Friday, August 19, 2011

Radicalism and reform

Anarchism has always made the point, correctly, that states exist to defend a minority of wealth and privilege against the majority of the community. They don't exist to provide necessary services to the majority: they only do this when the majority compels them, or when failure to do so imposes a cost that is unacceptably high. If you just tune out and let a government do its thing, like most of us do when we are preoccupied with trying to survive, you see lots more government for the rich and much "less government" for everybody else. That's happening right now, in fact.

When people understand this -- that government "represents" them only when it has no choice -- they are in a better position to influence their government -- and in the past they have. The achievements, like Social Security, unemployment benefits, and any other number of rights and freedoms, are at the same time 1) very important to people and 2) not bound to the point about the nature of government in any particular way. You might support them for the simple reason that no non-state substitutions yet exist to address those problems.

There are radical reasons for supporting moderate reforms when the proposed alternative is not yet plausible, as is the case when vulnerable populations, encompassing both majority and minority groups, retain more confidence in government solutions than non-government proposals. That most Americans associate "no government" with free-market capitalism or gang rule, instead of highly-organized societies liberated from coercive rule, is an indication that we have a lot more work to do before the point that governments defend the rich can be of greater immediacy than what is daily required to survive.


Paul said...

"The Commons are not sacrosanct; nor are they immune to capture. Rather obviously, common and shared resources, including land and infrastructure, but also custom, culture and language, are routinely stolen, grafted, wheedled away, and taken by force. In our own modernity, right now, the idea of the Commons as separate from the State is so foreign to normative assumptions that an anarchist or anti-statist has to spend considerable time and argumentation to establish their difference, and the distinctions between commonality and government, long before she can make a case against the State, precisely because the various States have for so long controlled commonholds created by the people."

Beth E. said...

In this context, this link is really germaine, I think:
(sorry, I'm not competent enough in HTML to make it a hot link...)

Jack Crow said...


Spelling this out is hard, because the reply page recognizes the tags and refuses to publish the post if they are unclosed. But, I'll try to do it with a minimum of confusion.

1.) Start with an open bracket. It's the symbol sharing a key with the comma symbol, one key to the right of the letter "m" key.

2.) Then use this next: a href="your link"

Place the http address to which you wish to link between the quotes.

3. Close that with the other bracket, which is to the left of and adjacent to the "?" and the "/" key. The close bracket symbol shares a key with the "." symbol.

4.) Directly next to that, write whatever word or phrase you want to use to name the link

5.) Use the open bracket key again.

6.) Type this next: /a

7.) Finish with the close bracket key directly after that.

Beth E's Link

Beth E. said...

Thanks, Jack--and what did you think of the link, btw??

JRB said...


Thanks for the late summer reading material as always!

The first thought that comes to mind is that consumerism grants status on the basis of being able to purchase goods and services.

Americans who are "in the street" are communicating an inability to simply buy whatever it is they want, which by the standards of consumerism makes them extremists or failures, and easily portrayed as such.

Any impressions of your own to share?

Also wanted to tell you that I very much appreciate that you "quibble because [you] care," and you were right about the related post and my "dialectic." I hope we can talk more about it sometime.

Anonymous said...

I really liked the article, and the very cool blog