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This title presents the discussion of the creation of an anarchist-Marxist communal society.

178 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1984

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5 stars
96 (37%)
4 stars
87 (33%)
3 stars
60 (23%)
2 stars
14 (5%)
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2 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 26 of 26 reviews
Profile Image for tout.
86 reviews15 followers
June 15, 2020
Please skip all the introductions to the book if you're going to read this, they severely diminished my respect for the author, as each successive analysis of the merits of the book with the passing of time become increasingly revisionist toward what was anything but alternative and cooperative capitalism. The author describes the state as becoming a tool for easy transition. This is idiotic coming from someone who should know better.

The book otherwise is strikingly similar to 'The Coming Insurrection' and 'Call' and much of what Tiqqun envision in terms of relating based along the lines of affinity/form-of-life, creating the material conditions for succession, communes, civil war, etc. It approaches this poetic theoretical proposal in a practical angle, attempting to think through what this could look like. Where this largely fails is in its immensely positive view of technology (that could somehow exist abstracted from the productive relation that progressively develops it for its needs). I have a hard time believing that most people will want to volunteer their time to build most of the things of this world given the option for a life that is fulfilling aside from having roads and computers. As an end this possible world is less appealing, but as something to immediately put into practice as a process toward living more interesting lives, less burdened by work, and hopefully more destabilizing for Civilization, the text has a lot of power in provoking one to start thinking along the lines of how to ceaselessly live and prepare for the insurrection that comes.
Profile Image for Dylan.
106 reviews
March 11, 2009
This is an admirable attempt to do something that can't be done--that is, describe a future anarchist society in detail. The ambitious level of specificity is the book's weakness but also what makes it significant. In its thoroughness and complexity, it sets the bar extremely high for any future attempts at such an outline. And as a sort of landmark, I think it might serve well as a standard template for utopian/revolutionary thinkers to modify, critique, or completely refute.

Unfortunately, while very simple, the writing is pretty dry, and to me it has very little aesthetic value. I expected it to be presented in a fictional format, and that would probably have been far more effective, but it reads more like a instruction manual. If only society could be built like Ikea furniture. (Or maybe that's not such a great idea...)

There were two central ideas that stood out as particularly unique to me:

1. The society is grounded in full recognition of the existential dilemma, human life is acknowledged to be absurd, and in consequence, everyone keeps a suicide pill in his/her possession at all times, in order always to be free to opt out of this "dream" of existence.

2. Though this is a less compelling idea, it is refreshingly concrete: each person's possessions (if any) must fit inside a small box/suitcase, which is provided to everyone. Everything else in the world belongs to no one.

