Thursday, December 11, 2008

May the Greek state falll! More from the frontlines....

The Greek anarchists are still at it- making today the fifth straight day of insurrection. I wanted to give a heads up to the best blog I have found regarding the Greek insurrection. Check it out. Its an amazing source of eye-witness sources. In addition, indymedia has a lot of great information about Greece as well.

Anyone have any ideas what folks outside of Greece can do to support the resistance? It seems that Greece consulates across the world are being protested or occupied. The only one on the west coast, that I know of, is in San Francisco. Anyone know if stuff is happening there? I have no idea what I can do from Eugene other then cheer them on. Also, anyone know any other good blogs to check out?

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Greek Uprising?

Long time no post..... Oh well.

There are some really cool things going on in Greece lately. It seems that the anarchist youth there have started rioting and the rioting is reaching its third day. Fuck ya! I am not the biggest fan of a politics of pure destruction but destruction is a needed phase for any revolutionary politics. We have to destroy the old order in order for the new one to flourish.

I would love to find out more info about the grassroot, on the ground, anarchist activism going on in Greece. Anyone know about that stuff? I am sure that they have developed a strong inf0shop/social center scene, I am sure that they have a thriving squatter movement, etc. I wonder what they are doing differently though, because it appears that the Greek anarchists are currently the numerous, organized and really militant. I really just do not know much else about their politics. I would love to see this sort of development in the US.

For folks who want more info:

Greece rocked by Third day of Riots,
NY times link on the Third day of Riots
Greece Riots aren't ending anytime soon!

Monday, June 23, 2008

RIP George Carlin

George Carlin, the greatest contemporary social critic, died last night. Instead of writing a bunch for him, I am going to let his own material cover all that. Below is a piece he wrote after his wife died in 1997. It is a great reminder of all that is important in life- something that only loss seems to bring up.
The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom. We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We've learned how to make a living, but not a life. We've added years to life not life to years. We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbour. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We've done larger things, but not better things. We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We've conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We've learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete.

Remember, spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever. Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side. Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn't cost a cent.

Remember, to say, "I love you" to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you. Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again. Give time to love, give time to speak, and give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.

AND ALWAYS REMEMBER: Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.
Well, remember George in a way that he would like- listen to his stuff, get angry, and do what you can to change this fucked up culture and world we live in. George, you will be greatly missed!

Comedy bits:
On location at USC (1977)
George Carlin: Again (1978)
Carlin at Carnegie (1982)
Carlin on Campus (1984)
Playin' With your Head (1986)
What am I doing in New Jersey (1988)
Doin' It Again (1990)
Jammin' in New York (1992)
Back in Town (1996)
You are all Diseased (1999)
Complaints and Greivances (2001)
Life is worth loosing (2005)
George Carlin: Narcotics Anonymous World (2005)

Monday, May 26, 2008

Madness, Consumption, and Civilization

How is it that a culture that so proudly proclaims mental health a moral failing has so many people on depression, bi-polar, ADD/ADHD, erectile dysfunction, and other "mental health" medications? How can being "mentally ill"- depressed, bi-polar, schizophrenic, ETC- be considered abnormal if a majority, or at least a sizable plurality suffers these debilitating diseases? What are the foundations of these "illnesses?" Are they a natural part of human existence? Is the recent epidemic a bi-product of post-capitalist production and consumption (Delueze and Guattiari)? The result of a morally repressive culture (Sigmund Freud)? Or a constant state of PTSD that resulted from our splintering from the natural world (Chellis Glendenning)?

I have no answer for the causes of "mental illness", and it is very likely and probable that there are multiple causes.
I am going to try to work through my nascent understanding of mental health, depression, and American culture and claim that it has emerged as an epidemic from the destruction of community relations and the sense of loss and feelings of isolation that serve as foundational component of American culture and capitalism.
This thesis is nothing new and is built up from the theories of Deleuze and Guattari in Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia.

