Wednesday, April 04, 2012

It is Forbidden to Forbid

I made my annual pilgrimage to the Anarchist Bookfair this past weekend (previous years here). As usual, had trouble embracing the scene. Bought The Art of Not Being Governed which I've been meaning to read for awhile, and some others.

One thing that always interests me, but it's sort of a forbidden topic, is how all these people who are vehemently anti-capitalist and anti-existing-system manage to survive. Somehow they feed themselves after all, and if it's through the underground economy that's still an economy of some sort. They don't all live on communes in the country.

This question arises on a different level when it comes to the vendors, who are running little businesses promoting an anti-business attitude. Some of these seem to be fairly large-scale and stable affairs. If I was hostile I would use this to dismiss the whole scene, but I'm not really – any revolutionary or agent of change has to simultaneously live within the world as it is while plotting to overthrow it, and thus has to live the contradictions.

Anyway, for some reason the day before my own mental barriers between anarchy and entrepeneurmanship suffered a partial collapse which led me to open up this t-shirt shop. So far it has neither enriched me very much nor done much to subvert the dominant paradigm, but it's early days.

Caught a bit of activist Scott Crow's presentation; the takeaway I got from him was that open collectives (where anybody can join) don't work very well; closed tightly focused groups with shared values work better. That makes a lot of sense, but raised a lot of unanswered questions on just what anarchist governance could mean. The same largely unspoken question hovered over a panel on anarchist parenthood.


Anonymous said...

Re: "open collectives (where anybody can join) don't work very well; closed tightly focused groups with shared values work better."

This dovetails with the observation that secular communism has always ended either in collapse or in tyranny, whereas religious communism (as practiced by various monastic orders, some Anabaptist and Mennonite sects, etc.) has a much more stable history.

Keeping the community small seems also to be a key element to success. The Benedictine polity of having many independent and autonomous monasteries, or the Hutterites' practice of spinning off "daughter colonies" when the population of a colony becomes too large, are examples.

Finally, with reference to the subject of "anarchist parenthood," perhaps the Amish custom of allowing a period of adolescent "rumspringa" (=lexical German, herumspring) before a youngster's decision to join or leave the community may shed some light. It assures that the ongoing community is made up of people who have chosen its way of life over alternatives, reflecting a perception, soundly based in experience, that compulsion is almost sure to beget strife.

TGGP said...

Yeah, I wouldn't be so harsh on anti-capitalists. Anarcho-capitalists use public roads too! AK says it practices what it preaches, their ability to do that (like the ability of kibbutzim to form) indicates to me capitalism is doing something right and such methods of organization just don't have enough appeal to displace more standard kinds of organization.

mtraven said...

Mondragon is a good example of a somewhat-non-capitalist enterprise existing and flourishing within capitalism (and with a touch of religion to help give it the moral coherence anonymous was alluding to).

No doubt it popped into mind because just last night I stumbled upon a Basque Cultural Center and Restaurant hidden away in South San Francisco.