritual substance does not leave everything unchanged. Rather, it leads to an unlearning or loss of fear, so that one can be led by one’s natural senses, like a child. This leads to disalienation. 

sans any form of m\a\p et al.. no train


17 – art and shamanism

Art needs to be removed from the commodity economy and placed in a gift economy. In a gift economy, festival is a focal point of social life, a kind of government (or a replacement for the master-signifier). Today, events such as raves, Be-Ins and gatherings recover an aspect of gift-economy. Hence, they are seen as dangerous sites of disorder from a commodified perspective. Bey proposes that each artwork should be a ‘seduction machine’ designed to awaken ‘true desires’, anger at repression, or a belief that realisation is possible. Such artworks would have to convey an ‘insane generosity’ or abundance, an almost painful excess of emotional or lived meaning.

rather.. it will emerge on its own in an oikos econ

oikos (the economy our souls crave).. ‘i should say: the house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.’ – gaston bachelard, the poetics of space

Bey argues that artists do not choose alienation. They seek to add to the ‘image-hoard’ of their tribe or band. They are forced into alienation because modern society separates work and play


In Riverpeople, Wilson expresses a similar sentiment poetically: ‘you risk insanity in order to bring back.. healing word from the Ninth Sky.. nobody wants them because they’re not for sale’

Play makes the audience impossible..t


inspectors of inspectors.. gershenfeld something else law .. et al

In the past, there was a time-lag between the emergence of artistic movements and their recuperation by the Spectacle. Today, this lag barely exists. Most art, including avant-garde and popular art, is instantly commodified. In this context, art which avoids mediation has a function of ‘insurrectionist propaganda’. Bey is not calling for Realist or crudely political art. Rather, art propagandises by acting as an invitation to altered consciousness. Artists should encourage readers to perceive an ‘outside’ to capitalism, and to pursue peak experiences. They should promote a ‘desire to desire’, and an aesthetic ‘taste’ and way of life contrary to commodification.

let’s do this first: free art/ists

Wilson endorses Shelley’s idea of the artist/poet as unacknowledged legislator, or provider of an ethic of living. Propagandistic art should produce powerful emotions which rip aside the veils of everyday life, such as inattention, boredom and self-betraying egotism. In Millennium, however, Bey differentiates the US and European situation. In Europe, there are still remnants of the public intellectual, whereas in the US, masses of creative people are invisible. The TAZ plays a special role in affirming for creative people that they exist.


18 – bey’s histories

Bey/Wilson’s histories are nearly always histories of small-scale or short-lived non-state (or quasi-state) communities neglected by mainstream history.

gillis on small scale et al


19 – historical method


20 – imaginative participation and appropriation


Bey also endorses ‘anti-translation’, in which ‘don’t tread on me’ becomes ‘don’t translate me’. Translation as representation should be avoided. Instead, one should seek a ‘direct making-present’. Such a process requires abandoning one’s ‘self’ or ego so as to go inside the other culture to the maximum extent possible. Avoiding appropriation requires tact and sometimes silence. But it does not require a refusal to communicate.

interesting as this book as translation

Wilson does not claim to have produced an adequate anti-translation, though he has practiced Islam in various forms. Instead, he seeks to revalorise the ‘romantic’ image of Islam. He claims that this image survives the problem of translation because it already exists in both Islamic and western culture. I would add that the problem of translation tends to disappear when the original text already points towards the untranslatable or unknowable


lit & num as colonialism.. need more means to idiosyncratic jargon ness.. to non hierarchical listening ness


Replacing trunks with rhizomes – not with new trunks – is the best way to fight domination.


21 – ploughing the clouds: psychedelic experiences in classic lit


Modern societies see this disalienated state as a feature of other societies. Indeed, European colonisation seemed to acquire or ‘conquer’ more and more intoxicants (chocolate, coffee, tobacco, opium, and so on), as if constantly seeking soma However, the theme of the receipt of soma from the Other is not simply an effect of colonialism. It is structurally necessary, because of soma’s radical otherness. On an imaginal level, soma is both ‘wild’ – symbolising wilderness, nature, and disorder – and yet also the origin of speech and consciousness.


22 – pirate utopias


Daniel Defoe’s account of Libertatia (or Libertalia) provides the clearest picture of a progressive pirate utopia. It is debated whether it is factual or fictional. Libertatia reputedly recognised a right to necessities of life, primordial freedom, anti-racism, and a socialist economy with common ownership. Other pirate utopias emerged in the Caribbean and on Madagascar. Caribbean enclaves such as Hispaniola drew a mixture of drop-outs and escaped slaves. Wilson emphasises the democratic structure of pirate ships and their lack of command hierarchies; disputes were resolved by voting or duelling. On shore, radical democracy seemed to give way to anarchy.

graeber ness.. museum of care ness


23 – alamut and qiyamat

In Alamut, the Qiyamat, or day of judgement, was believed to have already come. Alamut claimed to be a ‘hidden garden’ freed of state, religious power, law, and so on. What this means for Bey is that time has become completely immanent. We are no longer waiting for revolution. We are already in angelic time, but do not realise it. The Millennium, or the moment of radical transformation, is always now, the present, the awakening of each soul to its own divinity.

but has to be all of us for the dance to dance.. this is why we keep saying it’s here.. but haven’t yet realized it.. we’ve not yet let go enough to let it be all of us

humanity needs a leap.. to get back/to simultaneous spontaneity .. simultaneous fittingness.. everyone in sync..


Orthodoxy maintains that unenlightened selves need the religious law. Wilson responds that we are already free, whether we recognise it or not. Realisation is not a ‘becoming’, a process of becoming something else, but a ‘being’, something we already have.

already on each heart.. so.. no train.. no prep .. no people telling other people what to do.. not any form of m\a\p.. needed.. all red flags

Although Alamut was destroyed by the Mongols, and cannot be reproduced in today’s conditions, Wilson suggests that Alamut’s Qiyamat remains alive as a state of consciousness in which we are already in paradise. Even if the hidden garden cannot be accessed in the outer world, the interiorisation of the Qiyamat story offers an inner sense of personal freedom that the state cannot touch. It provides a kind of ‘moment’ outside history which can be accessed existentially. Following Corbin, he suggests that the Qiyamat (or moment of disalienation) is always alive in the imaginal plane, and each of us can participate in it there. This moment of unveiling is sometimes expressed in terms of visits from guardian angels and messianic figures.

this is why we can leap.. if we just org around something we all already crave/have/grok


24 – sufi journeying

According to Wilson, there is a call within Sufism to flight, journey, or migration which is also associated with the death of ego and of an existing ‘world’. Travelling dervishes are sometimes full-time guests, offering baraka in return for hospitality. Sufi wanderers seek to open up an altered, spiritualised gaze on particular sites, travelling in the material and imaginal worlds at the same time. There might be space among such travellers for people who would be labelled as insane today, who might be regarded and cared for as helpless saints.

ccrazywise (doc) ness

Such journeying may provide an option for the modern world. The spiritual pursuit of imaginal points is always possible. However, the related kind of physical journeying is difficult today. The loss of wide and wild lands, of terra incognita (unknown lands not on the maps), interferes with such travel. Wilson suggests that it can be recovered in an experience of ‘rootless cosmopolitanism’. Life can never be accurately mapped because it is qualitative. As a result, one can still vanish in fractal complexities missed by linear maps. This is the modern equivalent to Sufi wandering: to disappear into hidden dimensions the media and quantification cannot penetrate. The Situationist dérive or drift is an example of this. Ultimately, this might expand into a culture of ‘urban nomads’ and ‘techno-gypsies’ who finally become modern Sufi wanderers and restore imaginal travel.

vagus wandering law et al


25 – cumantsa and fiume (as ies of taz)


26 – other autonomous zones

Bey celebrates the fact that some of these groups sought ‘Indian’ status, and suggests that they were denied it mainly to avoid setting a precedent of recognising dropouts. Many of these groups were targeted by eugenicists in the early twentieth century. Other historical precursors include American settlers who assimilated into Native American bands. People abducted from puritan settler communities often actively resisted being rescued, preferring Native American life.