First off, the basis of western culture is the belief in a body/mind dualism- in which the two are separate and treated unequally. In this worldview, the mind serves the same role that a captain does on the ship. The mind is responsible for steering the ship, for deciding its course, and for keeping things together. The mind does not experience the world in the same way that the body does; the experiences of the material are mediated through your sense of touch, smell, sight, and hearing. For anyone who has lived in the real world it is obvious that these two are not separate and that what happens to your mind impacts your body and what impacts your body greatly affects your mental well-being.

Coming from this dualism though, illnesses of the body are given priority- they can be mended- while "disease" of the mind are the responsibility of the individual. We mend broken bones; we treat for cancers and other "life threatening" diseases; but we never examine mental health with the same concern and enthusiasm. For much of western history those with depression, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, etc where seen as being the result of morally weakness and spiritual deficiencies.

American culture- a culture that emphasizes individualism, self-sufficiency, and pulling oneself up by the bootstraps (which is something that is physically impossible but that might say more about the American dream then does any sociological research agenda)- compounds the body mind dualism as does the culturally constructed gender roles and rampant consumerism that people are forced to live with. By isolating individuals into atomized selves, destroying the basis of community that has sustained human life for hundreds of thousands- if not millions- of years, and then creating normative definitions of success, masculinity, and happiness that are all rooted in financial and material success. American culture both looks down and marginalizes those who fail -mental, physical, but often financially- and diffuses any societal imperative to help. Forced into an artificial feeling of aloneness and believing that you are to blame for your feelings we all come to internalize our psychosis. If you are poor and unable to pay rent you feel depressed and pathetic. You have failed to meet societies assumptions for success- you are not wealthy. Likewise, if you are a wealthy CEO you still feel isolated and alone. You have everything that society claims is needed for happiness- money- but you still feel like slitting your wrists. How do you deal with the situation in either case? You consume. If its good for General Motors its good for you.

When you feel hollow inside, devoid of any sense of worth or joy, the simplest way to create a feeling of happiness in this culture is to consume, even if that happiness is fleeting. Why is that? There are many reasons but one important one is that consumptions and consumerism are the only way to feel apart of any greater community. If I get the cool shoes I will be a part of something, same if I see that new hit movie, or have a nice car. In America one of the only things we feel we all have in common are the material objects/commodities in our lives. The easiest way of removing the feeling of aloneness and to connect with others in this culture is to consume.

Maybe we realize that we are trading our labor (in the form of money) for some one else's labor. In this way, at least subconsciously, we have at some relationships- between producer and consumer, between costumer and consumer, between worker and work. At the same time, as a consumer, I have a relationship with all other consumers. I can talk about the newest video game with people and feel a sense of connection, or I can join a Hummer fan group discuss the awesomeness of my brand new H2.

In addition, we place in those objects a relationship that is unhealthy and unnatural; the commodity becomes a surrogate for interpersonal bonds. Anyone who has ever collected something- from comics, to stamps, to coke products- you will know the sense of accomplishment you feel when you expand or complete a collection. This relationship with material objects takes the place of interpersonal human relationships. I feel the same joy, if not more, when I get that latest comic, or complete my collection of 19th century French stamps, or buy a new car as I do when I hangout with my friends or make love with someone I cherish. These cheap consumer goods become a repository for my sense of yearning and desire for relationships.

Some of you might say, well I am not alone: I have a family who loves me, a wonderful committed partner, or a loving dog or cat. I ask you this in response? Does the addition of one more person remove this feeling of being alone? Does it replace the loss of a community (both animal and human) that has sustained human life for the vast majority of its existence? I contend that marriage, partnerships, families and even friendships do not replace this feeling of loss. These relationships instead become nothing more then another form of consumption. We cling to relationships and to individuals in much the same way that the stamp collector clings to his stamps. This is not universally true, but is commonly the case. Some people- both those in monogamous and in polyamorous relationships- have found a way to be happy but in most cases marriage, partnerships, and families do not free us from the unhealthy happiness of consumerism but instead exacerbate the problem. You often turn to buying ones love from another; fearing that without them you are alone, and that only material gifts will make them happy and stay with you. This is why even though proclaim our love for others from hilltops, in front of priests, and on state issued documents current conceptions of family and friends does nothing to replace the loss of community.

