david on communism
communism – 11 page pdf (2010) by david graeber
via nika dubrovsky:
Nika Dubrovsky (@nikadubrovsky) tweeted at 3:41 PM on Wed, Dec 09, 2020:
Wonderful text by @davidgraeber I never read it. Thank you Mitya Zhikharevich for the link https://t.co/ZzwmS1htzFhttps://t.co/Udio9rR3d3
11 page pdf (2010)
Communism may be divided into two chief varieties, which I will call ‘mythic’ and ‘everyday’ communism.
1\ Mythic Communism (with a capital C) is a theory of history, of a classless society that once existed and will, it is hoped, someday return again. It is notoriously messianic in its form. It also relies on a certain notion of totality: once upon a time there were tribes, some day there will be nations, organized entirely on communistic principles: that is, where ‘society’ — the totality itself — regulates social production and therefore inequalities of property will not exist.
2\ Everyday communism (with a small c) can only be understood in contrast by rejecting such totalizing frameworks and examining everyday practice at every level of human life to see where the classic communistic principle of ‘from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs’ is actually applied. As an expectation of mutual aid, communism in this sense can be seen as the foundation of all human sociality anywhere; as a principle of co-operation, it emerges spontaneously in times of crisis; as solidarity, it underlies almost all relations of social trust. Everyday communism then is not a larger regulatory body that co-ordinates all economic activity within a single ‘society,’ but a principle that exists in and to some extent forms the necessary foundation of any society or human relations of any kind. Even capitalism can be seen as a system for managing communism (although it is evidently in many ways a profoundly flawed one).
Mythic Communism – an idea of a society that either once existed or might exist at some time in the future, which is free of all property divisions and where all things are shared in common.
i think it’s not yet existed.. but definitely could
2\ if we create a way to ground the chaos of 8b free people
Secondarily, it refers to social experiments, often religious in inspiration, which try to recreate such arrangements on a smaller scale in the present day.
yeah.. i don’t think we can do it small scale.. it has to be all of us or it won’t work.. the dance won’t dance
Finally, the term has been applied more loosely to mass political movements or regimes that aim to bring such a society about in the future.
In the one, famous instance where he (marx) even came close to such a description, in The German Ideology, he did not even attempt a science fiction vision but preferred to fall back on images clearly inspired by ‘primitive communism’ once more:
As soon as the division of labour begins, each man has a particular, exclusive sphere of activity which is forced upon him and from which he cannot escape. He is a hunter, fisherman, shepherd or a critic and he must remain so if he does not want to lose his means of livelihood; whereas in communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming a hunter, fisherman, shepherd, or critic.
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..
His real point here is that what we call ‘private property,’ ‘the division of labour’ and ‘social inequality’ are all ultimately the same thing; and a free society, therefore, could only be one that abolishes all three of them.
all red flags we’re doing it/life wrong
This is why he insisted that under Communism we would become, as he put it, a Species Being, defined only by our common humanity, rather than being split into different sorts of person who do different things.
A practical manifestation of this would have to be one where we are all free to move back and forth between roles — even, apparently, gender roles, since Marx begins his discussion of the division of labour with the division between men and women — but, by appealing to an obviously fanciful primitive vision, Marx intentionally avoids even speculating about how this might actually work out.
Communism as the positive transcendence of private property as human self estrangement, and therefore as the real appropriation of the human essence by and for man; communism therefore as the complete return of man to himself as a social (i.e. human) being — a return accomplished consciously and embracing the entire wealth of previous development. This communism, as fully developed naturalism, equals humanism, and as fully developed humanism equals naturalism; it is the genuine resolution of the conflict between man and nature and between man and man — the true resolution of the strife between existence and essence, between objectification and self-confirmation, between freedom and necessity, between the individual and the species. Communism is the riddle of history solved, and it knows itself to be this solution.
essence of human being: maté basic needs.. let’s org around that
With the success of the Russian revolution this emphasis did largely change, ..As a result, for many, if not most of the world’s population, ‘Communism’ has come to mean ‘that economic system that prevailed under the command economies of the former Soviet Union and its allies, Maoist China, and other Marxist regimes.’ There is a profound historical irony here, since none of those regimes ever claimed to have actually achieved Communism as they themselves defined it. They referred to their own systems rather as ‘socialist’ — embodying a transitional period of the dictatorship of proletariat that would only be transformed into actual Communism at some unspecified point in the future, when *technological advance, greater education and prosperity would eventually lead to the withering away of the state.
*tech as it could be
ai humanity needs: augmenting interconnectedness
Everyday communism – is it possible to speak of ‘actually existing’ communism? If we view things within a statist framework and look for some unit which can be designated a ‘society’ organized on communistic principles, then clearly the answer would have to be no. However this is not the only possible approach. I prefer to identify a principle that, in combination with others, can be found in all human societies to a variable degree. Because of its mundane character, making it almost invisible to the normal gaze, I call it ‘everyday communism.’
In order to do so, it seems best to start from the classical definition of communism —
‘from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs’
— and then examine those forms of organization or human relationships that are organized according to that principle, wherever one happens to find them.
i don’t think we have any yet.. because in order for that to actually happen.. it has to be all of us
the diff thing.. is the tech.. that now allows us to org/facil that chaos..
