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Anarchism used as an identity instead of social change?

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Grass's picture
Grass
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May 21 2009 22:40
Drone wrote:
consuming commodities does note equate to economic power to control capitalism.

I disagree. It does, to a certain degree. The set of social relations doesn't change, but the substance within does. By the way, what does it matter? I don't know if whether I speak on behalf of this community or not, but I've understood that anarchists don't do much to change society - we just sit here, waiting for social upheaval, and then we join - to assist the current towards revolution forward. Criticizing the majority of the left for not understanding the meaning of class, revolution, etc. doesn't help a bit. Especially because the criticism is rooted in theory, not in a constructive analysis of present currents. "Stop activism", "don't care about boycotting", "don't vote", "read Marx", "working class blah", etc. The way I see it, many people consider it very important to be an orthodox anarchist - which is, ironically enough - not to care about anything or change anything in one's life, except "knowing what's right".

Quote:
2. being educated again doesnt really count as being lifestylist middle class, and whatever psychoanalytic understanding of the people here you think you have its probably bullshit.

Perhaps I misunderstand the idea of life-stylist, but the way I see it, the whole concept can't be seen under a non-psychological frame of reference. It's about the human psyche after all. I kind of agree that what I said it probably is bullshit, but my point still stands - there is no discernible difference between being a lifestylist and hardcore, except that the hardcore sentiments are more common in these kind of (middle class) environments, mostly due to the meta-narratives we have in common.

Quote:
what does that mean, perhaps middle class means something else in Norway but all that translates as is : I hope we can all sit around eating organic vegetables, moving house to get our kids into a better school, and reading liberal newspapers saying "phew, isnt the world terrible."

I think that the middle class is a group of people distinguished from regular working class by a different set of perceived interests, higher status, and all that you said. Like liberal values, criticizing ideas, interested in intellectual tasks, acting ethically, eventually being a communist, etc. Working class values would be to combat middle class values and elitism, for example. This is a shallow analysis, I guess. I need to get to know more about classes.

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Django
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May 22 2009 07:57
Grass wrote:
I would think of opposition to "life-stylism" as a working class criticism of middle class possibilities. The middle class has the economic power to control capitalism a little, the working class doesn't.
Grass wrote:
Now, I live in Norway. I don't know how it is in Britain, but here, that sentiment doesn't fit into reality. Everyone has the economic capability to take part in petty bourgeois activity. If one defines a communist as a "class-conscious prole", I will never become a communist, because I'm middle class [actually lumpenprole, but I do belong to the middle class culturally, and also when it comes to "perceived interests"]. For some reason, I expect most of you to be middle class as well. I might be wrong though.

This seems completely contradictory. Lifestylism is an option for the 'middle class' because they have the economic power to affect capitalism (whatever that means) but 'middle class' is defined on the basis of cultural affiliation, irrespective of income.

I think the problem is you are using a completely different definition of 'bourgeois' than class struggle anarchists would. Its not synonymous with 'middle class', which itself is a poorly defined and mostly useless concept. It refers to a relationship to capital. So the petty-bourgeousie are small business owners, the self-employed etc, because they own the capital they live off even if it is a relatively minor amount (incidentally these people are often culturally 'working class', at least where I'm from). The bourgeois class are those with ownership or control of capital in a meaningful sense.

If we define class on income we run into problems. Many skilled workers, craftspeople, technicians etc can earn as much or more than those in 'middle class' professions such as teachers. Similarly unskilled work is repetitive and pays badly whether its stacking shelves, pulling pints or backing crates, or data entry, photocopying etc. There are lots of people who are 'middle class' culturally or educationally who do the latter. Likewise I could be called 'middle class' as you've described it here in terms of being able to read and write to a high standard, being interested in theory as well as sports, music, pubs etc, as could pretty much anyone with an interest in politics. But I'm on the breadline, and am long-term unemployed, so its laughable to talk about me having any controlling stake in capitalism. So its not a very useful distinction to help us understand capitalist society, and is actually counterproductive, as it divides up the working class on the basis of ticking 'cultural' boxes, as 'the working class' is a relationship to the capitalist system at large.