For more, see:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P.M._(au... and
Profile Image for Galina.
115 reviews37 followers
January 16, 2013
Impressive! The book deserves all the five stars I gave. It's a small text that I had heard of many times before actually reading (it turned out it is not an easy book to find in English). I was lucky to get it from a close friend, whose friend gave it to him long time ago, while this friend of my friend had received it from a relative, who found it one god knows where. This probably exaggerated my excitement about reading it a little more than it'd do otherwise. However, I certainly do not think that everyone would understand the purpose of the proposition on those two hundred pages or so.
At first, it starts with an exposition of what is wrong with the situation we live in, introduces a stylized view of the current state of the world, and more specifically defines a concept of THE "Machine" which in other ideologies is also referred to as THE "System". I'm not trying to mock this in any serious way, I am just overwhelmed by the use of those two terms, concepts, bugs, sicknesses or call it whatever you wish.
While reading the book I took notes of my thoughts and opinions concerning the text. I didn't pay too much attention to them on the spot, just notes. After I was finished reading and looked at them, every line of my notebook consisted of at least two question marks. What this?, but what if?, What happens to..?, Isn't it bad to assume that bla bla bla?. What is the reason for those question marks? They are another proof of the questioning nature of our minds (ha-ha I'm not trying to put myself next to real skeptics like Voltair). I believe skepticism was the main reason for the downfall of Christianity, and I certainly hope that, in the same way, it will be the solution to the current ecological catastrophe (or otherwise we die, but that's a topic not central to the book). Despite the critiques I have, the book made me dream the whole time I was reading it (even more than when I was reading Utopia, by Thomas More, couple years ago, maybe because More's book was the first of the genre I read). The idea that people respect others, stay closer to each other in the winter to keep warm, do whatever they want (reading as many books as they want was and examples that was greatly compelling to me, ho-ho). This romantic, or else dreamy feeling of warmness is brought about by the fact that people or ibus, as they are called by the author, are assumed to be genuinely good. After all, our ultimate task is to make this happen!
Bottom line, the biggest obstacle for the execution of such and utopian-ecological future IS identified by the author him/herself. I choose to end the review by quoting it, and let the idea that the problem lies within the way our minds are structured, and more precisely our desires as innate determinants of our behaviour. Wouldn't it be nice to get rid of the eagerness to control everything and just calm down? One of the main messages of the book is that the centralized state is a non-fictional monster that is clearly unnecessary and obviously bringing more ills than happiness. Then why is it so hard to believe that abolishing it would solve the problems? Maybe because, on a certain level it becomes clear that it is impossible to stop it from emerging again. After all p.m. says it straight: "the first step to a central state is always the most harmless and inconspicuous" of them all.
Profile Image for Matt.
340 reviews11 followers
January 11, 2015
I found this short book utterly fascinating...

First, its critique of the "Planetary Work Machine" was tremendous, discussing how we essentially sell our life-time in order to receive survival in exchange. The author pushes us to ask, "How would I really like to live?" (p. 50).

Second, it is significant for critiquing not just how capitalism but also communism simply become variations on the Planetary Work Machine. Even many socialist utopias are problematic for their compulsory ideas on governance and education.

Third, I appreciated the discussion of the different "deals": "Deal A": Information workers, with their relative wealth, yet stress and alienation; "Deal B": Industrial workers, with their greater protection via unions, yet marginalization; and "Deal C": those excluded from the system and struggling with poverty. The author is particularly clear and insightful about how the Planetary Work Machine plays one group off another, encouraging us to have stereotypes of the other and living in fear of them, thus keeps us blindly in our our "deal," exchanging our life-essence (time) for being a cog in the machine.

Lastly, the author's specific suggestions for a future society might be problematic in some regards, but at least (s)he dares be specific. One particularly unique and important aspect is that the system of bolos is not compulsory, and there is room for those loners or dissidents who want to opt out. The author also states that not all the bolos should be the same, but they should instead reflect the ideas of their people and their regional and cultural specifics. Contrary to many utopias (even "anarchic" ones), this is no one-size-fits-all plan. To have such a thing would require enforcement, thus a central authority, thus a State and the undoing of all we're talking about. It seems more viable to have an infinite variation of bolos, and indeed, more anarchic (in a good way). Also, the author is always aware of the dangers inherent in any of the councils or larger cooperative groups--only the independence of the bolos can keep a resurgent State from evolving from these groups.

This is a fascinating and important proposal for an alternate organization of social life.
Profile Image for Bodhisattva Chattopadhyay.
Author 7 books3 followers
May 5, 2016
The first third of this anarchist manifesto is a science fictional reading of the "Planetary Work Machine", or our economic systems, resource and labour distribution on the planet. It attacks capitalism and socialism alike, before presenting the bolo'bolo structure. This is followed by a long attempt to describe in detail the concepts of this quasi-anarchist society that is offered as an alternative and which will come into being through a series of actions that will dismantle the existing setup. There are engaging metaphors and possibilities here: constructed languages, the mandatory suicide pill to escape from Spaceship Earth, and so forth. The best thing about the book is that even as it imagines ways of dismantling the existing system towards the bolo'bolo, it does not even take its own system as an end point but rather a step towards some kind of uncertain future. Unlike the ever-receding utopia, the point here is not about the inevitability of some order of future that may or may not come about, but of restructuring the present. The bolo'bolo vision and political horizon is the near present, rather than the unknown future.