Utopianism also has a place as a precursor of TAZ. Bey also writes favourably of early intentional communities such as Fourier’s phalansteries. When the map was ‘closed’ and intentional communities on the frontier became impossible, they were largely replaced by urban communes like the Paris Commune. Some revolutionaries adopted a kind of nomadism between different zones of revolt.

paris commune et al


27 – islamic ‘heresies’

Heresy produces a certain kind of scandal, in which a religious veil is removed.

Heresies are usually needed for cultural transfer. ..Heresies are like lucky or deliberate mistranslations. ..heresy as cultural transfer. I would add that heterodoxy and heresy may also be needed in secular radicalisms. For instance, Marxism spread mainly in heterodox forms.

Islam was able to spread so widely because of its democratic element, or openness to interpretation by each believer, with the community as final authority.

Wilson thus reads Sufi radicalism as similar to his own commitment to unmediated intensity. An emphasis on individual realization removes the mediating role of religious authorities and leads to the rejection of hierarchy.

any form of people telling other people what to do


Echoing Bergson, Bey suggests that the mystical position identifies ‘God’s point of view’ with a holistic world where everything is one. This is contrasted with the hierarchical structure perceived by creatures. In this hierarchical structure, some things are seen as more important, central or powerful than others. For mystics, anything which can illuminate the oneness of being is a ‘grace of God’. Anything can be either a poison or support, in relation to disalienated perception.

need: non hierarchical listening

Some of the scholars Wilson discusses proposed otherwise prohibited means to reach altered consciousness. The image of wine was sometimes used to connote intensity, for instance in the poetry of Fakhroddin Iraqi. Although prohibited by religious law, many people in Iran, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan use marijuana for religious purposes. The basis for this seems to be that people in ‘ordinary’ consciousness lack the attentiveness and willpower to see the Real or truth. Prayer and perfume can also act as gateways. Wilson was told by a Sufi leader that Love is more important than specific doctrines. He suggests that, for mystics, love is the binding power of being, or the substance of which being is composed.

According to Wilson, some mystics accepted the idea of romantic love or physical attraction as a divine state, since the other is a part of or stands for God. Hence, there is Sufi love poetry from authors such as Ibn Arabi, comparing a woman, girl, or boy with God. Through total concentration on the beauty of the beloved, the mystic escapes ego and self, and remembers the beauty of her/his spiritual nature. Some, such as Kermani, saw self-realisation occurring more perfectly in love than in religious practices.

Wilson uses the term ‘imaginal yoga’ for the intense contemplation of an object or form until it is transformed by the imagination into a metaphysical focus. One example is the ‘Witness Game’, a practice in which one contemplates an attractive person without acting on sexual urges. The state of unrequited attraction provides a pathway to spiritual experience. Bey sees this as a means of transmuting erotic, bodily energy into spiritual consciousness. It is a special case of the broader process by which Islam transmutes nature into spirit, rather than destroying nature as modernity does.

Often, the oneness of being experienced by mystics is expressed in terms which crystallise back into literal systems of dogma.

language as control/enclosure et al


28 – dreams and writing in sufism and taoism

Dreams are a site of knowledge because they exist in the liminal (in-between) zone. The dream is a ‘privileged locus’ of the identity of everything, the oneness of being. Wilson suggests there are particular ways to intentionally create the conditions for these kinds of dreams. 

oi.. if legit liminal.. no pt of knowledge.. no privilege.. et al.. all that would be irrelevant


This allows people to participate directly in the descent of revelation, instead of relying on a pre-written, authoritative text. It reflects a view that beings respond to each other through categories, or archetypes.

on each heart.. kingdom is within you ness

Such writing is ludic, and related to *’aimless wandering’. . Writing is often a means to transmit such visions. The words revealed in dreams are important in allowing them to be revealed or shared socially, and **to benefit others. Books may contain keys pointing to particular psychological states for sensitive readers. The text ‘spills over’ in an excess of meaning, pointing to something beyond it. This excess is not fixed, but is also not empty. Such words ‘play’, rather than segmenting and categorising. Language comes to reflect or reproduce the abundance of nature.. However, writing and even speaking carry a danger of alienating or ossifying the ‘living word’ into something ‘dead’. The way to resist this is to keep the book an open process, ***constantly renewed or reinterpreted into new existential contexts. Language can be a means of control, but it can also be possessed by imaginal content.

not *aimless wandering if ***responding et al.. any form of m\a\p.. not **beneficial..


29 – angels


30 – history of ideas

In Fourier’s model, the key organising principles are luxury and harmony. Harmony in Fourier’s sense entails finding ways for differences to coexist. The desire to be ‘carefree’ is to be unfettered. The passion inspired by Fourier’s poetry is a pale foreshadowing of that promised in his utopian world, in which passion is the driving force. Production could only be liberated when people did the tasks they were attracted to. Society would only reach its potential when all desires are free. In effect, says Wilson, Fourier invests hope in the magic power of Eros. Wilson views Fourier as ambiguously despising present bodies but deifying the body in general. He suggests that reading Fourier is like discovering a lost ancient cult.

am thinking this is legit.. but we don’t believe it because we’ve not yet let go enough to see what legit free people are like (see below vinay gupta.. any form of m\a\p.. et al).. so we just keep perpetuating myth of tragedy and lord

Fourier saw erotic attraction as the basic force of existence. Gravity, for instance, is a special kind of attraction. Everything is alive and sexually active. This is the basis for Wilson/Bey’s view of attraction as the basis of order. Fourier believed that everything is related, in terms of belonging to a category. Everything is attracted erotically to other things in its category. The problems of modernity have arisen because civilisation has knocked the Earth out of its place in the system of categories and passions. Fourier’s utopian politics is an attempt to restore cosmic balance by arranging everything in line with its passions.

imagine if we ness.. but will only work sans any form of m\a\p.. and if it’s all of us


In Aimless Wandering, Bey analyses the Taoism of Chuang Tzu (Zhuangzi). He reads Zhuangzi as anti-metaphysical. Zhuangzi’s major text does not offer transcendental realisation, but a path to self-realisation. Human misery stems from falling out of sync with the Tao. Zhuangzi’s response is to seek to reverse this separation and return to the flow, to spontaneity. To achieve this, one must reject all deities and metaphysics. This approach is opposed to the Confucian social structure, and oriented to aimless wandering.

restore/uncover/detox/whatever missing pieces.. getting us back/to not yet scrambled ness..


