Lawrence Jarach's Take On Primitivism.

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Mar 30 2011 06:27
Lawrence Jarach's Take On Primitivism.

Hi guys.

I know I have made a topic about this a while ago but that was at the beginning of my look into Anarchist philosophy. Now I feel I not only have a grasp on Anarchism as a whole but an understaning of it's branches as well. "Primitivism" has been an interest of mine because the opinions espoused in it's name offer the most radical critiques of modern society I see. Not only that but it's safe to say that the natural eco-system is the basis of all life and all wealth on this planet. I recently read Lawrence Jarach's article entitled "Why I am not an Anti-Primitivist" here at the Anarchist Library. It really attacks the major assumptions and biases I have seen here and elsewhere. I previously was intruiged by the critiques of Andrew Flood but in this article Jarach really throws down the gauntlet.

Now of course neither one is "the victor" in this little debate but Lawerence Jarach brings up good points about Technophilia in the Anarchist movement. I have always been skeptical of how our modern, pampered industrial lifestyle could not only fit comfortably in Anarchist critique of heirarchy but be practically possible when the institutions of mass consumerism disappear. Why would farmers want to work hard to develop a surplus large enough to feed whole cities (millions) before taking care of himself. Yeah there are ideas out there for skyscraper farms, agri robots, etc but people thought in the fifties that we would be settling on the moon right about now! Personally as much as I love complex technologies we may well have to decide between telephones and freedom, as the infrastructure for any industrial system would need multiple layers of beauracracy, transportation, etc to function. It's so complex it needs capitalism or something similar to keep going doesen't it?

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Mar 30 2011 06:46

There are numerous threads that already go over every possible response and argument in this exhausted topic. Just use the search function to find them.

sort it out frosty
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Mar 30 2011 22:25

hi Maphisto,

yes, that is a well thought out piece by Lawrence Jarach. John Moore made a distinction between minimalist and maximalist anarchist thought/praxis, and in fact this 'maximalist' space includes other diverse influences. the 'maximalist' space would include many of those we can identify as insurrectionary anarchists, primitivists/anti-civ anarchists, Situationist-influenced, etc. there is far more emphasis on the subjective content of domination and revolt, how we experience capital, with an often explicit rejection of politics as a separate sphere from life. primitivisms star rose under the banner of anti-ideology and sunk as another ideology. still many insights are useful. like anything, rackets develop and territorialism follows, ideologies solidify, followers demand leaders, worshippers demand idols to worship, etc.
all this bullshit reification/fetishism that is a corroding effect of commodity society and systematic society itself is inevitable but depressing. at the end of the day, reading is all well and good but it is your experience of life that is really subversive. theoretical reading is best thought of as plundering the arsenal for weapons rather than getting a microwave dinner. examine your proletarian condition, your dispossession from grasping your life, what constrains you, regiments you and divides you. I've known plenty of lefty students extolling the (sometimes self-)management of the economy, toting Marxism with its celebration of work and being a worker (well, the hoi polloi be workers, the Middle Class be the intelligentsia, the vanguard party, 'instilling consciousness' in those workers). not met many people forced to work for a living that have the same rosy views...
Larry Law's "Revolutionary Self Theory" is well worth a look.
also, very importantly, ultimately we are part of the web of life, we cannot destroy it without destroying ourselves. the biosphere, this planet, our home, is primary. civilisation is, and always has been, ecologically catastrophic if half of what appears to me to be the case is true. ultimately industrial civilisation is based on fossil fuels, which are quickly running out.

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Mar 31 2011 00:00

You really believe what Lawrence Jarach says in this? That more people will die from Industry related incidents (he also forgets that Socialism will make the workplace a safer place) then those who go without healthcare? That is just plain stupid. The notion that Native American herbal teas and such can cure cancer or provide vaccines for all sorts of diseases or treat aids or help the disabled, is again, just plain stupid.

Quote:
Why would farmers want to work hard to develop a surplus large enough to feed whole cities (millions) before taking care of himself.

This is the same ignorant notion people use against Socialism as an alternative. It's the "Oh people are greedy, they will only take care of themselves" mentality. It's not to bright either, not to bright.

