The tired old joke needs to be treated as evidence that someone knows little about the ideas they so quickly dismiss. Indeed, we think that anarchist thought and practice is a crucial element in thinking about how progressive politics might be conducted. It is easy to point to the problems of the present, and then to suggest at the end of a series of complaints that a new world is possible.
What is much harder is to systematically imagine what those alternatives might look like, to turn opposition and analysis into proposals.
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Colin Ward once suggested that anarchist organizations should be voluntary, functional, temporary and small Whilst this is a provocative beginning, its shows the problem with any attempt to state general principles as if they were truths. Could a temporary organization administer justice, or make computers? How small should an organization be, or how big can it get before we split it in two? Is slavery an alternative to capitalism? Is piracy, or the Kibbutz, or digging unused land for food?
At some point, being critical of other economic ideas and institutions must turn into a strategy of providing suggestions, resources and models, but these themselves must be criticized. However, in this paper we want to explore just what sort of principles we might deploy to think about the question of organization. From the earliest forms of anarchism the problem was precisely how systems of governance might be arranged in the absence of the divine right of kings, the violence of the state, or the coercions of capital. Unlike the sort of organization theory which exists within the business school, and which assumes economic white man, managers, managed, the sale of labor, the superiority of markets and so on, anarchist organization theory assumes as little as it can.
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This is to say that anarchism like some feminisms and forms of green thought is a system which proposes organizational answers to political questions. It is in this sense that we offer this paper as a contribution to the project of conjoining anarchism and critical management studies. Not anarchist organizing as a closed category, but certainly a theory of organization which is infused with anarchist ideas. This paper is not a worked out manifesto for a new world which could be inaugurated tomorrow. The world is more complex than that, with different histories and spaces running parallel to the rise of different capitalisms.
Neither do we believe that there will be another world one day in which all our problems will be solved once its logic is explained, or humans can become innocent again, or a prophet turns up with some instructions. Markets can be hugely helpful forms of reward and distribution in some circumstances, and communes can be oppressive and narrow places which crush individuals.
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Hierarchies of authority can be helpful too on occasion, particularly for making quick decisions, while democratic and popular education could easily reproduce sexist and racist ideas. The key issue that we want to bring out in this paper is an awareness of the consequences of particular forms, and to always understand that there are other ways of doing things. This paper is an attempt to articulate some general principles, understood as qualified and contingent, which might guide thinking about alternatives to globalizing capitalism and market managerialism at the present time.
In broad terms, we will suggest three principles which we believe that radicals should be guided by — autonomy, solidarity and responsibility — and that we think any reflection on the politics of organizing needs to deal with. To summarize very briefly, we wish to encourage forms of organizing which respect personal autonomy, but within a framework of co-operation, and are attentive to the sorts of futures which they will produce. This is a simple statement to make, almost a vacuous one, but it actually produces some complex outcomes, because gaining agreement on any of these ideas is very tricky indeed.
My point is not that everything is bad, but that everything is dangerous, which is not exactly the same as bad. If everything is dangerous, then we always have something to do. Foucault, There are plenty of accounts of institutions which start well, but fall into bad habits, or become dominated by a cadre of leaders, or within which the excitement of the new becomes the atrophy of the old.
Sometimes we could say that a noble goal has been displaced by a business logic, the logic of capitalism. This means that organizations often just keep on doing whatever it is that they do, like zombies that move, but have no consciousness or heart.
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Part of the problem here rests on making some judgments about the inseparability of means and ends. We might well say that it is, and consequently that certain ends justify almost any means.
So, if a big bank is making money from microfinance, but people are being lifted out of poverty, then we might be satisfied. Or, if a very hierarchical form of managerialism is being used in a company that manufactures organic foods, then we could still potentially agree that this is a good organization. Of course we can also play these arguments in reverse, and suggest that the means are the evidence that we should use in our judgments. So if an organization was co-operatively owned, but engaged in a particularly cruel form of factory farming, we could perhaps discount the means in some way.
In these cases, it might be that our care for animals, or for a certain sort of humans, means that the ownership of the organization or the origin of the medium of exchange is pretty irrelevant to our final judgments. As should be pretty clear, the distinctions we are making here are very troublesome, and could well create some rather paradoxical outcomes.
In fact, we believe that any argument about a separation between means and ends should be treated with extreme skepticism, because we do not think you can make a judgment about one in isolation from the other.
The distinction between the two often makes us assume that we have no choice, but to use particular methods, or to attempt to achieve particular goals. Max Weber captured the distinction rather nicely in terms of his distinction between the instrumentally rational action which in modern times he saw as characteristic of bureaucratic organizations Zweckrational and value rational action which was aimed at a particular ethical, political or spiritual goal Wertrational Weber, .