31 – moorish science temple

Wilson attributes the group’s downfall to its growing visibility. 

need: gershenfeld something else law


32 – pastorialism and green hermeticism

Wilson also sometimes sees the pastoral tradition as a variety of autonomy and intensity. In the essay Grange Appeal, Wilson argues that the Grange was once a progressive part of the Populist movement, and a hotbed of rural radicalism. (It still exists, as a series of social clubs, a co-op, and campaigning organisation for rural interests). The Grange ‘formula’ had four elements: economic cooperation, social militancy without electoral involvement, plenty of outings and social activities, and an Eleusinian ritual. The organisation officially disavowed politics, but its ideology had obvious political implications. It was initially anarchistic, in avoiding organised politics and religion. It campaigned on issues of its day which reappear today – for instance, against patent-holding monopolies. ..In relation to co-ops, Wilson suggests they succeed when given the chance – but they are often ruined by corporations with more capital.

plenty of outings.. never enough.. (ie: assisted living.. school.. et al)

His recent, ecologically-inflected work draws on similar themes. In Riverpeople, Wilson presents a history and speculative mythology of the Esopus River, near his home in New York. He claims he fell in ‘green love’ with the river. Green love is his recent term for intense connections to ecological sites which become the source of altered consciousness. The area is today owned by the Rockefellers, but regularly attracts beatniks and neo-survivalists engaged in rambling and camping. Wilson discusses the area’s indigenous population, the Esopus ‘Indians’, and their dispossession and genocide by the Dutch. The damming of the river is treated as a terrible violence in which villages become ghost towns and the Water Supply Police act as an ‘invading occupying force’.


Wilson’s recent theory of Green Hermeticism articulates similar themes. He argues that science can be reconnected with Hermeticism or romanticism to re-enchant nature. Over the longue durée, science serves capital and the state by making war and money. Another science might have been, and might still be, possible or conceivable. But it might have to rely on ideas which now seem falsified or absurd. Famous scientists such as Newton, Franklin, and Bacon were closet hermeticists. However, they seem to have succumbed to conventional power and contributed to a process of dimming our awareness of reality. Such a dimming is part of the ‘dead-matter’ worldview of capitalism, the state and the Enlightenment.

science ness and intellect ness.. our default to maintain order/control et al

carhart-harris entropy law et al


33 – bey, children, & sexuality

The biggest controversy around Bey’s work is not his ontology or his theory of autonomy, but his association with what he terms ‘boy-love’. In other words, he thinks it is possible and desirable for adults to have ‘consensual’ sex with children. In defence of this view, Bey has written a number of pieces for NAMBLA (a paedophile or ‘boy-love’ advocate group) and the gay magazine Gayme which allegedly promote sexual abuse of children. These pieces are not widely available, and seem to mainly consist of poetry. According to Knight, one poem includes a rant against a mother who discouraged Bey’s interest in her son. Knight describes these works as ‘a child molester’s liberation theology… for an audience of potential offenders’. There’s also an obscure novel, Crowstone, which includes fictional depictions of a world where man-boy sex is normal. Then there’s a piece on the ‘Witness Game’ in historical Sufism, and a (loose) translation of related works by Abu Nuwas.

Learning of this position in support of ‘boy-love’ has shocked many of Bey’s readers, myself included. Indeed, some still seek to deny it. I’ve come across a variety of readings from scholars and others interested in Bey: he doesn’t mean it literally, but as Sufi-style allegory; he’s doing it to provoke and shock; he’s simply raising questions about child sexuality; or he’s mainly talking about sexually active youths. (The fact that children and adolescents have a sexuality of sorts is now widely recognised, independently of issues around paedophilia). For instance, Sellers reads Bey’s position as a Foucaldian attempt to stimulate discussion about adolescent sexuality. He accuses critics of ‘institutionalized homophobia’, and of taking Bey’s playful writings too literally. References in Bey/Wilson’s works can often be read in this way. However, I feel that Bey’s poetry and literature, his NAMBLA affiliation, and his exchanges with Knight defeat such readings.

Unsurprisingly, Bey/Wilson’s position has produced strong negative reactions. There are people who refuse to promote Bey’s work or use his concepts on the grounds that they consider him a ‘paedophile’ or an ‘apologist for child abuse’. For example, his entry has been deleted on ZineWiki for this reason. An opponent by the name of Robert Helms has written a series of articles condemning Bey/Wilson on these grounds. Helms goes so far as to portray Bey’s theory of autonomy as simply a way of creating lawless spaces in which children will be vulnerable to abuse. Another critic, the eco-authoritarian Vinay Gupta, uses the child-abuse issue as a hook to argue against autonomy in general. He suggests that only people with nefarious desires want the abolition of the state. In fact, Helms, Gupta, and Knight all read Bey’s position on abuse broadly in this way – as exposing the problems with his opposition to moral order. This is roughly a re-hash of the Hobbesian argument that abuse and ‘crime’ would flourish in an anarchist society. I shall come to this broader issue later.

perhaps why vinay gupta (and all the others) seem to have no interest in discussing life sans any form of m\a\p.. we have no idea what legit free people are like .. so we just keep perpetuating myth of tragedy and lord


The problem underlying this distortion is the propensity to rationalise as consensual a type of action which actually objectifies the other – in effect, the disguising of reactive desire as active desire. This position is thus contradictory with his broader position of supporting active desire against reactive desire. Or possibly, he imagines there is a non-abusive outlet for his desire, which is not based on the ‘misery of others’ (in effect as well as intent), when in fact there is not. He might not intend to abuse anyone, but he desires things which require such abuse, or else are unactualisable.

imagine if we ness of a nother way vs hari present in society law of sea world

In practice, abuse is closely tied-up with objectification. Abuse generally involves objectifying a child, using them to produce adult pleasure, usually without concern for the effect on the child. Survivors report feeling ‘used or hurt’, feeling a violation of trust, and suffering loss of self-respect. According to Judith Herman, sexual abuse usually happens in a wider context of control, or even ‘pervasive terror, in which ordinary caretaking relationships have been profoundly disrupted’. This usually occurs in a climate of totalitarian control enforced by isolation from horizontal relationships, capricious and violent enforcement of petty rules, and absence of trust. Social isolation is enforced to preserve control and secrecy.

structural violence.. steiner care to oppression law et al


Bey would probably respond that bad experiences result from authoritarianism he opposes, or from social responses such as shame, guilt and sexual puritanism. Experiences might be quite different if adult-child relations were not as power-laden as they are. Future cross-cultural research might change current conclusions. But shame, social responses, and the adult’s social power do not seem to account for all the negative accounts. In any case, shame is better explained on a trauma model than a social model, because abuse survivors are not socially classified as committing a shameful or deviant act. Given this evidence, Wilson/Bey’s rejection of dominating and non-consensual forms of sex should logically cover those forms of child-abuse he supports. The scenarios Bey fantasises about are probably impossible in practice.