Finally, the medical answer to most mental healthy problems in the United States is through consumptions as well. Do you not sleep at night? Do you feel anxious? Do you sometimes have a hard time getting an erection? If so take this pill. It will remove your sense of longing, make you numb to your surroundings, and most importantly make the pharmaceutical and psychiatric industries wealthy and successful (therefore they are at least happy?). This does not mean that medication is not an important component to mental health for some people. There are millions for whom these pills have saved their lives and I would never tell someone who has improved their lives through chemistry to stop. Nor do I believe that therapists are evil, misinformed, or make bad choices. Therapists want to help their "patients" and these the fact is that these pills work; they allow an individual to function in society, live, and hopefully address some of their own core psychological problems and improve their life.

What they do not do is confront the root of the problem- a loss of community and a break down of human relationships with each other and the natural world. They do not question the foundational philosophy of capitalism, the state, or civilization, and as Gilles Delueze and Felix Guattari claim psychology does not attempt to free us from our existence as machines; consuming, producing, eating, and fucking machines. They do not try to re-create and re-imagine life, but assume that life is dead and the machine, or at least the cyborg, is all that exists.

One group that is at addressing mental health in a holistic, egalitarian, and radical way is the Icarus Project. They are attempting to "call for new space and freedom for extreme states of consciousness, and alternatives to the medical model and the traumatic legacy of psychiatric abuse" while embracing an openly anti-capitalist, anti-statist, anti-racist, feminist, and non-hierarchal foundation. Instead of calling for increased medicalization of mental health they call for a holistic community sense of healing. Instead of viewing those with bi-polar disorder or depression as being "mentally ill" they question the basic assumption and power dynamics that exist within that assertion. The do not consider anyone to be " essentially diseased, disordered, broken, faulty, [or] existing within the bounds of DSM-IV diagnosis." Finally, they embrace an empowering vision of health that includes individual realization and empowerment with a strong sense of community and friendship. The Icarus Project might not have "the" answer to mental health and there is no one answer to this problem. But they are treating people as people- not machines and not as defective humans- and realize that we are all, even those who do not realize it, suffering from life under capitalism and the state. In fact, in a world so fucked up- with colonization being called liberation, with ecocide called progress, and with our strongest emotional connections existing towards characters on TV, the only sane person is the schizophrenic; they are the only one seeing the world for what it is- confused, destructive, irrational, and fake.

Addressing the root problem, as I have laid it out, can never be done through medication, or therapy. The only way to address the root cause of "mental illness" is through the re-creation of communities, the abolition of capitalism and collapse of western civilization and our post-modern existence. It requires a radical re-articulation of what it means to be happy, free, and successful and requires us to re-connect with the natural world and to destroy the body/mind dualism that has plagued western thought since the Greeks. If we, as a species and a culture want to be free we need to address and confront the sources of domestic abuses, exploitative relationships, and interpersonal violence. To do so we need to confront the systemic reasons for depression, schizophrenia, and the general feelings of malaise and hopelessness that are ever present in society. This means more then just revolution, more then just the destruction of the current order- the end to capitalism, religion, and the state- though this is essential. It requires the creation of communities and healthy relationships.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Canaries in the Coal Mine

So, I saw on the news a few days ago that there is a mysterious illness that is decimating the bat population in the northeast. The three dominant theories for why are: 1) Climate change is making bats hibernate later and they are too weak and starved to survive, 2) that the spraying to kill mosquitoes and stop the West-Nile virus is causing an illness that is killing them or 3) a fungus has developed due to agricultural toxins that is killing the bats.

