I must confess that I didn't find much that was especially insightful in Camus' account of rebellion, revolution, and nihilism here while reading it,I must confess that I didn't find much that was especially insightful in Camus' account of rebellion, revolution, and nihilism here while reading it, but now that I look back on it, I see that he actually has much to say--and that much of it is worthwhile.
Camus begins by defining the rebel as one who affirms by negating, who says yes in saying no--one who decries absolute freedom in establishing limits to acceptable behavior. He thus immediately counterposes the rebel with the nihilist, who, in denying that anything has meaning, valorizes a conception of life which is dominated by mere facts--power. He takes issue with revolutionary movements as they have existed in the twentieth century, claiming most of them to have betrayed the origins of rebellion by replacing it with an absolutist--even, totalitarian--ethic. He sees much to be respected in the efforts of the Russian 'revolutionaries' of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (a group from which he of course excludes Lenin), who rebelled against tsarism and tyranny often violently. Camus finds their nobility partly in the fact (which he posits) that these revolutionaries, unlike many of their counterparts of the twentieth century, were often quite consumed by doubt and engaged in murder and assassination only with much reluctance and much moderation. He laments, then, the disappearance of such doubt and moderation in the nihilism that gripped much of the twentieth century, nihilism that gave rise to the uncompromising ideology of Marxism-Leninism and, not unrelatedly, Nazism, and denounces its consequences.
Camus also roundly criticizes many of his intellectual contemporaries for their undying faith in Marxism, claiming, for one, that Marxism reproduces some of the central problems of religious faith (ie, in relegating justice, etc., to the "Later On," as he puts it--that is, post-capitalist society) and entails the negation of much that is defensible and good in humanity by reducing human obligation to the promotion of revolution. I think he's certainly on to something here, but I think his reading of Marx is also somewhat flawed, in that Camus seems to disregard Marx's concern with emancipation and free conscious activity in his efforts to discredit the approach of the "prophet of justice." Camus posits a different approach to social change, claiming that rebels/revolutionaries, in their efforts to combat injustice, should never lose sight of the importance of beauty within the conception of human dignity.
It seems that many so-called revolutionaries, though (probably more of the socialist-Marxist bent), would reject Camus' analysis as sentimental and, in fact, supportive of the status quo. Does Camus then break with the predominance of Marxist thought in his day and accept something close to anarchism? He certainly seems to reject revolutionary society (at least, the revolutions demonstrated thus far by history), but he remains highly critical of bourgeois society as well. Contemplating these tensions is crucially important, and Camus's The Rebel certainly represents an important contribution to this debate....more
I was rather disappointed by this book, to be honest. I suppose I enjoyed reading the descriptions of Anarres' somewhat-anarchist society, but I foundI was rather disappointed by this book, to be honest. I suppose I enjoyed reading the descriptions of Anarres' somewhat-anarchist society, but I found the writing style rather uninteresting and the plot rather slow. I might entirely have missed what Le Guin was getting at with this book, but I don't really see the point of going on and on about some theory of physics when she could have produced a richer and deeper discussion of the tensions within Anarres and between it and other societies... I think this book could have been much better had its basis been more social commentary than science--not to say that this wasn't a major facet of The Dispossessed, but perhaps it should have been more so (eg, why did the discussion on revolution in Urras end so abruptly after the repressive actions of the police/military? I feel that could [and, truthfully, should] have been expanded upon much more). In any case, though, I'm not really into science fiction, so perhaps that biases my read on the book and its content....more
I was expecting more from this book.... I mean, I certainly appreciated Kropotkin's claims that seemed to reject a lot of what we hear about evolutionI was expecting more from this book.... I mean, I certainly appreciated Kropotkin's claims that seemed to reject a lot of what we hear about evolution (and its applications to human societies)--ie, that, within the realm of adaptability, etc., mutual aid is as important (if not moreso) than struggle--but I feel like he certainly romanticized quite a few historical social structures that, I think, most anarchists would take issue with (ie, patriarchy, monarchy, etc.). His argument makes clear that humans, along with animals, engage in mutual aid, but (Prince) Kropotkin also continually emphasizes how such mutual aid is usually limited to particularistic conceptions of identity (ie, blue-collar workers will aid other blue-collar workers, serfs will help out other serfs, crabs will try to save their fellow crabs from unnecessary death), and as such seems rather limited (whether true or not). In this sense, I don't see Kropotkin's analysis as providing a basis for a 'natural' argument for anarchist society--though his conclusion certainly is more affirming than many sociological analyses I've come across....more
A great book! Kesey's theories of oppression and liberation are wonderful (and reflective of his times--sadly, though, we hear little like this nowadaA great book! Kesey's theories of oppression and liberation are wonderful (and reflective of his times--sadly, though, we hear little like this nowadays)....more
Bookchin here promotes his idea of social ecology and his vision of an ecological society (and world). He takes issue with so-called environmentalist movements, which, like the psychotherapist that Herbert Marcuse roundly criticizes, seek merely to have society adapt to the madness of extant structures rather than promote radical change, as social ecology advocates. He also denounces New-Age, biocentric mysticism as feel-goodery that fails to call into question relations of power, hierarchy, and domination and, relatedly, is easily commodified within the capitalist structures that (Bookchin says) it should be subverting and overthrowing.