so long as we stay in sea world..

but not if we (all of us) get out.. hari rat park law et al

On a more general, theoretical level, Bey’s problematic position on ‘boy-love’ is sometimes taken to discredit autonomy in general. Bey can here be grouped with Deleuze and Guattari, Nietzsche, Reich, Stirner, Situationism, post-left anarchy, and arguably anarchism more broadly, as part of a politics of desire. This type of position is often dismissed by opponents in a too-easy way which goes something like this: the author rejects authority and morality, therefore everything is justified and anything goes, therefore they must condone all kinds of abuse, murder, rape, and so on. It is basically a re-hash of the Hobbesian argument against anarchism, spontaneous order and autonomy, on the basis that freedom leads to chaos and violence. According to this ideology, people who follow their desires will harm each other. This claim leads to ideologies of security, order and protection. And for someone trying to make this argument, the fact that a famous anarchist advocates child-abuse is useful confirmation! This kind of argument arises in all the main critics who focus on Bey’s ideas on child sexuality – Knight, Helms and Gupta. It also appears, for example, in certain critiques of Deleuze, such as Eve Bischoff’s argument that the ‘Hanover werewolf’ is an instance of Deleuzian desire.

myth of tragedy and lord et al


This overlaps with a second issue, of ‘safeguarding’ or ‘safe spaces’. Does the type of anarchy propounded by people like Bey – and to which I’m also extremely sympathetic – entail a lack of protection for vulnerable people? This is the usual argument against children’s liberation, and is also advanced by various identity-based critics of post-left anarchy, including some feminists. TAZ and anarchy imply the removal of the formal protections which are meant to prevent all kinds of violence and abuse. It is (or it creates) an ‘unsafe space’ for people who need to avoid particular kinds of abuse or harassment. This critique has in recent years fuelled a move in radical politics away from autonomous organising and towards quasi-bureaucratic models of organisation with formalised protection procedures.

why people won’t let go enough to see what legit free people are like.. so.. we have not yet seen.. we have no idea

Both of these positions rest on a Hobbesian view of anarchy. The misunderstanding underpinning this type of critique is the idea that people either act in destructive and abusive ways or submit to outer norms and morals. The politics-of-desire position, however, is that people can follow their passions and pursue intensity, without becoming predatory on one another. Accountability to outer norms, authorities and moralities is rejected. However, there is a kind of immanent ethics which emerges for each person from an experience of balance and becoming. (This is similar in some ways to the treatment of “badness” as imbalance in ancient and indigenous philosophies). As we have seen, Bey does not believe in living without ethics. He believes in a type of virtue ethics in which conviviality, mutual attraction, and intensity are valued.

but only if it’s all of us.. and only if we get out of sea world first

Theorists of desire usually argues that truly living – intensely, passionately, playfully, without limits – is more important than simple survival. For this reason, they are not open to criticism based on risk or harm. If people sometimes live shorter lives because they (or others) pursue their pleasures intensely, this does not mean the situation is worse than in an authoritarian society. However, there is little reason to believe that an egalitarian, free, passion-driven social world would be worse than today’s dystopian nightmare. The restraint of passions entails institutional systems which themselves cause immense harm, for example war, police brutality and economic exploitation.

Bey’s support for ‘boy-love’ is not based on a conscious endorsement of harming others on the grounds of desire. (If he took such a position, then he would also support overt rape, torture, and murder). It is based on a denial that ‘boy-love’ entails harm. This is an empirical dispute, and I believe Bey is wrong on this point, but it does not at all undermine the politics of desire. In other words, if the view that adult-child sex is oppressive/abusive to children is right, then such acts are also inconsistent with Bey’s wider theory.


In response to the question, ‘is it wrong to act on one’s desires when it harms others?’, the mainstream has a simplistic answer: it’s always wrong, because morality is abstract and is not connected to desire. However, this answer is wrong, because morality can have no basis other than desire, and because moral regimes have themselves produced much sadism and suffering. The politics of desire answers that it is sometimes right and sometimes wrong, but for different reasons. It is wrong when it is based on reactive or negative desires, rather than the free flow of becoming. ..Usually, however, destructive effects are signs that desire has been distorted through alienation – much the same way as in neuroses, addictions, and self-abnegations. Crucially, this is not a normative condemnation but an awareness of the social deviant as the site of a blockage in the wider flow of becoming.

Most post-left anarchists also support children’s liberation, and hence oppose laws targeting children, and what Bey terms the serfhood of children in contemporary society. One tenet of children’s liberation is opposition to age-discriminatory laws, such as compulsory schooling, prohibitions on leaving one’s parents, and bans on drinking and smoking. Discrimination against children makes little sense from a theoretical point of view favouring desire, intensity, pleasure, and immanent becoming (rather than a framework favouring a Cartesian rational subject).

ssupposed to’s of school/work.. bs jobs from birth .. maté parenting law.. et al

Bey gives the impression of being strongly in favour of children’s liberation. For instance, he co-edited an anthology, Wild Children, which promotes children’s voices. It does not contain any paedophile advocacy material, but rather, children’s creative works, and critiques of school. While Helms sees this as a matter of suspicion, to me it suggests that Bey is committed to children’s liberation, independently of his views on sexuality. Children are portrayed in Bey’s work as beings of wildness, play, imagination, and pure delight. Indeed, Bey’s work frequently speaks to the archetype of childhood or the inner child. However, he seems to mix up childhood and sexuality, which are both sites of insurrection and intensity.

Hobbesian critics assume that outer accountability makes the world a safer place. However, there is little evidence for this view. Both states and stateless social groups can be peaceful or conflictual. But modern states and capitalism are immensely destructive, in forms such as industrialised warfare, genocide and ecocide. The illusion that “order” provides safety and welfare is really an illusion of in-groups, who are sometimes made safer and richer through the subordination or out-groups. .t Bey’s theory of social triage, and the risk that any of us could be labelled a ‘contaminant’, is closer to the reality of securitised neoliberalism than the Hobbesian illusion.

carhart-harris entropy law.. gershenfeld something else law.. et al.. need to let go of any form of m\a\p


Authoritarians are also not on very solid ground believing they have a better response to abuse. Law has been proven to be a clumsy, ineffective response – as it is to most social problems. The protectors are often the abusers. State institutions meant to protect children often reproduce abuse. Age-of-consent laws sometimes criminalise young people, ignore differences in the consent capacity of people in an age-group, and fail to protect anyone over the specified age. Stateless societies rarely use laws for social control at all. Informal, diffuse normative systems might be more sensitive than laws to the actual nature of a relationship and its impact on a young person.