This is very important and when you take this into account with the massive bee die off, and the horrible mutations and extinction of frogs. What we have are canaries dying left and right in the coalmine we call civilization. How many more signs to we, as a society, need to see before we start radically rethinking our policies, or politics, and our philosophies? The entire project of modernity is a failure; it needs to be abandoned and it needs to be abandoned ASAP. If we do not I fear that environmental collapse will become inevitable (if it is not already). I do not want this to happen. Every life is valuable, human and non-human, and any collapse will lead to a massive die off of possible 80-90% of the humans on this planet and countless other species.

At least there are more and more signs of resistance every day. The ELF action in Seattle, the bombing of the recruitment center (right on!), the fire-bombings in Greece and riots throughout Paris are all signs that people are having enough and are fighting back. Of course, for ever person who confronts society through active resistance countless others drink themselves to death, kill themselves, shoot up malls or schools, or release their frustration and anger on their children, partners, and friends. It is about time that we realize that the increased school shootings, the spread of mental health problems, and the epidemic of child/partner abuse are a direct result of our separation from the natural world and a direct result of civilizations culture of death. So, if you feel frustrated and depressed by the current world do not take it out on yourself, your children and family, or strangers, focus your rage at the source of the problem (the state, the market, and all components of social control) and look to the ELF, the recruitment bomber, the insurrectionary anarchists in Greece, and the Muslim underclass in Paris as inspirations.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire!

"Built Green? Nope black! McMansions in RCDs r not green. ELF"- Sign at the Fire

So, I have been in the blogging doldrums but I feel that there is finally something worth bringing me out of it. As of early this morning a fire was set in some rich neighborhoods in Seattle. Authorities are claiming that it was set by ELF "activists." For more info check out Fox News, MSNBC, Local TV, and the Seattle Times. As more comes in, and as I get more time to drink coffee and wake up, I will add some commentary. All I can say now is I loose no tears for multi-million dollar sprawl developments. I hope they all burn down (with no one in them of course).

Bombs and Shield and Green is the New Red have both posted some info/commentary on the ELF action. I also heard that Fox News (the bastion of good reporting) had an hour long special on "Eco-terrrorism" did anyone see this or know a torrent or site that it is hosted on? I would like to see what they say about it and who they interview.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Once again..

...George Carlin has expressed my views 100% times clearer then I could. So here is my overall opinion on the primary season and should give some evidence to how I am going to (not) vote on election day.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Climate Fraud, Carbon Profits

Here is an amazingly well done analysis of the Carbon Trading program that folks like Gore seem to love so much by Uri Gordon. While you are at it, check out Uri's blog at AnarchyAlive! and by his new book Anarchy Alive!: Anti-authoritarian Politics from Practice to Theory (Pluto Press). The book is really good and Uri is easily one of the brightest people out there writing about anarchism.


Climate fraud, carbon profits
By Uri Gordon

By the looks of it, environmentalists should be celebrating a great victory. For decades, their warnings about the devastating consequences of pumping billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year were met with a strange combination of arrogance, paralysis and denial. Now, everybody seems to finally recognize the gravity of the problem.

A recent BBC survey polled 22,000 people in 21 countries to find that an overwhelming 80 percent believe that human activity is a significant cause of climate change. And no less than 70 percent say they are willing to change their lifestyles - even in the U.S. and China, the world’s top emitters of greenhouse gases. Climate change is the hot new topic around dinner tables, young couples calculate their “carbon footprint,” and jetting around the world with a slideshow on the subject is enough to get you awarded a Nobel Prize.

But is this sudden rush to jump on the climate bandwagon really so encouraging? Not if you look at the bigger picture. One might have expected, for example, that the vindication of environmentalists’ warnings would also translate into more attention to the solutions they have been offering all along: reduced consumption, diversified and self-reliant local economies, and an end to our civilization’s obsession with economic growth at all costs.

But these options remain largely silenced and ignored. Instead, the new hype around climate change is being shaped almost exclusively by global political and business elites, and their interests seem unchanged: more power, more money.