So the question is not whether one way of thinking is irrational, or less rational, because every form of life is underpinned by a certain sort of rationality. Take for example the question of the university. Many policy makers and students might argue that the university should be relevant to the economy and business, which typically seems to be a way of saying that it should fit students for jobs.
In which case, the university is merely a means to get a degree certificate. But it is very difficult to argue that the end of certifying potential employees is the only purpose of the university, simply because the means are crucial in order to achieve the end. The process of learning is what we learn, and the certificate you get when you leave states that you have undergone that process, not simply that you have learnt certain facts and can repeat them when poked.
Indeed in some sense the educational means are the end, unless we argue that a university is only there to award degree certificates in return for money. To use a different example, we sometimes walk because we want to get somewhere in particular, but we also go for walks because we like walking, and it keeps us healthy, and we can talk with our friends and see interesting things. Which is the means and which is the end? Think about the idea of making a decision. Within conventional organizations, decisions are made by those with power and status.
Perhaps, but as many radicals — but particularly anarchists — have argued, we could treat a collective form of decision making as an end in itself as well as a means. This might be based, not on an utilitarian meta-ethics which assumed that means and ends could be clearly distinguished, but an account which orients social practices to virtues which can be collectively discussed Franks, We might then think about the art of cooperating, and not about organizing as simply a means to some end Lovink and Scholz, A distinction between means and end, cause and effect, which seems quite secure in common sense and utilitarian reasoning begins to look rather suspicious, and politically loaded, in the context of alternative organizing which attempts to build a new world in the context of the old.
And in any case, there might be better means than these. A key part of our argument here is to show that we can, and should, treat all assertions about the relationship between means and ends as political ones. In fact, we think that almost no particular forms of human organizing are inevitable, and that there are always choices about means, ends and the relations between them. For example, if we imagine the university as a mechanism for producing the future, then perhaps it can produce different futures, and different sorts of people to inhabit those futures?
The only other position is that history has ended and there are no alternatives, in which case writing articles like this, in journals like this one, is an exercise in futility. Only those who do little or nothing can live in isolation, contemplating. This is the truth; why not recognize it.
Malatesta, It makes things much more difficult because we can longer admit of any arguments about inevitability, and instead have to justify our individual and collective choices on the basis of what forms of rationality we wish to encourage. These will have to be reasons which encompass both means and ends, processes and purposes, and rest upon some sort of idea about the kinds of society and people we wish to encourage.
This means that visions of a better form of social order, ideas about utopia if you will Parker b; Parker, Fournier and Reedy , are central to the judgments we might make concerning what is alternative and what is mainstream, about the difference between community and coercion, fair exchange and appropriation. As we noted quickly above, we think there are three broad orientations, values, logics or principles at work here — autonomy, solidarity and responsibility — and in this section we will explore them in a bit more detail.
First, we think that any alternative worth exploring must be able to protect some fairly conventional notions of individual autonomy, that is to say, to respect ourselves. This is not a controversial or novel idea, but one that underpins most conservative, liberal and libertarian political philosophy Mill, ; Nozick, Words like liberty, diversity, dignity and difference are more often honored in the breach rather than the observance but still gesture towards the radical proposal that individual freedoms really do matter.
This means that we do think that individuals should have choices about some of the most important ways in which they live their lives. If there is no autonomy within a given social system, only rules, then we are justified in calling it totalitarian, uniform and intolerant of difference. As anarchists like Godwin, Proudhon and Stirner showed, a serious investigation of the conditions of possibility for freedom rapidly leads to a thoroughgoing criticism of the present, even if it is a present which claims to value individuals and encourage difference.
Our second principle reverses the assumptions of the first, and begins with the collective and our duties to others. This means that words like solidarity, co-operation, community and equality become both descriptions of the way that human beings are, and prescriptions for the way that they should be. On their own, human beings are vulnerable and powerless, victims of nature and circumstance. Collectively — bound together by language, culture and organization — they become powerful, and capable of turning the world to their purposes. Perhaps even more important than this is the way in which we humans actually make each other, providing the meanings and care which allow us to recognize ourselves as ourselves.
In terms of anarchist thought, the collectivism and mutualism of Bakunin, Kropotkin and anarchist communists of the First International fit fairly well with these sort of understandings. How can we be both true to ourselves and at the same time orient ourselves to the collective? How can we value freedom, but then give it up to the group?
Our answer to these problems is that we need to understand both principles as co-produced. This is precisely the idea of liberty that we are very often encouraged to imagine as being the pre-eminent principle around which our lives should be organized within a consumer society. Great condition for a used book! Minimal wear. Book Description New.