The core of Bookchin's argument here is the creation of a qualitatively better society, rather than a merely quantitatively better one (something that he criticizes liberals, Marxists, and socialists on). He embarks on a review of anthropological accounts of 'primitive peoples,' who he finds to have lived within a non-hierarchical social nexus that, instead of private property, functioned according to the rights of usufruct (open access to all), an ethics of complementarity (instead of competition), and an irreducible minimum, whereby everyone was afforded the basic necessities of life without reserve. Bookchin denounces Thomas Hobbes' account of human nature here, characterizing it as mere apologism for hierarchy and domination. He also finds much of liberal theory--that which dominates ideology today--to be a natural outgrowth of Hobbesian thought. As with Hobbes, Bookchin finds Sigmund Freud's account of human psychology to be incorrect at best and reactionary at worst, as he attributes human 'evil' to immutable human traits rather than socialization processes shaped by hierarchical, dominant interests.
Positively, Bookchin here posits a return to the values of 'primitive' societies. He finds that only through doing away with hierarchical social relations (capitalism, though more than this of course) can humanity realize its potentiality through affirming the subjectivity of every individual--and, claims Bookchin, the subjectivity of nature--in place of treating people/the environment as mere objects, tools of production, and 'resources.' Bookchin, then, seeks not a less offensive capitalism or a Marxian socialism but a libertarian municipalism, in which everyone can cultivate herself within an authentic, caring, loving social nexus plagued not by hierarchy, Karl Marx's 'realm of necessity,' or the spectre of ecological collapse. Bookchin emphasizes that the project of social ecology must be guided not by the dominant mode--power--but rather by ethics, imagination, and utopianism if it is to defend its advocacy of qualitative change. As in Post-Scarcity Anarchism, Bookchin stresses the need for 'liberatory technologies' that will help to do away with hierarchical modes of social organization and transcend the oppressive and ecocidal impulses of much of our current reality....more
I know little about the history of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Spain, to say nothing of anarchist movements in the country more speciI know little about the history of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Spain, to say nothing of anarchist movements in the country more specifically. Bookchin's account here certainly provided a good introduction to both of these, though I found his writing style here somewhat less exciting than in either Post-Scarcity Anarchism or The Ecology of Freedom; the radical criticality that I have found in these books--and admired Bookchin for--is certainly missing here. Overall, this is a fascinating period of history reminiscent of the mid- to late- nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries in Russia--and a social milieu featuring much more passion and resistance (in my view) than is the case in much of our current reality.
The last ten pages (the Epilogue)--where Bookchin criticizes the narrow, economistic concerns of Marxism/socialism; claims the 'industrialization of the proletariat' to valorize, not negate, capitalism; and calls on those "discontent with the quality of everyday life," aware of the "meaningless of a life devoted to mindless toil," and conscious of "hierarchy and domination in all its forms" to promote social revolution--were worth five stars themselves....more
I must say, I found this series of essays rather disappointing. This is my first encounter with Noam Chomsky, and I found what he said to be rather bI must say, I found this series of essays rather disappointing. This is my first encounter with Noam Chomsky, and I found what he said to be rather basic (which, of course, is not to say that it shouldn't be said or heard). I found him to be far less radical than I was expecting/hoping; I suppose I find Murray Bookchin's anarchism much more appealing.
I suppose my biggest problem with Chomsky's thoughts here is his valorizing of progressive, state-implemented reformism--which is not to suggest that impoverished individuals, for example, should be denied state assistance precisely because it provided by the state. It is, however, to be wary of the limits of state-based reforms in the struggle for human dignity and self-realization--something I think Chomsky under-appreciates where other anarchist thinkers do not....more
This is my first reading of Bookchin; I definitely appreciate his analysis and prescriptions here. As something of a green anarchist (though not of thThis is my first reading of Bookchin; I definitely appreciate his analysis and prescriptions here. As something of a green anarchist (though not of the 'primitivist' persuasion), Bookchin, in Post-Scarcity Anarchism calls for anarchist resistance and, ultimately, revolution against the socio-politico-economic hierarchies of capitalism, which, in having introduced and maintained such inter-human hierarchies, are reproduced in humanity's relationship to nature/the environment, resulting in the ecological disaster we now see (and seemingly will continue to face). He ultimately concludes that only the realization of such an anarchist revolution will save the earth from the totally destructive exigencies of capitalism. In this sense, he seeks to liberate 'man' and nature together at once. He, like Herbert Marcuse, posits that post-revolutionary (that is, anarchist) 'man' will relate to the environment in a radically new way--one different (and, clearly, more desirable) than that which is pushed for by capitalism. He, similar to Marx, claims that the high development of technology within industrially advanced countries will allow such an anarchist 'society' to succeed where so many other similar attempts have failed (due to material scarcity--Bookchin argues that our current levels of technology render such concerns rather null and void); he finds that such technologies have rendered hierarchical socio-politico-economic relations redundant. He speaks a lot about using highly advanced alternative energy sources (eg wind and solar) that have seemingly been sidelined in our world--unsurprisingly, Bookchin would probably argue, given the reactionary interests of domination.