I read this book as a teenager, and it did have some influence on me, before finding it again recently in this new Autonomedia edition which has an "after thirty years" intro that is worth reading. Bolo'bolo never happened, and to be frank I don't think P.M. thought it could happen either. I would not call this a great book, but as a thought experiment this is worth reading. The manifesto is important for its time and place. It offers interesting insights into the origins of maker culture, alternative ways of considering human assemblages and their spatial distribution, the influence of 70s and 80s brand of ecotopias and counterculture, as well as new philosophical positions of the time.
Profile Image for xDEAD ENDx.
228 reviews
October 22, 2013
Reading this a second time makes me want give it even less stars. Such a disgustingly progressive view on the world that doesn't deal with resource extraction, the repugnance people have towards industrial labor, and the interruption of ecological habitats by ignorant humans. Oh yeah, and an outline of bloody spokes councils. Those who want to say "No" to every institution/apparatus are unfortunately not allowed to do so, since there will inevitably be intervention by neighboring regions. This, in a nutshell, has been the problem of civilization from the beginning.
108 reviews9 followers
April 6, 2010
I expected an SF-like novel and I started reading relatively dry theory. However, this theory proves to be rather innovating for its age(?) and is still relevant. My main quarrel with it is that, if you're going to theorize, you should substantiate your argument by referencing or own research. Now only those familiar with certain arguments will catch on.

The fun, dreamy, practical bit starts at p.64. This is what will inspire you and is what makes Bolo Bolo stand out. There really isn't enough utopian literature out there, not enough dreaming

Don't read this if you're unconvinced, you will laugh it away. However, if you're serious about positive, leftist, ecological change, this will make you feel the change, motivate you and give you practical ideas
Profile Image for Aonarán.
110 reviews58 followers
August 2, 2012
If my friend had written this or a stranger on the bus told me their thoughts and they were this book, that would make sense. It even kind of makes sense that it was turned into a pamphlet/book years ago. But that it's been republished since then is kind of ridiculous to me.

What do I mean by that? While the first third of the is a pretty decent critique of society, the last part is mainly pm's wingnut musings. Not necessarily a bad thing - and definitely thought provoking - but hardly worthy of the status it holds in some radical circles.
Profile Image for Cem.
95 reviews15 followers
August 2, 2011
Excellent anarchist utopia, one that tells a tale a la LeGuin but also skims over the surface of the utopian tradition, pointing their shortcomings. Delightful food for thought.
3 reviews20 followers
July 8, 2011
P.M., a pseudonym based on the most common initials in Switzerland, sets out a utopian social organization in bolo'bolo. P.M.'s utopia is built around values of non-coercion, community building, craftsmanship, generosity, and diversity. Rather than illustrate its principles with familiar words (which would carry their own history), P.M. has invented a vocabulary of short words for the utopia's basic concepts, designed to be pronounceable in the maximum number of languages. And the writing assumes that many already existing social experiments can be described by this vocabulary, rather than needing to start converting everyone to some new ideology. The fundamental unit, though, is the bolo or small community that is a sort of oversize collective residence, farm, workshop, and city block. US readers might think of this as a paired combination of cohousing and community supported agriculture (what P.M. calls a microcenter and agrocenter in his update, see below). Bolos are home to around 500 people, and every unit must provide basic hospitality (room and board, included) to 10% of its home population.

P.M.'s critique of existing society is conceptual and more rooted in common-sense than in ideology. The problems to be solved through bolo'bolo include: ever-increasing deployment of work; consumerism and greed; ecological destrution; boredom; alienation; coercion; reliance on imprisonment; and inability to find a suitable home for one's personality and desired way of life. Anarchists, back-to-the-landers, ecologists, down-shifters, counter-culture builders, critics of greed and accumulation, and local community activists will all find something of value here. And none of them will be rebuked for valuing what they value.