Capitalism does not oppose children’s liberation to protect children from abuse. It opposes children’s liberation so as to continue to coerce children into being indoctrinated as capitalist subjects through the school system and authoritarian families. The idea of ‘protection’ is grounded on a misperception of the biggest violent force in contemporary society – the modern state – as a benign guardian to be trusted with the interests of the vulnerable. Look at the miserable faces in any academy playground, look at the use of police in schools, read how children’s homes are becoming a conveyor belt to jail, how play is criminalised along with other everyday acts, family courts forcing mothers to turn children over to abusers, and repeated accusations of sexual abuse at children’s homes, and the lie of the state as protector from abuse becomes abundantly clear. Indeed, the state and capitalism have an interest in working-class children being traumatised, to prepare them for domination by bosses and to break their will to resist. Indeed, the kinds of tyrannical adult relations which Herman portrays as the usual context for child abuse are paradoxically encouraged by the same authoritarians who oppose child abuse so aggressively.


steiner care to oppression law.. graeber violence in care law.. et al

need: gershenfeld something else law et al


34 – trauma and peak experience

Bey, and politics of desire in general, seeks intensity, peak experience and affirmation of being. The experience of trauma is a barrier to such experiences. Trauma can cause ‘anhedonia’ or an inability to feel pleasure; it can make the world feel empty and meaningless. If a free world led to an epidemic of trauma, then the appeal of the politics of desire would be undermined. However, there are various accounts which suggest that stateless societies lead to childhoods which are both freer and happier than in modern societies. Far from these societies being hotbeds of abuse, it is unknown in some societies for children even to be left crying. Punishments are minimal or nonexistent. Comparing such accounts with problems in postcolonial indigenous societies – such as Eduardo Duran’s work with Native American communities – shows that physical and sexual abuse are effects of colonisation. Groups who are colonised, dispossessed and alienated suffer big increases in violence, including sexual abuse. Some still remember an experience familiar to readers of Bey, such as Haida Thowhegwelth: ‘My principal cause is freedom. I’m old enough to remember what it was like to be free. Free from harassment by police, free from harassment by fisheries… People talk about this country being a free country. They have no idea of freedom. If you ever had the taste of freedom that I have known, you would never give it up, you’d fight for it like I do’.

black science of people/whales law.. black wildness law..

need: gershenfeld something else law.. carhart-harris entropy law.. et al

There are various ways in which freedom reduces trauma. Firstly, it is harder to establish coercive control (the usual root of abuse) in a world without authoritarian institutions. Secondly, the type of self-actualising, immanent selves encouraged by the politics of desire are less likely than enclosed, modern subjects to abuse each other. (However, there is a danger that people adopting fusion-based, spontaneous positions similar to Bey’s will be easy targets for abusers). Thirdly, people who are less frustrated and angry, less neurotic, and more fulfilled are less likely to be abusive.

hari rat park law

The danger of trauma is downplayed in Bey’s work. In practice, aimless wandering usually entails risk-taking, and trauma can block the possibility of having peak experiences. Activists who have suffered trauma suggest that it makes these kinds of experiences impossible. Bey is right that a certain kind of consciousness or relationship to chaos might help to make trauma seem overcomable, but there is a problem of constructing this orientation in embodied as well as intellectual ways. Indeed, Bey writes of a ‘healing laugh’ which arises from an intoxicated yet serious type of art or play. The paradox is that, while peak experiences are arguably the answer to trauma, the state of being traumatised tends to block people from accessing peak experiences, or even feeling them to be possible. I sometimes feel that Bey is naive in his treatment of trauma, ignoring the difficulty of constructing experiences/relations of abundance and contingency. But this might be because of a lack of sufficient peak experiences, rather than because it’s really naïve.

not difficult.. ie: imagine if we..

maté trauma law et al


35 – structural oppression and autonomy

There is another residual problem. Autonomous zones negate formal structural power, but what about informal power based on patterns of dominant and subordinate identity? The gamble of theories like Bey’s is that people can be invited to leave their structural oppression and ‘conditioning’ at the door, and live by desire and self-determination instead of existing categories. Bey considers dominant subjectivities to be effects of a media trance. Break the trance, and people will re-emerge as distinct, desiring subjects. Some theorists would be pessimistic about this possibility, because they take structural oppressions to be extremely deep-rooted or even inescapable. Although I feel this critique is overplayed, there are also possibilities that people will bring habits and patterns into autonomous zones. For example, someone who is used to deferring to others might continue to do so, even when there is no structural authority. People might continue to prefer to do tasks they are competent at, when their competency is affected by class or gender.

today have means to break trance (because needs to be all of us at once.. otherwise off sync ness keeps messing with us)

I don’t feel this is a reason for rejecting autonomous spaces as oppressive or informally hierarchical, and regressing to authoritarian power-structures. In a horizontal space, it doesn’t matter much if some people are louder or more active than others, provided power-relations remain fluid. The reduction of every disagreement or instance of discomfort to macrosocial structures outside the autonomous context is a barrier to effectively constructing horizontal relations. The political style which condemns others for “taking up too much space” or deviating from etiquette codes is an imposition of outer power onto autonomous spaces. It fails to treat people as immanent singularities or as part of the field of becoming. However, the issue of how to construct autonomously-desiring subjects – and resist formations of alienation and reactive desire – is a real issue for autonomous therapy and pedagogy. The goal should not be to produce ‘responsible’, cautious people who identify with their positionalities and follow etiquette codes. Instead, the goal should be the emergence of unique subjects who are not reducible to their positionalities. Creating horizontalism and intensity combats social exclusion. There is evidence that conditions of conflict and scarcity lead to closed, intolerant communities, whereas conditions of abundance lead to open communities. An approach like Bey’s thus contributes to creating the conditions for acceptance of difference more effectively than scarcity-reproducing identity positions.

need: means to undo our hierarchical listening.. to combat ie: maté trump law et al.. for brown belonging law ness

Bey’s approach may not be perfect in preventing oppression, but it is more likely to be successful in the medium term than the alternative, austere approach. Emotions of joy and euphoria, a social connection derived from experienced intensity rather than normativity, a culture marked by hybridity and nomadism, and awareness of the interconnected and holistic nature of being, all point towards the development of authentically open relations to others. This transformation is one of the most effective means of preventing oppression and abuse – far more effective than bureaucratic ‘safe spaces’ policies or risk-management approaches, which reproduce hierarchical power.

aka: gershenfeld something else law

Overall, Bey’s mistake in rationalising one form of abusive power does not render his general theory any less useful in combatting abusive power in general. Authoritarian power leads to abuse by those in power. A TAZ is less oriented to the goal of protection than a modern state with its rhetoric of risk-management. The idea of burning up life in the process of living is counterposed to the idea of risk-minimisation. But still, a TAZ may often be a safer place for difference than a micro-managed institution. Micro-management generates its own forms of danger by cutting off the life-force itself. The ethos Bey promotes in his work – intensity, peak experiences, bricolage, altered consciousness, living for enjoyment, conviviality, immanent ethics – affirms the life-force and counteracts trauma with experiences of intensity.