Much has been made of the “success” of the recent climate conference in Bali, where U.S. negotiators finally succumbed to international pressure and ceased to stonewall progress toward a new climate treaty. But the real story remains the flawed content of the Kyoto Protocol and whatever succeeds it. In fact, the international framework on climate change merely strengthens the same global system of inequality and exploitation, whose logic of infinite growth is what landed us in this mess in the first place.

Its centerpiece is a new global market - the trade in carbon dioxide. Major polluters can now buy carbon credits that allow them to pay someone else to reduce emissions, instead of cutting their own pollution. Meanwhile, under the innocuously named Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), governments and corporations can generate new carbon credits out of thin air by financing renewable energy and/or “offsetting” projects that allegedly absorb greenhouse gases.

All this will certainly put more money into the global economy and generate new investment opportunities. Israel, for its part, managed to get itself defined as a “developing country” in the Kyoto Protocol and is not required to reduce emissions, at least until 2012. But it has already drawn undisclosed millions in CDM investments - including schemes for methane capture from the Hiriya landfill and Kibbutz Nirim’s pig farm. But whether turning the atmosphere into just another commodity does anything to effect climate change remains highly debatable.

Environmental-justice organizations like Carbon Trade Watch argue that the CDM system is highly flawed. With no regulatory framework to verify claimed reductions, hundreds of credit-generating projects are being realized under corporate self-monitoring, dangerously relying on the polluters’ own integrity. These potential conflicts of interest were at the heart of the Enron and Arthur Andersen scandals, both pioneers in emissions trading.

Moreover, a ham-fisted approach to ecological complexity guides the use of vast single-crop plantations to allegedly “sequester” carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, generating carbon credits for investors to use or sell on. There is only limited scientific understanding of the complex mechanisms of carbon exchange between forests, oceans and atmosphere, and the damage done by these projects may outweigh their benefit. The World Bank’s flagship CDM project in Brazil, started in 2002, involved planting 23,000 hectares of eucalyptus - displacing local communities, destroying biodiversity and the water table, and poisoning the soil with pesticides.

Still, entrepreneurs charge ahead with plantations. The incentive to develop the emerging offset industry takes precedence over any genuine concern for climate stability.

So much for profit. As for power, it takes only a small dose of cynicism to realize that the climate crisis is becoming a new weapon in our governments’ politics of fear-mongering. Our leaders no longer bother promising us welfare or peace - only protection from drummed-up menaces, ranging from terrorism to juvenile delinquency. As long as the alarmist talk is not backed up by any form of action that would jeopardize the existing structure of wealth and power, the climate is a convenient way to keep us scared and obedient.

What is frightening about economic decentralization and local self-reliance is not that they are difficult to achieve - social and ecological approaches to planning and productivity have been successfully tested for years, from England to Cuba to Japan. The real problem is the threat that self-reliant, resilient local economies might pose to the state-capitalist regime. If communities controlled their own food and energy sources, they might turn out to be a bit too independent, a bit too difficult to exploit and command.

And this prospect makes our leaders shake in their shoes.

Uri Gordon teaches environmental politics at the Arava Institute. His book “Anarchy Alive!” was recently published by Pluto Press.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

I really like reframing things....really I do.

So I am constantly reframing and rethinking about my prospectus and research project. Here is how I have it now. This is probably more useful to read then my long sections that I posted earlier. I need to rewrite and edit those. How does this question look? Is it still confusing?

Diss Q: What does the tension between anarchist movements and state agencies demonstrate about the relationship between the state and social movements more generally?