Bolo'bolo also differs from most utopias in two important ways: flexibility and thinking through tangible issues. P.M. assures us that each community will define its own norms, ways, and cultures; each is a unique collective individual within the larger society. The hospitality guarantee is built to discourage confinement to any one culture and give everyone the option to leave or to travel, while bolos have essentially free rein to regulate behavior internally. There is lots of tangible thinking throughout: which crops could be grown in the cities, what scale makes sense for different products to be produced (too small a project—say, greywater—is a hobby, too large is an industry), what we would prioritize sharing across continents (chocolate and culture being leading examples).

I came to this book after reading P.M.'s adaptation of this call for utopia to the contemporary ecological crisis, published in the radical theory magazine Turbulence: http://turbulence.org.uk/turbulence-5... Bolo'bolo is not an ecological utopia (like Callender's Eco-topia or Chris Carlsson's After the Deluge), but its desire to avoid unnecessary work and its incorporation of production within communities instead of in independent state or corporate organizations makes its highly compatible. P.M. thinks through in bolo'bolo how to use time and community (things that are scarce in most existing societies, but abundant in bolo'bolo) to enable the pleasures of life without imposing excessive ecological costs: lettuce can always be grown nearby, P.M. writes, but travel is irreplaceable. So, P.M.'s ideas are also a good starting point for thinking through what a shift to a carbon-free economy might look like, in ways that go beyond changing energy sources and into rethinking consumption patterns.
Profile Image for DeAnna.
63 reviews5 followers
August 28, 2010
I don't think I have read the edition with the "apology" and really wish I knew what it said. I loved this book because it makes such a great attempt at imagining something else that works in detail rather than just finding all the problems with what we have. Usually, we only get a glimpse of such things in science fiction books.

Unlike a lot of anarchist models, it accommodates issues of choice and special needs within its model.
Profile Image for Dot Matrix.
18 reviews
June 3, 2021
Fun game: picking your two favorite aspects of bolo'bolos, and thinking how you could or would try to integrate them into your life.

Duels! Suicide pills! A chest for all you can own!

(hint: Some are easier to figure out than others.)
Profile Image for Euan McDonnell.
5 reviews1 follower
June 17, 2021
A really insightful and heartfelt read about effectively a manifesto of what the author envisages as an anarchist utopia. Definitely makes one, or possibly a group of people, want to move to the countryside and develop sustainable and self-sufficient practices. I liked the repurposing of already existing infrastructure in more sustainable ways. Also the attempt to improve sustainability, abolish inequality and mitigate the mental health crises in society by transitioning to people living in communities "bolos" of about 500 people.

However there were some questions and problems I thought of throughout the book that were never addressed. It falls into the trap of both being very positive and negative about humanity, ie that people under capitalism are innately selfish, nihilistic and delusionally individualistic, but then mostly assumes that in a different system people wouldn't fall into these same patterns of behaviour and be subservient to the whole. In fact despite being an book about anarchism and self-determination, it doesn't really discuss the problem of individuality vs communal perspectives to life.

Only at the very end does it talk about resolving conflict and dealing with human aggression with duels, "yaka", where deaths and violence are permitted. Its easy to imagine such feuds expanding beyond individuals and you could have tribal-like rivalries that escalate and destabilise multiple bolos, if not whole regions. Moreover, I think its fairly reasonable to assume people do do stupid, irrational and barbaric things (domestic abuse, hate speech etc) for very little reason and its hard to believe that such things will disappear and not cause similar feuds. Much more discussion on this aspect and the darker side of human nature is warranted I think as, without any real form of formal justice, its hard to believe tragedies and abhorrence acts won't be regular.

Also it doesn't really fully discuss how geography impacts a bolo's "power" and "influence". We know that this has shaped a lot of human history and continues to do so (think climate change disproportionately impacting low-lying Islands and equatorial regions), which seems primed to set up a naturally-imposed inequality if resources which could easily result in a hierarchy of bolos, with those that with the "resource lottery" with more "resources wealth" gaining more and more influence. Moreover the management of natural disasters etc, that again, disproportionately affect certain regions, isn't really explained, especially when such disasters make it far more difficult to transport goods to an affected area.

