Friday, December 02, 2011

David Graeber on the Anarchist Roots of Occupy Wall Street

The reader in social anthropology at the University of London has much to say in an essay at AlJazeera about the flaws of American democracy, the differences between anarchism and Marxism, and the nature of consensus-based decision making:
I should be clear here what I mean by "anarchist principles". The easiest way to explain anarchism is to say that it is a political movement that aims to bring about a genuinely free society - that is, one where humans only enter those kinds of relations with one another that would not have to be enforced by the constant threat of violence. History has shown that vast inequalities of wealth, institutions like slavery, debt peonage or wage labour, can only exist if backed up by armies, prisons, and police. Anarchists wish to see human relations that would not have to be backed up by armies, prisons and police. Anarchism envisions a society based on equality and solidarity, which could exist solely on the free consent of participants.
I applaud the Occupy Movement's critique of American state capitalism, in particular the protection afforded politically connected business interests at the taxpayers' expense, and I agree with Graeber about the general superiority of consensus to democratic majoritarianism, but I doubt that society could ever produce order without armies, prisons, and police--or, for that matter, without a judicial system and legal code. However, I also think all of these things can exist without states, or at least without states as we know them (which unduly restrict the entry and exit of citizens). I therefore fully agree with Graeber that we don't need states to create social order, and in fact that states are frequently disruptive of such order (such as through foreign wars and the war on drugs).
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