The relationship between social movements and governmental institutions is always one of regulation and control. This relationship is hidden when social scientist use pressure groups or any policy driven movement because these groups have already agreed to accept the confines that the state places on them. They accept these confines in an attempt to have access, or at least greater access, to agenda setters and the policy cycle. With some anarchist groups there is no agreement to accept the state's limitations on action. This is seen through the banner group Food Not Bombs, an anarchist group that distributes food without seeking permits or enacting a 501©3 non-profit status, as well as squatter communities, and the radical forest defense movement. These movements all attempt to have a political life outside the regulated and confining space that the state grants. In response to anarchist group's, government institutions attempt to maintain regulatory power over public space by recapturing the political spaces that anarchist movements have liberated and placing this groups within the regulatory space of the state. This can be done by attempts to integrate anarchist groups within traditional venues, by forcing them to accept permits or non-profit status, or by bringing the groups within the panoptical vision of the state through infiltration and surveillance.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Introduction section to Prospectus

Since I have already posted a draft of my dissertation question, I feel that posting the introduction is important. In fact, I should have done the intro first, since it frames why the dissertation question is important. Enjoy the intro and let me know what you think of it. Did I miss something? Does my spelling suck? Should I start with the discussion about Seattle? Is something really awkward? Let me know!

"Anarchism is not a concept that can be locked up in a word like a gravestone. It is not a political theory. It is a way of conceiving life, and not something final: it is a stake we must play day after day"- Alfredo M. Bonanno (Bonanno 1996)

For much of the 20th century, anarchism was "Marxism's poorer cousin, theoretically a bit flat-footed but making up for brains, perhaps, with passion and sincerity"(Graeber 2004). Though the anarchist movements had a few high points during the 20th century, such as Nestor Mahkno and the Ukrainian revolt (1916-1919), the uprising at Kronstadt (1921), the revolutionary actions of the Catalonian anarchists during the Spanish Civil War (1930-1936), and the Paris Uprising of '68, the presence of anarchism waned. Instead, following the success of the Bolshevik revolution, Marxist-Leninism became the dominant political ideology on the left. By the 1950s it seemed as though Anarchism was being relegated to the dustbin of history.

However, starting with the late 1960s, anarchist theories and tactics reemerged within the anti-war, women's, queer, and environmental movements. Anti-authoritarianism gave the New Left a way to revolt against parents, politicians, and orthodox Marxists. While at the same time, consensus decision-making, the affinity-group model, and the concept of direct action allowed the anti-nuclear and the environmental movements a way to put their beliefs into action (Epstein 1991). The widespread use of these tactics made many of the new social movements appear to be embracing a nascently anarchist politic(Melluci 1989). The connection between anarchism and the new social movements developed further throughout the 1970s and 80s with the anti-nuclear movement(Epstein 1991), the feminist movement(Ehrlich 2002; Hansen 2002), and the environmental movement(Abbey 1976; Manes 1990; Bookchin 1991; Hansen 2002), all garnering a vocal and active anarchist wing. The relationship between new social movements and anarchism was not one sided; anarchism was also radically altered by politics of the 1960s and 70s (Day 2005). For example, class interests lost their standing as being the essential component of politics while race, gender, sexual orientation, and environmental conditions took its place.

During the 1990s the United States saw an increase in anarchist activism. One of the most widespread anarchist entities that thrived during the 1990s was Food Not Bombs. Food Not Bombs is banner group that distributes free vegetarian meals as a means of practicing mutual aid, a central concept within Kropotkins' theory of anarchism. A handful of Clamshell Alliance activists originally formed Food Not Bombs in 1981 and former Abalone Alliance members, in 1988, started up the second chapter of the group in Berkeley, California. Food Not Bombs is now one of the most popular anarchist entities with over 200 chapters in the United States and 400, recognized chapters, existing on five continents. During the 1990s anarchist "organizations" (Love and Rage, Anti-Racist Action, Anarchist Black Cross, Crimethinc ex-Workers Collective, Direct Action Network), journals (Fifth Estate, Anarchy: A Journal of desire Armed, Earth First! Journal), squats (ABC No Rio, C-Squat), and infoshop/autonomous spaces (Arise, The Lucy Parsons Project) flourished. During this time period, Uri Gordon has argued that anarchism started to redefine itself and became "a recognizable social movement in its own right, with a scale, unity and diversity unseen since the 1930s" (Gordon 2005).