36 – leftist critiques

Bey’s work has also come in for sharp criticism from left-anarchist writers, including Murray Bookchin, John Armitage, Richard Barbrook, Sean Sheehan and others. These critiques generally have the tone of hatchet-jobs or dismissals, often hinging on marginal aspects of Bey’s work (such as the idea of anarcho-monarchism, or a single remark about abortion). Critics argue that Bey is unconcerned about capitalism, despite his extensive theory of alienation, which they generally ignore. They typically fail to appreciate the type of experience to which Bey points, or its subversive potential (which they reduce to hedonism). This is partly a result of Bey’s style, which is more suggestive than direct. Without an intuitive connection to the ideas of TAZ and peak experience, Bey’s work seems nonsensical. Critics often fill in the resultant void with tendentious interpretations of particular passages. These are condemned as heretical relative to their own political ideology.

quiet enough

For example, Bookchin’s ‘social anarchism’ (before he renounced anarchism completely) included strong elements of social control, structure, responsibility, and collectivism. He labels opponents like Bey as denying the necessary preconditions for social life. He also lumps them together in the rather meaningless category of ‘lifestyle anarchism’. This strange conceptual amalgam of deep ecology, eco-anarchism, politics of desire, post-left anarchy, and anarcho-capitalism is unified in its alleged ‘individualism’ and refusal of socialist collectivism. Besides this purely negative unity it otherwise consists of various distinct positions unified in a bogeyman adversary.

As we have seen, Bey is not strictly individualist. He has a distinct theory of conviviality, or social life based in passion, which is compatible with his emphasis on intensity and personal becoming. He would thus disagree with Bookchin that authoritarianism is ‘necessary for social life’. However, he opposes social integration through self-denial and normativity. This is a real bone of contention with some left-anarchists.

brown belonging law

Bookchin believes that countercultural eruptions die down without social effects. They provide ‘kicks’ rather than ‘temporary commitment’, and do not even change those who take part, let alone the wider society. Yet there are many cases of social transformation due to counterculture – for example, the collapse of lifelong monogamy and the recognition of ‘youth’ as a social category. I know many people who have been changed permanently by participation in drop-out movements. The very awareness of a possible outside is one of the most lasting changes. As Williams puts it, a TAZ allows us to ‘sample the autonomous life’. There are also many cases of recruits to left-wing groups who do not become lifelong revolutionaries, and of organised campaigns which are unsuccessful.

graeber’s possible worlds.. graeber make it diff law.. et al

Sean Sheehan accuses Bey of a ‘mere politics of style’, without political substance. In particular, he alleges that Bey lacks a class perspective. To me, it’s pretty clear from earlier discussions that Bey’s theory has plenty of substance. There are good strategic reasons for the approaches he adopts, which follow logically from his analysis of capitalism. He doesn’t emphasise class exploitation because he sees mediation, alienation and recuperation as the main problems. Another critic, Gavin Grindon, argues that Bey succumbs to the Spectacle by imagining the world of the autonomous image to be the real world. This misunderstands Bey’s point that the system functions mainly through the power of the image

Benjamin Franks advances elements of a similar critique. He argues that nomadic strategies might only be available to economically independent, privileged actors. He also argues that strategies of exodus lead to a sense of being ‘special’ or even ‘sanctified’ relative to the masses. This is combined with a concern that Bey proposes avoiding direct confrontation with the state. I feel these concerns are misplaced for several reasons. Firstly, ‘dropping-out’ is by no means limited to privileged groups, but occurs worldwide, from shanty-town alternative economies to the New Traveller movement (who were mostly working-class), from American freight-train riders to indigenous movements like the Zapatistas. Secondly, the sense of being ‘special’ is certainly preferable to the sense of being submerged in a dominant, oppressive culture. When leftists urge post-leftists to refrain from exodus so as to avoid separating from the masses, they reveal the extent to which they have internalised oppression as politically desirable. In any case, any critic, however traditionally leftist, who wants to avoid accepting reactionary ‘common sense’ will necessarily have to adopt a critical distance from the majority’s ‘false consciousness’, however they choose to spin it.

actually no one can legit drop out unless we all do.. which makes it easy to criticize all the part\ial ness

In addition, I’d argue that Bey is right when he says that traditional leftist demonstrations, pickets and publishing activities ‘don’t add up to a vital, daring conspiracy of self-liberation’ today. More is needed, especially in everyday life. Bey is producing original theories of power and resistance today, paying close attention to the current context and the latest theories about it. This brings him closer to the strategic issues of activism today than those groups which trust in historical models. Many of today’s cutting-edge movements, from Tahrir Square and Occupy to the ZAD, the Greek revolt and Anonymous, look more like TAZ’s or tongs than they do like Marxist models of revolution.

imagine if we

This seems to entail a misunderstanding of Bey’s position. Armitage presumably believes that Bey does not refer to capitalism because Bey rarely uses the word capitalism (or other Marxist-rooted terminology). However, if we include references to the Spectacle, the totality, mediation, civilisation, the planetary work-machine, and other such system-concepts as instances of capitalism by other names, Armitage’s argument collapses. In fact, Bey has a strong analysis of contemporary capitalism, focused on the power of the media, the virtualisation of money, and the recuperation of alternatives. There is nothing inherently liberal in separating the state, society and desire. In fact, a separation of state and society seems as necessary to the Marxist idea of dual power as to Bey’s theory.

As for desire, Bey’s (and Deleuze’s, Nietzsche’s, Debord’s…) refusal of the Althusserian structuralist view that desire is simply an effect of subjectification by the existing system is not necessarily any less revolutionary than the structuralist alternative. If desires are effects of the existing system, then any possibility of revolution is faint. Why would people seek to overthrow a system which determines what they seek? The answer typically hinges on internal contradictions, or the subject as a ‘void’ in the structure – conceptions which are unhelpful for formulating radical practices. In practice, such theories tend to restore power to a revolutionary vanguard (which can identify the real contradictions) or restrict people to reformist tactics on the ‘margins’ of existing structures. In any case, the idea that desire is never ‘outside’ capitalism, but simply an effect of it, is false – and calling it ‘liberal’ a million times will not make it true. I engage with this issue more thoroughly – in relation to Spivak’s critique of Deleuze – elsewhere.

The argument that Bey reduces capital and the state to images is a more solid criticism. Bey emphasises tactics of invisibility, withdrawal and media subversion. He tends to reject head-on conflict. This is due to a view of the system as dangerous mainly in terms of recuperation through images. However, there are also solid empirical reasons for Bey’s belief that capitalism now takes this form.

It is also true that Bey focuses on individual and small-group resistance. But this makes complete sense in terms of avoiding recuperation. Small-group resistance is not necessarily ineffective relative to large-scale resistance, as is shown in James Scott’s example of cumulative peasant resistances which defeated particular policies. Similarly, leftist critics assume that class is the only politically effective identification. This claim, at the very least, needs testing empirically.

ie: curiosity over decision making et al.. itch-in-the-soul ness.. from short findings restate

On a slightly different note, Luther Blissett, a pen-name for a post-Situationist culture-jamming collective associated with Stewart Home, published a hoax volume of translated ‘Hakim Bey’ articles to expose the naivete of Bey’s Italian readership. The volume included everything from Zerzan’s critique of Bey to barely-altered Stalinist material. The hoax apparently worked. The collective take this as evidence for the insubstantiality of Bey’s project, which they deem a mixture of ‘Hippie bullshit’, ‘oriental trinkets’, poststructuralism and ‘cybercrap’. Without the integrating force of an intuitive grasp of the experience of altered consciousness, this is doubtless how Bey’s work appears. However, the success of the hoax suggests that some of Bey’s readers are similarly unaware of the gist of his work.