In a similar vein, while I really like the idea of a automated, computer-system to efficiently allocate resources, such a system would have immense power and due to the sheer scale and generality of the computations it'd have to perform, would most likely have to approximate some kind of superintelligence, or be overseen by human controllers. This is another driver of hierarchy as an advanced computing system could make decisions that are opposed to the morals of bolo'bolo as ethics are almost impossible to program (see Rob Miles on YouTube), so such a system could make decisions that limit the freedoms and livelihoods of some bolos, if not all, if it "decided" it was optimal for the whole. In the second case, this is obvious as these individuals would have immense power over such a system.

Don't get me wrong though, I loved the book and it was very insightful and did create a relatively watertight image of an anarchist utopia and a lot of other lingering questions s were resolved. And to be fair to the author they never state such a system is perfect or would even survive for more than 100s of years, just that its an idea thst would be better than what we have. It does attempt to balance the need for some rules and self-regulation with freedom and self-determination in a believeable manner and I highly recommend it a safe read.
Profile Image for John Ohno.
Author 4 books23 followers
August 25, 2017
Bolo'Bolo is a blueprint for a future society along vaguely anarcho-syndicalist lines. I find it more sensible than most such proposals, because it makes an effort to be flexible & account for the various human flaws (and because it presents concrete methods for slowly transitioning to the society it describes, not depending upon revolution but instead by subverting and rerouting existing structures in such a way as to be sustainable).

It is a little less accessible than it could be because of the heavy use of neologisms & appropriation of mystical or religious language from very different contexts. (For instance, it refers to diagrams of political relations as 'yantras'.)

Over all, I would recommend this to anybody with a passing interest in anarchist or communist ideas (or with an interest in utopian or eutopian social planning or counterfactual social structures). Authors of speculative fiction in particular might be impressed with the rich trove of ideas in this (relatively short) work.
Profile Image for Max Kühlem.
31 reviews
March 17, 2021
Absolut genial: Der Schweizer Autor p.m., der in den 1980er-Jahren in der Hausbesetzerszene unterwegs war, beschreibt eine anarchistische Gesellschaftsutopie bis ins kleinste Detail. Wie kann man herrschaftsfrei, ökologisch und gut leben - hier erfährt man es. Wir müssen einfach alle ibus werden, die in bolos leben. In Zürich gibt es übrigens schon mehrere Wohngenossenschaften, die sich nach dem Vorbild von p.m.'s "bolos" genannten freien Gemeinschaftslebensformen gebildet haben.
Profile Image for Alanya.
15 reviews
December 27, 2020
pm beschreibt einen schönen "Reform-Alptraum", der sicherlich nicht perfekt ist (gerade die "Hinführung" wirkt heute schon sehr 80er), aber alles in allem doch ganz einladend wirkt. Es tut gut, sich eine so durchdachte Öko-Utopie hineinzulesen. Leider hat in diese Ausgabe einige größere und kleinere Fehler, die mich beim Lesen doch gestört haben (z.B. falsche Kapitelüberschriften).
Profile Image for Zeki.
21 reviews1 follower
March 14, 2021
Kitabın ilk yarısı çok iyiydi. Sonrasında Anarşik düzenin tasarısı ile ilgili bana tutarsız gelen tasarılar vardı.
Yine de çok farklı ve insana farklı bir pencere açan başarılı bir kitap
Profile Image for Littleblackcart.
23 reviews37 followers
June 3, 2021
bolo'bolo (lower case is correct) is a great book, with really thought-provoking juxtapositions and ideas, best if one doesn't take it too seriously, or, seriously in the way that play can be serious. It continues to be the best try at an anarchist utopia (since it's the only one that takes the individual as valuably as the group(s)), even though there's a bunch of stuff that is overly market-oriented, as well.
Can't really call it a novel, but it's a great thought exercise.
Profile Image for Sahelanth.
33 reviews3 followers
August 20, 2017
A beautiful, quirky anarchist manifesto. Its diagnosis of why the world isn't making us happy is as compelling as any I've ever seen. The author emphasizes conflict within classes, and how different socioeconomic tiers stay jealous of each other - the rich want the poor's free time as much as the poor want the rich's goods. The world is divided against itself, not by a scheming bourgeoisie but by chasing relative advantage.