Even though anarchism appeared to be a growing political movement it received little attention by academics, media elite, politicians, or mainstream culture at all. In fact, most Americans first saw "an anarchist" in protest images from the World Trade Organization protest in Seattle. Discussing the anarchist presence in Seattle, Time Magazine on December 13, 1999 stated in a headline "Anarchists lead Seattle into Chaos." The article, which spent pages trying to understand the beliefs of the anarchist protests, ended up dismissing the entire movement as consisting of "thousands of mostly young activists populating hundreds of mostly tiny splinter groups espousing dozens of mostly socialist critiques of the capitalist machine." This small movement, according to Time and the rest of the mainstream press, was hypocritical, overly violent, and fringe. Yet, Time had to ask, "Is Anarchism the face of 21st century activism?" Not surprisingly their answer was "no."

It is important to state that the anarchism did not emerge out of the Seattle protests but that the anarchist presence in Seattle represented over a decade of grassroots organizing by anarchist activists throughout the country. The result of their organizing is the backbone of the contemporary anarchist movements; the 200 known chapters of Food Not Bombs in the United States; the countless community info-shops and collectively run squats; and the extensive direct action networks that now exist within most major US cities. What Seattle represented was the hard work, dedication, and advances that occurred among the anarchist milieu; it showed that anarchists could organize and radically disrupt politics as usual.

Though anarchist politics have been an important component of contemporary radical politics, academics have paid little attention to it. Confronting the lack of academic work on anarchist politics, David Graeber in his New Left Review, "The New Anarchists", states that, "It's hard to think of another time when there has been such a gulf between intellectuals and activists; between theorists of revolution and its practitioners" (Graeber 2002). In recent years a handful of academics, including Graeber himself, have narrowed this gulf.

Since 2001 a handful of academic articles (Day 2004; Smith 2007; Williams 2007), a few unpublished PhD dissertations (Gordon 2005; Robertson 2007), and a slew of books (Hardt and Negri 2000; Newman 2001; Call 2002; Graeber 2004; Olson 2004; Wark 2004; Carter 2005; Day 2005; Hardt and Negri 2005; Sepulveda 2005; Best and Nocella 2006; Sitrin 2006; Graeber 2007; Graeber 2008) have delved into questions central to contemporary anarchism. These activist/academics comprise what I call the "new anarchist academics."

One of the results from this new research on anarchism is the claim that the new anarchist movements are radically different from earlier conceptions of anarchism. According to Uri Gordon,
The contemporary anarchist movement is 'new' in the key sense that it does not form a continuity between the workers' and peasant' anarchists movements of the nineteenth and early twentieth century...rather it represents the revival o anarchists politics over the past decade in the intersection of several other movements, including radical ecology, feminism, black and indigenous liberation, anti-nuclear movements and, most recently, resistance to neoliberal capitalism and the 'global permanent war"(Gordon 2005).

In other words, anarchist academics are claiming that a new unique form of anarchism has come to fruition in the 1990s, one that combines the lessons from new social movements with a strong commitment to resist domination, hierarchy, and illegitimate authority. According to the new anarchist academics, the new varieties of anarchisms reject class as being central to their politics (Day 2005) and instead embrace the categories popularized by the new social movements (NSM)- gender, race, and sexual orientation (Day 2005; Gordon 2005). Most importantly, the new anarchist movements do not wait for a global social revolution but instead engage in pre-figurative politics by creating new institutions within the vestige of the current system.

Next, I will discuss the pressing questions that the dissertation will address, followed by a discussion of pertinent previous research, and a discussion of research methodology. The final section will provide a short time-line for the completion of the dissertation.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

What I have been doing

So I have been very busy writing my prospectus and neglecting my blog. In a way of working on both I am going to paste my "dissertation question". Let me know what you think? In about 2 days I will put the next section. This way I can get my whole damned thing up and maybe get a comment or two about it (anything is welcome). Also, if you want to read or give me some more detailed feedback email me and I can, and would really like to send you my prospectus.