Grass wrote:
Call me reactionary, but from my point of view, just discussing in this forum is a "life-stylist" act, as... 1.) This kind of forum is bourgeois kind of invention (internet, forums, intellectual discussions) 2.) Most of you are educated and part-take in complex social games here, games mostly about things which could shallowly be described as "identity", self-cultivation, etc. I.e. "life-stylism". 3.) Not very revolutionary? I've lurked here on and off for several years, and I don't know how much social organization which has resulted from this forum. 4.) I guess I need to have a 4th point, because my argument will be too weak if I don't.

This misses the point of the debate completely. The question isn't whether anyone can be described as having a 'lifestyle' or an 'identity', where they do things on a regular basis. Thats a pretty meaningless definition of 'lifestylism'. In fact you miss the criticism of lifestylism completely, which is that it is impossible to drop out of bourgeois society (i.e. capitalism as a social relation) and live 'outside it', and seem to be applying it to its critics instead - the political perspective represented on this site. The class struggle anarchist argument is that our lives are lived under capital whatever we do, and the only response to that is to struggle collectively on a class basis against it.

Its not like anyone was assuming we'd have a powerful workers' movement built in the course of a few years using this site. But thats a null criticism, as class struggle happens all around the world whatever we think about it, as the competition between the interests of capital and labour is integral to capitalism - we want it to develop in certain directions and involve ourselves on the basis of that. The point of this site is to spread a politicised understanding of it, and to network those interested in political activity on the basis of this with the aim of furthering libertarian communist ideas, certain forms of organisation, practical solidarity etc. I think its been pretty useful.

Grass wrote:
In the end, this debate reminds of the internet piracy debate. People discuss what is "right". "Is it okay to copy another artist's work without paying for it?" People don't discuss the direction of history and how to act right now in order to push it the direction we want according to our "perceived interests" right now. Which from my perspective would be to make business coalitions with an "open source"-ish environment while lobbying politicians - while striving to politicize the masses to make them more like the kind of "informed middle class citizens" that we are

Right but our political perspective isn't that we want to make capitalism nicer.

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Django
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May 22 2009 08:08
grass wrote:
I disagree. It does, to a certain degree. The set of social relations doesn't change, but the substance within does.

No it doesn't, the 'substance' of capitalism is the social relation. Its not a question of making our lives better by replacing 'bad' companies with 'good' companies as the behavior of capitalist organisations isn't a result of moral failings.

grass wrote:
By the way, what does it matter? I don't know if whether I speak on behalf of this community or not, but I've understood that anarchists don't do much to change society - we just sit here, waiting for social upheaval, and then we join - to assist the current towards revolution forward. Criticizing the majority of the left for not understanding the meaning of class, revolution, etc. doesn't help a bit. Especially because the criticism is rooted in theory, not in a constructive analysis of present currents. "Stop activism", "don't care about boycotting", "don't vote", "read Marx", "working class blah", etc. The way I see it, many people consider it very important to be an orthodox anarchist - which is, ironically enough - not to care about anything or change anything in one's life, except "knowing what's right".

Well you might be getting this information off the internet, but its pretty off the mark. Everyone I know involved in this site is also involved in all kinds of practical activity - political groups, workplace and community organising, that kind of stuff.

grass wrote:
Perhaps I misunderstand the idea of life-stylist,but the way I see it, the whole concept can't be seen under a non-psychological frame of reference. It's about the human psyche after all. I kind of agree that what I said it probably is bullshit, but my point still stands - there is no discernible difference between being a lifestylist and hardcore, except that the hardcore sentiments are more common in these kind of (middle class) environments, mostly due to the meta-narratives we have in common.

Eh?

Lifestylist = belief that individual lifestyle and consumption habits (or lack thereof) can bring about revolutionary change. Capitalism is the result of moral failings.

Class struggle anarchist = belief that change results from concerted collective action. Capitalism is a form of class society and class struggle is integral to it.