37 – other critiques

There has also been a dispute between Bey and the anarcho-primitivist theorist John Zerzan. Zerzan’s main criticism is that Bey is too technophile. Zerzan believes that technology is at the root of alienation; Bey does not. In his critique of Bey, Zerzan repeats many of the leftist criticisms that Bey’s work is insubstantial, fashionable, and ‘postmodernist’ (taken to entail a refusal of decisive political positions, and a resultant liberal politics). In addition, Bey and Zerzan have real disagreements on the role of art. For Zerzan, art, and even shamanism, are forms of alienation. For Bey, art engages with a primordial problem of the human condition, and has a specific role in disalienated societies.

art (by day/light) and sleep (by night/dark) as re\set.. to fittingness/undisturbed ecosystem

While there are real disagreements here, I believe Zerzan is wrong to claim that Bey does not reject the contemporary system as a ‘totality’. Rather, the disagreements are at the level of which aspects of the world are utterly implicated in the totality, and which can be reclaimed as tools. Bey also claims that some Latin American critics are uneasy with the ‘adventurousness’ of TAZ. The context of this criticism is unclear, but Bey’s approach is clearly more playful and joy-oriented than neo-Marxist tendencies common in Latin American autonomous movements.

There is also a psychological critique of approaches such as Bey’s which rests on the prevalence of feelings of anxiety and powerlessness. Bey is typical of a generation of theorists (from the 1960s to the 1990s) whose main adversary was the boredom, emptiness and conformist habit of modern life. This was in turn an effect of the fact that they were struggling against the Fordist, Keynesian form of ‘organised capitalism’. Today, it has been argued that anxiety is a more pressing problem holding back transformative politics. Anxiety, trauma and burnout seem to contribute to the ineffectiveness of tactics inherited from the struggle against Fordism.

This makes it harder and harder to create TAZ’s, in a society marked both by the intensified ‘management’ of social life, the pre-emption of possible spaces of autonomy, and the generalisation of anxiety. Bey’s strategies focus on providing excitement and peak experience, but people are already overstimulated. The lack of a sense of safety, and the focus on boredom rather than anxiety, limit the effectiveness of such processes. However, it is also possible that altered consciousness provides a standpoint from which anxiety and demoralisation are undermined. It often feels like no change is possible. But this is an effect of media trance-consciousness, of neoliberalism. Altered consciousness might offset the feeling.

carhart-harris entropy law.. gershenfeld something else law.. a nother way

If, as Bey argues, the universe is chaos, founded on nothing solid or representable, this can easily be experienced as terrifying or anxiety-inducing, rather than exhilarating. Many of Lovecraft’s depictions of monstrous experiences sound similar to Bey’s affirmative proclamations. Take for instance the following passage from The Call of Cthulhu: “That cult would never die till the stars came right again, and the secret priests would take great Cthulhu from His tomb to revive His subjects and resume His rule of earth. The time would be easy to know, for then mankind would have become as the Great Old Ones; free and wild and beyond good and evil, with laws and morals thrown aside and all men shouting and killing and revelling in joy. Then the liberated Old Ones would teach them new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoy themselves, and all the earth would flame with a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom”. This almost sounds like a passage from Bey – but for Lovecraft it is portrayed with a sense of terror! Could this be an effect of different ways of dealing with the flow of becoming?

myth of tragedy and lord et al

In some respects, this difference between Bey and Lovecraft models the difference between the revolutionary exodus of the 1960s-70s and the neoliberal precarity which recuperated it. Undercut by capitalism, the experience of flow and self-transformation became a source of anxiety rather than euphoria. Many poststructuralist writers who once celebrated post-Fordist contingency – such as Stuart Hall and Arjun Appadurai – later came to recognise that it had generated anxiety, fundamentalisms and insecurity, rather than the open-ended, self-defined identities they sought. Bey differs from these scholars in refusing to identify contingency with neoliberal capitalism or the ‘postmodern condition’, but there is a similar issue with the effect of chaos. Another thing that Bey does, that poststructuralists generally do not, is to suggest concrete practices to overcome alienation.

ie: imagine if we

Bey’s work is similar to other traditions of re-enchantment and magic, such as the Wiccan tradition, as exemplified by Starhawk. He shares with these authors an emphasis on desire and becoming, an immanentist critique of dominant religions, openness to the ‘imaginal realm’, and a personalised view of spiritual practices. While this tradition is also useful for radical politics, I would argue that Bey’s approach is more uncompromisingly radical, shedding boundaries, ‘ordinary’ concerns (such as work), and fixed identities. In contrast, authors like Starhawk are careful to tread a middle path between ordinary and altered consciousness, carefully encouraging restraint and protection from a complete loss of self. This is arguably the difference between a revolutionary use of magic, which seeks to overturn the ordinary, and a supplementary use, which seeks to survive within and subtly alter the ordinary.

huge.. have to let go of part\ial ness.. for (blank)’s sake

Often, self-transformation becomes a substitute for revolution, and a pretext for capitulation. Bey does not replace outer revolution with inner change, but connects the two. He is also unusual in theorising capitalism, the state, and social hierarchy as forms of dark magic. This makes it hard to combine his theory with conformist goals or practices, and requires an anti-systemic position. As a result of this element, his theory is very much oppositional to, rather than supplementary of, the mainstream. Furthermore, he is inclined to embrace risky emotions (such as anger) and practices (such as drug use), rather than maintaining a zone of conformity compatible with social inclusion.

as if already free ness as part\ial ness as cancerous

In conclusion, I find Bey’s work to be a powerful critical approach in engaging with issues of struggle against mediation and alienation. He sees chaos as ontologically primary, social praxis as a kind of ‘magic’, and capitalism and the state as effects of ‘dark magic’. The dominant system is mainly a matter of alienation, by means of mediation, and it can be combated by immediacy, autonomy, intensity, and altered consciousness. This transformed perspective can be achieved by a variety of means, and extended outwards into zones of autonomy which might ultimately cover the whole world. This is an inspiring and very contemporary view of resistance which resonates well with emerging forms of autonomous social movement. While the strategic conditions for realising autonomy are constantly shifting, it is important to keep pursuing a disalienated world, and the perspective of disalienation as altered consciousness, peak experience, and immediacy is at least as convincing as the more standard Marxian view.