The origin of this phrase, ..Marx only took up the phrase much later, ..he used it in his own idiosyncratic way: for the situation that he imagined would take hold in society as a whole *once technology had reached the point of guaranteeing absolute material abundance, thereby making genuine human freedom possible.
rather.. *once tech reached point of helping us listen deeper to selves/others/nature.. in order to get back/to knowing/grokking enough ness.. ie: undoing our hierarchical listening
Peter Kropotkin, for instance, who is often referred to as the founder of ‘anarchist communism,’ in Mutual Aid (1902) implies something very much like the following analysis when he writes that communism could best be seen simply as human co-operation, and co-operation was the ultimate basis of all human achievement and indeed of human life.
depends how we define it..
‘However, what I am suggesting is even broader in scope.’
1. Communism as co-operation
well.. broader/deeper than coop..
This is the way almost everyone behaves if they are collaborating on some common project.
i see project as problematic to human being ness
The reason — ironically, given the conventional wisdom that ‘communism just doesn’t work’– is simple efficiency: if you really care to get something done, allocating tasks by ability and giving people whatever they need to do the job is obviously the most efficient way to go about it.
yeah.. i think it’s deeper than tasks.. and efficiency.. i think those things keep us from knowing what enough is
The more one has to improvise, the greater the need for democratic co-operation. .. This is presumably also why in the immediate wake of great disasters — a flood, blackout, revolution or economic collapse — people tend to behave the same way, reverting to a kind of rough-and-ready communism. Suddenly, if only for a short time, hierarchies, markets and the like become luxuries that no one can really afford
2. Communism as baseline sociality
Anyone who has lived through such a moment can speak to its peculiar qualities, the way that strangers become sisters and brothers and human society itself seems to be reborn. This is important because we are not simply talking about co-operation. In fact, communism is the foundation of all human sociability. This is what makes society possible. There is always an assumption that anyone who is not actually an enemy can be expected to act on the principle of ‘from each according to their abilities …’ at least to a limited extent:
I call this ‘baseline communism,’ the understanding that, unless people consider themselves so completely inimical to one another and if the need is considered great enough or the cost reasonable enough, the principle of ‘from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs’ will apply. ..Sharing food is indeed still considered to be the foundation of morality, but of course it’s also one of the chief forms of pleasure (who would really want to eat a delicious meal by themselves?). ..There is thus a certain communism of the senses at the root of most things we consider fun.
The sociology of everyday communism is a potentially enormous field, but one which, owing to our peculiar ideological blinkers, we have been unable to write because we have been largely unable to see the object. Marcel Mauss for instance spoke of ‘individualistic communism,’ such as exists between close kin such as mothers and their children, usually siblings, but also between close friends or blood brothers. In this sense any ‘society’ might be imagined as threaded by endless communistic networks. In such relationships, everything might be shared if the need arises. In other relations between individuals, each is limited to only a certain kind of claim on the other: to help them repair their fishnets, aid them in war, or provide cattle for a wedding feast
Still these can be considered communistic if the claim can be exercised whenever there is a need.
Finally any self-organized social group, ..will have particular rules about which sorts of things must be shared, and about collective access to their common resources.
yeah.. i think that thinking is what keeps perpetuating tragedy of the non common ness
This of course shades into the literature on the collective management of the commons, but it’s important to note that often, social groups (starting with clans, villages, or the like) will make entirely artificial rules to create mutual communistic dependence.
Communistic relations exist in endless variety, but two common characteristics always leap to the fore:
1\ they are not based on calculation. It would never occur to one side of an Iroquois village, for example, to complain that they had buried six of the other side’s dead this year and the other side had only buried two of theirs. This would be insane. When keeping accounts seems insane in this way, we are in the presence of communism.
of math and men et al
2\ unlike exchange, where debts can be cancelled out immediately, or in the relatively short term, communism is based on the presumption of eternity. One can act communistically with those one treats as if they will always exist,.. We might thus analyse human relations as tending to take one of three forms: communistic relations, hierarchical relations, or relations of exchange.
Exchange is based on principles of reciprocity, but this means that either relations are cancelled out immediately (as in the market, when there is immediate payment), or eventually, when a gift is returned or a debt repaid. Human relations based on exchange are inherently temporary, but egalitarian at least in the sense that when the payment is made, the two parties return to equal status.
Hierarchy is not based on a principle of reciprocal exchange but rather of precedent: if one gives a gift to a superior or inferior, one is likely to be expected to do it again under similar circumstances. Hierarchy resembles communism in that it is assumed to be permanent, and therefore tends not to involve the calculation of accounts; except that communism, of course, tends to be resolutely egalitarian in its basis.
Several radical implications follow. I will end with one. If we accept this definition, it gives us a new perspective on capitalism. It is one way of organizing communism. Any widely distributed economic principle must be a way of organizing communism, since co-operation and the trust intrinsic to baseline sociality will always be the foundations of human economy and society.
The question for those of us who feel capitalism is a bad way of organizing communism or even an ultimately unsustainable one is what would a more just way of organizing communism look like?
One specifically that would discourage the tendency of communistic relations to slide into forms of hierarchy.
begs a means/mech to get us back/to non hierarchical listening
There are grounds for believing that the more creative the form of labour, the more egalitarian the forms of co-operation will tend to be. So perhaps the key question is: how might we contrive more egalitarian and creative forms of human co-operation that are less hierarchical and stultifying than those we currently know?
ie: cure ios city