The solution bolo' bolo proposes is much more flexible than most utopias. Divide the world into self-sufficient units, about 500 people each. Everything beyond personal property is public. Let everyone interact with locals for all the necessities of life. The author has answers for many obvious objections - let randomly assigned foreigners vote to cut down on insular parochialism, some degree of broader trade to handle unequal distribution of resources, great flexibility in the size and crops of units so a self-sufficient block can form in any conditions. Modern pursuits that require large-scale cooperation could still happen; units specialized in particular tasks could cooperate with each other to form all the steps in greater supply chains.

Most impressive is that the author doesn't fall into the "dunno, people will work it out!" vagueness of many anarchist tracts. The proposed system is very flexible, but there are many examples and possible particulars. As is inevitable for the genre, weird preoccupations come through. (Everyone will have the means to kill themselves at any time; there will be an international auxiliary language). The only topic I felt neglected was growth, and how growing communities would split into new units. It seems the author wants a sustainable dynamic equilibrium, rather than ongoing development and growth.

bolo' bolo feels more relevant to the modern world than "canonical" leftist works like The Communist Manifesto (though not quite up to date - it predates the digital revolution), and its proposed solution comes off as relatively plausible. Plus it's a creative, genuinely fun read. If you're interested in weird politics, or worldbuilding, bolo' bolo is well worth a read.
Profile Image for Bülent Ö. .
261 reviews111 followers
June 13, 2018

Alternatif bir dünya tasarısının sunulduğu zihin açıcı ve müthiş küçük kitap. Merkezi otoriteden, paranın iktidarından kurtulmak adına etkileyici önerilerde bulunuyor. Tabi sunulan dünya tasarısı, var olan tüm sistemlerin yıkımından sonra hayata geçebilir. İşin uzmanları bu tasarının bir çok açık yanını bulabilir ama insanların ve toplumların birbirlerinden yalıtılmışlıklarının, merkezi otoritenin oluşması ve güçlenmesi adına en büyük tehlike olduğunu öne sürmesi, tasarıyı çok değerli ve haklı kılıyor.

İçinde yaşadığımız dünyada küreselleşmeden, mesafelerin daralmasından bahsetmemize rağmen hepimiz yalıtılmış değil miyiz? Bir değişim, bir devrim yaratmak için en yakınımızdakilere muhtaçken, dünyanın bir ucundaki insanla iletişim içinde olmuşuz neye yarar? İnternet, medya ve iktidar ne kadar haberimiz olmasını istiyorsa o kadar haberdarız dünyadan. Birbirimizle yüz yüze konuşmadan üzerimizde oluşturulan hakimiyeti yıkamayız demeye getiriyor bu muhteşem kitap.
5 reviews
January 3, 2008
A wonderfully imagined post-capitalist world, with practical considerations in a tiny little book...I found the introduction not too helpful and the initial analysis on point if a little slow...I'd jump right to the creative part, its super cool, a friend of mine even thinks we should good tatoos from the symbols it devises...
Profile Image for Caner Arik.
4 reviews1 follower
July 7, 2019
Sounds good, doesn’t work. Özellikle enerji, bilim ve güvenlik konularında çok yetersiz savunmaları/tezleri var. Genel olarak insanlığın en büyük problemlerine dikkat çekilip iyi niyetli alternatif öneriler sunulmuş fakat olmaz öyle. Ütopya mı distopyamı olduğuna karar veremediğim bilim kurgu sınıfına girecek bir yapıt.
Profile Image for Simon Spiegel.
Author 7 books6 followers
November 29, 2015
Ich überlege mir, ob ich ein Inkommensura-bolo oder doch lieber ein Marl-bolo gründen soll …
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