Andy McLaverty-Robinson is a political theorist and activist based in the UK. He is the co-author (with Athina Karatzogianni) of Power, Resistance and Conflict in the Contemporary World: Social Movements, Networks and Hierarchies (Routledge, 2009). He has recently published a series of books on Homi Bhabha. His ‘In Theory’ column appears every other Friday.



few notes from bey interview – Hakim Bey / Mordecai Watts Telephone Interview – (1995) – 9 pages – []

MW: One of the points in T.A.Z. and on the album is that imagination has been co-opted by the media, almost as if people no longer have imaginations of their own… imagination is now something people are fed, as opposed to what they used to excrete by nature. You mentioned virtual reality in passing, referring to it as the latest form of entertainment the least amount of imagination to date

Bey: It just seems to become more and more apparent to me… I have to admit I felt a certain intense interest, perhaps even amounting to a potential enthusiasm, when this tech was first being discussed. I’d read Gibson like the rest of us, and I certainly understood his dystopian point, but nevertheless , when Tim Leary and people like that began to get enthusiastic, I had to investigate on that level. I haven’t seen much evidence that what Uncle Tim thought was going to happen is really happening. Once again, any technology could be democratic if it were distributed, you know what I mean? It’s a simple Marxist thing about means of production. There’s nothing inherently authoritarian–at least at first glance–to any technology, although one could argue about how technology then shapes the society that has already shaped the technology in a kind of feedback loop that can move towards greater and greater authoritarianism/lack of autonomy. And in fact, I think that something like that is what’s happening with communications technology. The potential for what, back in the ’50s and ’60s, people were calling electronic democracy, is obviously still there as a potential structure, and you can see certain elements of it in the Net, but when you’re talking about the high tech involved in virtual reality you’re really talking about something that is not accessible to most people. And I think it probably never will be. There’s never going to be any cheap VR kit that’s going to allow a dock worker in Manila to get on some kind of cyberspace Internet, much less a dock worker in Atlanta–or me, for example. So to talk about electronic democracy when you’re still dealing within a capitalist framework that deliberately prices things along class lines, you know, we’re going to have an information highway but it’s going to be policed by the likes of the Democrats and the Republicans. It’s not going to be any more of an electronic democracy than America is now a legislative democracy.

berners-lee everyone law.. none of us are free.. et al

bey: Also, on the subject of the recuperation of the imagination, I would say that my thinking has gotten more gloomy over the past few years in relation to VR and VR type technology. I think that even the Internet–although I’ve had some enjoyable moments myself in connection with the Internet, and I certainly don’t want to put it down in and of itself–it’s a fascinating phenomenon–and it does show some features of what an autonomous, non-hierarchical Web could be like in cyberspace–but it’s also under assault from power, as we all know. And eventually, power will win, because power has the power. It actually owns the kilowatts, not to mention the big battalions, as Stalin said in relation to the Pope. So I’m a little gloomy about the future of the Internet if Carter–not Carter, I keep calling that asshole Carter–Clinton and his assholes are really serious about the information highway and about the policing of the information highway, I think you’ll see that even the smiley-faced liberal Democrats will act in no wise different from cyber-fascists. In fact, they are one and the same thing. So there’s still room for contestation, room for struggle, whatever you want to call that, and the Internet is an interesting area of contestation, but 90 per cent of what goes out over the Internet–correct me if I’m wrong, I don’t play on the Internet myself–my impression is that 90 per cent of what goes out over it is completely unrelated to any kind of freedom interests or autonomy proposals or projects, or struggles for genuine non-hierarchical, non-authoritarian group dynamic. Most of it is just chit-chat–banal chit-chat that could just as easily be carried out over an old fashioned party line phone. You’re probably not old enough to remember those, when there would be five or six people on a phone line, there’d have to be signals so you’d pick up when it was for you, and so forth… I don’t see that there’s been any kind of great advance there over my dear old Aunt Janice who used to pick up the phone and listen to other people’s conversations when she wasn’t supposed to. If that’s autonomy then we’ve had it.

Bey: At the minimum, there will be a statement from me that, as also representing the publisher of the book, Autonomedia, that the text is anti-copyright and can be copied and distributed at will. We’re still working on the legal thing with the people who own Island/Axiom. I’m hoping that we can get the whole thing out with some kind of very obvious invitation to copy freely. Bill [Laswell] and everybody I’ve been working with with Bill is entirely in agreement with this, but on the other hand it’s not worth their jobs. So they’re not putting their jobs on the line over this, but they’re trying their best to get rid of all the usual copyright bullshit. Even from a marketing point of view, in my mind that kind of stuff is largely irrelevant. People copy anyway. What we found out–oddly enough, this is something I didn’t expect–but I think putting an anti-copyright on the book actually made the book sell better. When people got hold of an outtake from the book, and then saw there was an anti-copyright, they said, ‘Oh, I can copy this,’ so they went out and bought a copy of the book and then copied it. That way, three and four more people maybe got to read bits and pieces of the book, or the whole book, but it also sold one more copy of the book. I explained all this to Laswell and his crew, and they saw the logic of it, and I think it very is much the logic of the Net at work. Intellectual property, as a legal problem, might just evaporate if the net really behaved in this truly non-hierarchic fashion that we were talking about earlier. And as long as there is a net or a counter-net that does behave that way, it can raise its own money.

if we don’t let go of money.. any form of m\a\p.. will never be non hierarchic

MW: Do you have any thoughts on how one could best realize the Internet as a T.A.Z.?

Bey: I’m led to believe, through conversations with people who are much more techie and active than I am, that cypher–unbreakable code–is the key. So the cypher-punks are the people to keep an eye on at this moment. And they also tend to be the ones who are most active around freedom of speech issues and so forth, whether legal or extra-legal. If Clipper were to prove impossible due to an ever-receding technological horizon of impenetrability, then this would–God knows what they would do, I suppose they would have to try to physically break down the technology in the households, and the actual people who were key and central to such a system. There certainly would be a declaration of war of some kind or another, I should think. I think there’s one now. I think Clipper was a declaration of war on the Net. Now that the egg is on their face, because within ten minutes some hacker figured out how to beat the Clipper, is sort of an indication of–oh, let’s call it an area of chaos. Within areas of chaos, either horrible destruction and disease and death occur, or, if you’re flowing the right way, and if all hearts are beating in unison to a certain degree, then that area of chaos can become the T.A.Z. Now I’ve said over and over again, that there’s no such thing as a T.A.Z. that’s only on the Net, and I maintain that that’s true. In order to have autonomy, you have to have physicality. Autonomy is not something that can only exist in the imagination or in the world of images. I think that it involves the entirety, the whole axial being, and that is rooted in the earth and concerns physicality, materiality, the body, mortality, if you like, as contrasted to the spurious immortality of cyberspace. But I still maintain that, at least in theory, the net could be an adjunct to the T.A.Z., could be a tool or a weapon, even, if you want to look at it that way, for the construction of the T.A.Z.

W: Regarding power and VR: David Blair has pointed out that VR technology actually emerged from military flight simulation technology.

Bey: Absolutely. Everything’s always emerging from military technology. I just found out the other day… you know what Taylorism means? [It’s] the rationalization of factory production by rationalizing the workforce with time clocks, what have you… the guy who invented it, Taylor, figured it all out while he was working in an arsenal for the army, around the post-civil War era. Do you know the work of Manuel Delanda [sp]?

[MW sheepishly confesses his ignorance.]

BeyWar In The Age of the Intelligent Machines. This is a major thesis that Manuel is working on, and I think a very, very important one, that we have to question all technology if we’re questioning the militarization of consciousness, because all technology is suspect from that point of view. It’s not all guilty, maybe, but it’s all suspect.