Bookchin also lays into Marxist (Leninist) revolutionaries and Marxism more generally, taking issue with Marxists' historical (and, it seems, ideological and structural) proclivity to engage in hierarchy (ie, the 'vanguard,' 'democratic centralism) as a means toward socialism/liberation. He claims (rightly, I think) that humans cannot be 'led' to emancipation--freedom cannot be dictated or legislated, Bookchin argues, as Marxist-Leninists seem to think. He uses as his main example here the Russian 'revolution' of 1917 and afterward, focusing on the Bolsheviks' increasingly authoritarian means--Lenin's suppression of 'factionalism'; the violent repression of the 1921 Kronstadt rebellion, when soldiers called on the 'revolution' to realize the progressive promises it had made; and the eventual descent into murderous Stalinism. He finds these tragic consequences unsurprising, as he posits that the means and ends of revolution must be harmonized--the use of hierarchy and centralism to effect revolution (which, in my view, the Bolsheviks never achieved), claims Bookchin, unsurprisingly results in hierarchy and centralism in 'post-revolutionary' society. His argument here, in a sense, reminds me Albert Camus' objections to Marxism in The Rebel.
What worries me most, though, about this type of analysis (one relevant as well to Karl Marx and Herbert Marcuse) is how it seems to legitimize the course of human history--that is, the claim that hierarchical, oppressive social relations in feudalism, capitalism, etc., have brought us to this point wherein revolution and human emancipation is made possible... Bookchin certainly makes it clear that he considers historical forms of hierarchy irrelevant. But what, then, can we say about the billions of humans who live outside of technologically advanced countries? Must they, too, suffer the brutalities of 'primitive capitalist/socialist accumulation' to achieve freedom?...more
I must say I was a bit skeptical about reading this one, as I'm familiar with a few of Murray Bookchin's works (the 'founder' of social ecology). TheI must say I was a bit skeptical about reading this one, as I'm familiar with a few of Murray Bookchin's works (the 'founder' of social ecology). The first half is pretty standard, but Biehl really shines through with the second half. I love her discussion on dual power and confederated municipalities--fantastic. The interview with Bookchin at the end is alright, and the appendix (the statement of principles of a Vermont-based libertarian municipalist movement) is heartening--compared with the shit that is taken for 'politics' nowadays (though it's hardly an end-all and be-all, for that)....more
I must say, I was rather disappointed with this book. I was really looking forward to Purchase's account of how human societies should decentralize anI must say, I was rather disappointed with this book. I was really looking forward to Purchase's account of how human societies should decentralize and adopt a bio-regional basis in place of the State, but he didn't really present this very well. Poor writing style and bad analysis--I found Murray Bookchin's social ecology far more convincing....more
A seemingly much-ignored classic--Kropotkin here lays out the specifics of 'the ideal society,' where labor-time would be vastly reduced, everyone wouA seemingly much-ignored classic--Kropotkin here lays out the specifics of 'the ideal society,' where labor-time would be vastly reduced, everyone would have necessities provided for, and leisure time would be greatly maximized so as to allow for the greater cultivation of self and community. I, for one, saw many of Kropotkin's claims here echoed in later anarchist works, esp. in those of Ursula Le Guin and Murray Bookchin. Highly recommended--certainly a more constructive account of politics/life than that afforded by standard intro political philosophy texts (Hobbes, Locke, etc.). And yet there seems to be a clear reasoning behind the fact that it isn't presented in such realms.......more
This seemed to be more about poststructuralism than anarchism, and I must say that I found the conclusion on ethics rather anticlimactic and, indeed,This seemed to be more about poststructuralism than anarchism, and I must say that I found the conclusion on ethics rather anticlimactic and, indeed, disappointing....more
This was great, if totally depressing. The story of the Kronstadt commune's defiance of the Bolshevik comissarocracy, its efforts to actually realizeThis was great, if totally depressing. The story of the Kronstadt commune's defiance of the Bolshevik comissarocracy, its efforts to actually realize soviet (or, arguably, anarchist) communism, and its brutal suppression by Trotsky and Lenin is a tale whose importance is not limited solely to historical inquiry....more
This was a rather informative account of the Makhnovtsy's rebellion against both Whites and Reds following the 1917 October coup, but I would have preThis was a rather informative account of the Makhnovtsy's rebellion against both Whites and Reds following the 1917 October coup, but I would have preferred a greater focus on the Makhnovoshchina's 'libertarian communist' approach to non-military social issues, as I walked away with more knowledge about their military efforts... Not that I think that's misplaced, considering how menaced their experiment was by both Whites and supposedly revolutionary Reds.
The translation seems to have suffered at places, but that might also be due to Skirda's original writing; either way, I wasn't a huge fan of the style....more