Grass wrote:
I think that the middle class is a group of people distinguished from regular working class by a different set of perceived interests, higher status, and all that you said. Like liberal values, criticizing ideas, interested in intellectual tasks, acting ethically, eventually being a communist, etc. Working class values would be to combat middle class values and elitism, for example. This is a shallow analysis, I guess. I need to get to know more about classes.

Yep. It is also incredibly patronising and assumes that 'middle class' is basically everyone who isn't thick.

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May 22 2009 14:56
foxglove wrote:
I also recently heard something of Sartre in a documentry I saw (The Century of Self, I think) and it was a point that the individual must give his will to the group for things to change. It was obviously expressed far better and clearly than that, but I'm really captured by everything I've read on this website so far and on other websites about anarhcism too. It's a wonderful feeling to find words for the thoughts I've had and to find new thoughts entirely

Yeah, Sartre kind of had that effect on me as well. I'd also add that I think the whole opposition between individual and community is a bit of a false one. Just as a collective is nothing without the individuals that make it up (and who've all made their own individual journeys to get there), I don't think you can really understand an individual in isolation from the collective contexts they exist in. We're products of society, of our families, of our schools, etc - if those communities didn't exist, we would not be the people we are. Sorry if this is a bit irrelevant/rambling, I just wanted to stress that there's no contradiction between being a communist and being an individual.

Grass wrote:
Now, I live in Norway. I don't know how it is in Britain, but here, that sentiment doesn't fit into reality. Everyone has the economic capability to take part in petty bourgeois activity.

Um, everyone? Who cleans the toilets? Who works in the all-night takeaways? And why do they do those jobs, if they could be taking part in petit-bourgeois activity instead?

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May 22 2009 15:36
Farce wrote:
Quote:
Grass wrote:

Now, I live in Norway. I don't know how it is in Britain, but here, that sentiment doesn't fit into reality. Everyone has the economic capability to take part in petty bourgeois activity.

Um, everyone? Who cleans the toilets? Who works in the all-night takeaways? And why do they do those jobs, if they could be taking part in petit-bourgeois activity instead?

Immigrants. Apparently they don't count.

Now I haven't lived in Norway for about 9 years and it might have changed into some kind of middle class consumer paradise since then, but Grass' depiction of Norway is rather one sided from what I remember (reflecting his/her own economic conditions perhaps?). Growing up with a single mom raising me and my brother was certainly not peachy. While not destitute, we didn't have a middle class lifestyle although my mom could be considered "culturally middle class" since she has a university education and worked as a teacher.

Skips
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May 22 2009 15:38

yeah John Carew will tell you otherwise.

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25past1984
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May 23 2009 03:56

defeat oppression by any means necessary.

an interesting debate but when you read stuff like this

http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0430/p09s02-coop.html

'middle class' consumerism becomes just another weapon in the arsenal against the heinous
subjugation of the poor of this world and 'working class' sensibilities should go out the window for a time.

the paramount objective should be to get these poor unfortunates out of harms way and if consumer boycotts aid this... so be it , the revolution can start tomorrow !!!

a journey of a 1000 miles and all that.

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back2front
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May 25 2009 07:13

Doublepost removed

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back2front
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May 25 2009 07:12

Hello 25past!

Interesting point....

.... but I must ask why you are reading the Christian Science Monitor...

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May 25 2009 14:25
Quote:

defeat oppression by any means necessary.

an interesting debate but when you read stuff like this

http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0430/p09s02-coop.html

Coltan is mainly mined in Australia now.

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May 26 2009 04:14

hallelujah brother b2f...... i've seen the light and jesus wants me for a sunbeam praaaaaaaaise the lord grin

nah mate , i saw the article in a 'straight' science journal but when i tried to post it up from their website it kept jumping to the c. s. m. site (the original source of the article i presume).

'onest guv....... grin smile

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May 26 2009 04:16

despite the name, the christian science monitor is actually a very well respected news source with bureaus across the world. it is not religious in its nature.