Dissertation Question:

"The term new social movements is rapidly approaching its sell-by-date"(Crossley 2003).

For this dissertation I have two central questions that I want to answer. First, how has anarchism been able to reemerge as a political force during the 1990s and 2000s? In doing so, I will first have to address, empirically, whether anarchism has reemerged and if it has, whether the new anarchisms are in fact unique. This research will provide much needed empirical evidence, if it exists, for the "new anarchist academics" claims. This is especially pressing since the majority of their work has tended to be either theoretical or based off their personal activist accounts. The one exception is the forthcoming book by David Graeber's Direct Action: An Ethnography, which details the authors' experience working with and organizing the anarchist resistance to the IMF in Quebec, Canada.

Secondly, and more important, what does the relationship between the anarchist movements and state agencies tell us about these relationship, more generally? The relationship between state institutions and political social movements has became a pressing question for the political science side of social movement theory (Banaszak 1996; Costain and McFarland 1998; Rhomberg 2004; Morgan 2007) and there is currently no consensus on the process. Part of the problem, in my opinion, is that the current empirical research examines the relationship between pressure groups, that are actively trying to get a seat at the table, and state agencies, which want to limit their political influence. The anarchist movements I will look into provide a unique perspective on this debate; since the new anarchist movements do not want a spot at the decision-making table and claim to exist outside, or counter to, the State. Because of their standing, this allows for a unique glimpse into power relationships.

Of course, it is naive to believe that these groups can exist fully removed from the envelope of the state, especially in the modern era of surveillance and regulation. But, these groups' attempts to remain independent often force the state agencies to over react; which illustrates the importance of "inclusion" that city governments and state agencies place on social movement actors. Overall, the relationships and interactions between anarchist movements and state institutions is uniquely complex and highlights tensions and relationships that always exist but are generally over looked.

As empirical case studies for the second question, I will examine two new anarchist political movements and their relationships with state agencies: the militant forest defense movement and Food Not Bombs. The first case study provides an example of how a new anarchist movement attempts to subvert and disrupt the current institutions, will providing an open space of new institutions to thrive, such as the concept of the free-state which is modeled as a temporary autonomous zone in the woods. The actions of the forest defense movement are not removed from the political process. Instead a complex relationship exists between the radical forest defense activists, with their open hostility towards the state, and state agencies (Forest Service, BLM, Police Agencies, the FBI) attempts to co-opt, include, or eradicate the movement.

The second example, Food Not Bombs illustrates the pre-figurative politics that have became central to the new anarchist movements. In addition, Food Not Bombs rejects city funding support and also does not have the 501(c)3 non-profit standing. In the words of one Food Not Bombs activist,
People often ask if we are a non-profit, tax exempt corporation. Generally, we are not interested in the bureaucracy needed to maintain such an organization. Sometimes, you might use an "umbrella" to assist in arranging a particular donation of money that specifically needs to be given to a non-profit, tax-exempt group. This is fine and it is usually not too difficult to find a tax-exempt organization to do this for you. Specifically, do not seek permission from any government agency to engage in the work you do. Once a group becomes a tax-exempt organization, the I.R.S. has the right to oversee all aspects of its operation and limits much of what it can do. Rather than try to hide from them, we prefer to ignore them (Ewald).
Thus, unlike other hunger relief agencies, Food Not Bombs actively rejects government support and non-profit standing in an attempt to remain independent from state control. This is a requirement if Food Not Bombs wants to complete its stated goal of creating an alternative institution for distributing food outside the confines of the state. Historically though, city governments have not been willing to accept Food Not Bombs rejection of state control. Most Food Not Bombs chapters in the United States have experienced police harassment, fines (for distributing food without a license), or overt government surveillance (ACLU website, Food Not Bombs website). Because of the hostile tension between Food Not Bombs chapters and city agencies, it becomes an interesting case study for understanding how city governments integrate or suppress social movements, and how groups attempt to remain politically independent of state regulation and control.