Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Institute For Anarchist Studies will be holding a conference next September 4th-6th at the Department of Politics, IR , and European Studies at Loughborough University in the United Kingdom. They have issued a call for papers. If you are interested in contributing to the panels please send an email to Laurence Davis at by March 26th, 2008 including a paper title, 200-300 word proposal and contact details of all contributors, indicating after each name whether participation has been confirmed. Informal inquiries about alternative panel or workshop arrangements are very welcome.
The theme of this conference will be "Re-Imagining Revolution", and it will focus on how the concept of "revolution" has to change given the present day realities. From the traditional Marxist (and others) idea of a violent seizure of state power to something more modern, including "the conception of revolution as a process unfolding over time rather than a singular cataclysmic event" . See the IAS homepage for more details.
Molly has to interject here. Molly is far from being "anti-intellectual". Yet some of the speakers mentioned give me pause. "From Bakunin to Lacan" would be one thing I would definitely avoid even if I might go to see David Graebher's 'Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology'. The latter may be considered as being of not any great use, but the former goes way beyond "useless" into the territory where bullshit, post-modernist bullshit in this case, is glorified, lauded and encouraged. All of this points towards what I consider a considerable lack in the growing field of "anarchist academia". As the acolytes of Maoism and other forms of Stalinism grow older in their lives of lies a new generation of academics is coming up to replace them. Many of these take "anarchism" as a point of interest and a field of research. All very well and good. It would be hard to think of anything worse than fools who couldn't understand that their heroes such as Mao were far worse than any fascist dictator that the 20th century was disgraced by. May the "theoreticians" of Mao as a "master of dialectics" go to their well deserved obscurity and eventual graves.
My problem with all this is that academic fashion has tended to reproduce the old Marxist bullshit and repackage it as anarchist bullshit, all this in the context of an academia where lack of clarity is considered one of the supreme virtues, as if it was evidence of intelligence and profundity. I see the result of this whenever I decide to torture myself by looking at "post-leftist" and "primitivist" anarchist efforts where they regurgitate the rhetoric of their professors for their own purposes and utilize similar strategies to try and fake intelligence. Academics do little harm because people rarely listen to them, but the academic failures in the USA have indeed done harm ,though it is limited, by delaying the adoption of a more rational anarchist practice (note I don't say "praxis").
What does anarchism, a movement that is growing today, need from its academic sympathizers ? Certainly not apologetics, and this is glaringly obvious insofar as the "anarchist academics" rarely engage in criticism of a movement that desperately needs it. At their best they merely do description. At their worst they are mindless cheerleaders, especially for the "anarchism" of their youth, no matter how detached it may be from either historical anarchism or from the questions that anarchism faces today in 2008.
What does Molly think "anarchist academics" should produce to help those of us who are not such ? Well, the first and most obvious thing is that the fields in which anarchists have usually decided to work reek of ultimate uselessness. Anarchism will not be advanced by more than five people worldwide in the course of 5 years by the combined efforts of "anarchist philosophers". It will lose 5,000 whose first introduction is via post-modernist bullshit. My own interests gather around history, but I recognize that this only marginally more important than philosophy. What anarchism lacks are "anarchist economists". It is a tragedy where the situation is such that non-anarchist sympathizers such as those around Z-Communications give 10,000 times as much attention and produce 10,000 times as much argument for a "non-hierarchical" society as real anarchists do.
There is a great and unexplored continent for anarchist economics, and Molly thinks that this would be the best way that anarchist academics could contribute to the real movement outside of academia. Not just by proving that we can do what we propose, but, more importantly, give the cautionary tales. If you want to be useful that is the way to go. I can even suggest where your research interests should lie, in the field known today as "experimental economics". This form of economics, informed by the mathematics of game theory and the mindset of evolutionary biology, is rather "hot" in economics today.
No, whenever I see stuff coming out of 'Cultural Studies' supposedly bearing on anarchism it is a temptation to hit the delete button. Similarly, and very unfortunately, one has to hit said button when 'Women's Studies' comes up. That is a great tragedy. Nobody cares whether somebody wants to bullshit and say that a piece of literature means something that it obviously does not. What is sad about "Women's Studies' is how little attention academics in such departments pay to things that could advance the position of women in the "lower classes". They at least could be informative without trying to totally switch fields. No amount of bowing towards political correctness such as describing lesbian relationships amongst the women of Greenham Common Peace Camp (one of the proposed speeches at the conference mentioned) will excuse this neglect. It reeks of deliberate choice. GOD ALMIGHTY, there is still a lot of effort for feminism to fulfill its historical role. It shouldn't degenerate into this. In Molly's view feminism will come to completion under our present form of society, "managerial society", but there is still a long way to go. The goal is economic equality, and the means are open to choice. The faster this question is "solved" the sooner questions of hierarchy in general can come onto public consciousness without being disguised by the question of "sex". Similarly for all the other "questions" such as "racism" that managerial society will eventually solve. heard me correctly. All of the "isms" will be solved by our present society. What will not be resolved is the division of society into classes, some of which are order givers, some of which are order takers and some of which are mere recipients of decisions taken above them. The questions raised by feminism have a particular urgency, at least here in Canada. But, once more, these questions will be resolved in the years to come. This movement of history will have its backs and forths, but it is inevitable. What distresses Molly is the lack of historical perspective of "the left", including anarchists, and the desire to descend into the sort of cultism exemplified by the buzzword "anti-oppression work". This is nothing but attempts at psychological torture and has nothing to do with what Molly styles as "completing the managerial revolution". This revolution began over 100 years ago with the displacement of the capitalists as a ruling class by the managers. It will fulfill all of the "sectoral demands" of leftism today because, despite the illusions of leftists, it is in the self-interest of the ruling class to accede to such things. Managerial society is the closest we have had to a pure meritocracy in human history. It far outdoes imperial China because it is far more inclusive than such a society could ever be. The advancement of the "sectoral managers" will drag others along with them. Much of this is quite advanced today.
What does this mean for anarchism ? Certainly not that we abandon so-called "sectoral demands", particularly as some of these demands relate to class issues that cannot be solved by managerialism. It means that we should be supportive of "most" but not all of the demands of our present left (insofar as it is one managerial group struggling for power in our society) as long as their demands coincide with the anarchist idea of "justice". It is sort of "clearing the decks" for the struggles that will come in the future.

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