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May 26 2009 12:03
jesuithitsquad wrote:
despite the name, the christian science monitor is actually a very well respected news source with bureaus across the world. it is not religious in its nature.

Now call me old-fashioned but I just find the notion of CFS being both secular and respected requires a pinch of salt...

Parker
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May 26 2009 13:58

jesuithitsquad is right. CS Monitor is a good newspaper and is especially respected for its Middle East coverage, and global reporting generally. The paper used to carry one religious-themed column per day, but now that CS Monitor has gone weekly I guess that means the column is weekly too. There is no religious slant in the reporting. Read it for yourself.

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May 26 2009 14:29
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Now call me old-fashioned but I just find the notion of CFS being both secular and respected requires a pinch of salt...

Not at all. As others have said it's a decent newspaper. I've met a few CSM journalists and none of them were Christians.

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May 26 2009 15:00

not wishing to seem like a conspiracy theorist but perhaps its balanced, accurate in depth reporting are an attempt to give its otherwise wacky christian sect proprietor a tangible veneer of mainstream respectibility with the end result of making its views more acceptable to potential new members . ' scientologists weired.....but those first church of christ,scientist people seem reasonable enough' mmmmm

some people think that the london times is a good paper

but i wouldn't trust murdoch no further than i could throw him!!! smile

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back2front
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May 26 2009 15:52

Each to their own I suppose....

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May 27 2009 01:50

The CSM often has good reporting. The Financial Times often has good reporting too... should I pretend it doesn't because its obviously targeted towards capitalists? Is it now Halal to only get news from "independent" media? Seems a pretty blinkered approach...

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May 27 2009 06:41

Nobody said that - I get media from a selection of sources some of which are certainly mainstream. The problem with mainstream publications is their lack of independence from editorial policy which is often dictated, at least to a degree, by corporate advertising or government and social mores. As an example, in the run up to the invasion of Afghanistan what percentage of column inches were devoted to anti-war actvity compared with pro-war bluster by mainstream media? I'm not familiar with CSM but you'll forgive me if I'm put off somewhat by said institution's proprieter's as 25past84 so eleqeuntly puts it.

Good reporting is good reporting at the end of the day though...

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May 27 2009 16:06
25pas wrote:
not wishing to seem like a conspiracy theorist but perhaps its balanced, accurate in depth reporting are an attempt to give its otherwise wacky christian sect proprietor a tangible veneer of mainstream respectibility with the end result of making its views more acceptable to potential new members

It's probably got much more to do with the desire to make money than anything else.

prec@riat wrote:
The CSM often has good reporting. The Financial Times often has good reporting too... should I pretend it doesn't because its obviously targeted towards capitalists? Is it now Halal to only get news from "independent" media? Seems a pretty blinkered approach...

Exactly. And I would add that whenever you read something just read it critically, then it does not really matter where it comes from. If you find something a bit odd, do some research or read a few other sources. This is just common sense and then it does not really matter at all who owns/runs the paper.

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Jul 13 2009 20:21

Hah, I'm a new poster here, didn't know somebody else had the profile pic I chose already....

Anyways, yeah, about choosing what brands are 'good' or not - it doesn't matter. All are pushed by capitalism. If enough people support one brand, it will just be the next Coke or McDonalds to exploit even more workers, because it's still capitalist. A true Marxist or anarchist would have to just stop doing most things, from this puritanical perspective, which is quite unrealistic (unless, well, we organize a mass boycott against everything).

Companies like LUSH which are more environmentally conscious, as an example, have sprung up because they found out there is a big environmentally-conscious demographic out there, not to be nice for the environment. But they are no different from other companies beyond that detail.

Coke tastes good, it's how it's made and its owners that are the problem.

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Jul 14 2009 10:21
The Boy in a Well wrote:
Companies like LUSH which are more environmentally conscious, as an example, have sprung up because they found out there is a big environmentally-conscious demographic out there, not to be nice for the environment. But they are no different from other companies beyond that detail.

And they make you get naked if you work for them. eek

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Sep 25 2009 08:32

there seems to be a lot of strawman arguments in this thread.

like esso vs shell, lush etc.

The anarchist drinking a coke is no doubt a hypocrite. Yet people argue that there is no option that doesnt support capitalism?

Just say from the anarchists view point, what is the viable option to him? There are obviously options in this world that dont have a capitalist foundation when it comes to drinks.

I think it may be rational denial by a lot of you to justify being a hypocrite?

And just because some business is working under a capitalist framework, it doesnt mean they have to oppress (under their business activities).

Then you have to ask where is the line between all these ideals.

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Sep 25 2009 09:47
ChickenNugget wrote:
The anarchist drinking a coke is no doubt a hypocrite.

Would a sprite be hypocritical?

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Just say from the anarchists view point, what is the viable option to him? There are obviously options in this world that dont have a capitalist foundation when it comes to drinks.

name one.

Quote:
And just because some business is working under a capitalist framework, it doesnt mean they have to oppress (under their business activities).

Yes it does.

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Sep 25 2009 14:50

i dont want to be a bigot, and i hope you dont either.

So under anarchy.. there is nothing to drink? How would drinkable items be created if there was anarchy? (seriously)

How about if i received some water or juiced my own oranges, into a container. How is that related to capitalism? You cant say coke is the same as say tap water can you, in respect to ideologies?

How about if i ran my own organic store, only me and my wife working. Bought organic goods from small time famers and sold them. I am sure you could think of oppression involved in such an activity.. so can you list them for me? (seriously)

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Sep 25 2009 15:09
ChickenNugget wrote:
i dont want to be a bigot, and i hope you dont either.

So under anarchy.. there is nothing to drink? How would drinkable items be created if there was anarchy? (seriously)

How about if i received some water or juiced my own oranges, into a container. How is that related to capitalism? You cant say coke is the same as say tap water can you, in respect to ideologies?

How about if i ran my own organic store, only me and my wife working. Bought organic goods from small time famers and sold them. I am sure you could think of oppression involved in such an activity.. so can you list them for me? (seriously)

How did you receive the water? How did you 'own' oranges?
How do you run your store without participating in capitalism? Do you accept money, buy fuel, pay taxes and so on.
There is a difference between participating in capitalism which we are all forced to do and not participitating directly, which is a refusal to directly exploit workers.
The major difference between coke and tap water is that one is a lot cheaper. Ideologically there is a difference in that coke is a product that you buy whereas tap water is part of a packaged utility that you are pretty much obliged to get.

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Sep 25 2009 15:23

i will read that in time weeler (almost bed time)

how about if the water was rain water? and the oranges were on some vacant land? or on mine?

How about in my organic business.. anyone i buy the produce off, or buys off me doesnt feel exploited? Can there be capitalism without oppression or exploitation?

Wouldnt you say there is less workers compared to coke, that are exploited and oppressed than say tape water. The environmental damage is greater with coke, and there is people pushing this oppression, benefiting from it (marketers, directors etc), as opposed to water? Isnt one better than the other?

and again, how would anarchy work in relation to drinks for example?

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Sep 25 2009 15:44

well i am just trying to work things out. I am not one who sees everything black or white and quantifiable.

I am trying to work out where capitalism ends and anarchy begins. Could you just give me a basic example of how a population could create drinks under anarchy?

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Sep 25 2009 15:54

Don't want to pile on you ChickenNugget because you do seem sincere, but tons of water utilities are now privatized and in some places it is illegal to collect rain water.

Try reading this for starters.

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Sep 25 2009 16:01
ChickenNugget wrote:
well i am just trying to work things out. I am not one who sees everything black or white and quantifiable.

I am trying to work out where capitalism ends and anarchy begins. Could you just give me a basic example of how a population could create drinks under anarchy?

weeler has just explained it.
It isn't that I hate my job, that I feel exploited, that my copany kils workers for trying to organise that makes me exploited. IT is, like weeler says, the social relationship not the actual conditions that are the problem, although obviously in an anarchist society conditions would be better.