Quote:
Yeah there are ideas out there for skyscraper farms, agri robots, etc but people thought in the fifties that we would be settling on the moon right about now!

Again, Capitalism hinders innovation. This is pretty basic stuff dude.

Quote:
Personally as much as I love complex technologies we may well have to decide between telephones and freedom, as the infrastructure for any industrial system would need multiple layers of beauracracy, transportation, etc to function. It's so complex it needs capitalism or something similar to keep going doesen't it?

No it doesn't, please elaborate.

Black Badger
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Mar 31 2011 04:10
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You really believe what Lawrence Jarach says in this? That more people will die from Industry related incidents (he also forgets that Socialism will make the workplace a safer place) then those who go without healthcare? That is just plain stupid. The notion that Native American herbal teas and such can cure cancer or provide vaccines for all sorts of diseases or treat aids or help the disabled, is again, just plain stupid.

I don't remember reading anything like this in that essay; please cite where these statements are made.

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Mar 31 2011 06:39
Black Badger wrote:
Quote:
You really believe what Lawrence Jarach says in this? That more people will die from Industry related incidents (he also forgets that Socialism will make the workplace a safer place) then those who go without healthcare? That is just plain stupid. The notion that Native American herbal teas and such can cure cancer or provide vaccines for all sorts of diseases or treat aids or help the disabled, is again, just plain stupid.

I don't remember reading anything like this in that essay; please cite where these statements are made.

He proceeds from the idea that "Adequate medical care has been a constant concern of anti-primitivists." and that this is stupid because "Archaeologists have found skeletal remains of early humans who’ve clearly been seriously injured and who survived for years after" and "Native American, African, Asian (Traditional and non-traditional), and European herbal healing has a much longer tradition, and is based on empirical progress through trial and error of both practitioners and those with ailments." i.e. implying Native American methods are better then modern science. He turns the debate on "Industrialists" by stating "Thousands die or are injured each year from workplace accidents."

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Mar 31 2011 09:46

"Herbal healing" what a twat. How is slow blind progress through trial and error better than understanding how the body works?

Black Badger
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Mar 31 2011 15:56

Nothing in the essay states that concern with adequate medical care is stupid. From what I remember of the essay, bringing up humans using medicine for as long as we've been humans was not to point to the superiority of any system of healing. This point was made to counter the charge made by anti-primitivists that without modern industrial medicine, people would die from infections and serious injuries -- the presumption being that everyone is helpless without antibiotics and hospitals. That's what's stupid, not pointing out that there are other healing modalities. There's no statement in the essay implying or declaring that Native American healing methods would cure AIDS or cancer (which aren't cured by industrial medicine either by the way). And do you dispute that thousands die on the job every year?

Black Badger
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Mar 31 2011 16:00
Quote:
How is slow blind progress through trial and error better than understanding how the body works?

Yep, Science is a completely objective and neutral method of discerning the Truth about the Universe. There's nothing ideological or class-based about it. Give me a break.

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Mar 31 2011 23:05
Paulappaul wrote:
Quote:
Personally as much as I love complex technologies we may well have to decide between telephones and freedom, as the infrastructure for any industrial system would need multiple layers of beauracracy, transportation, etc to function. It's so complex it needs capitalism or something similar to keep going doesen't it?

No it doesn't, please elaborate.

I was just thinking how to keep a modern, urban environment working requires surplus material to be provided, a professional base (doctors, engineers, programmers, etc). A simpler agrarian lifestyle is much more direct in it's relation between labourer and consumer. It is also supposedly more harmonius with nature than an urban existance. Yet modern technology cannot maintain itself in a world where everyone is living hand to mouth.

A city or centralized hub of human activity is needed and so that requires infrastructure (sewars, roads, etc). If said society values free association and the right to choose one's profession or none at all, then who is going to volunteer hours of work in a sewer or another quite dangerous job? Sure there can be volunteers, rotating on a schedule but not all tasks are equal as people need to be trained in how to maintain and build these systems. I often wonder how this is going to work in a potentially desperate, post-revolutionary period (if only at the beginning of said society).

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Mar 31 2011 19:20
Black Badger wrote:
Quote:
How is slow blind progress through trial and error better than understanding how the body works?

Yep, Science is a completely objective and neutral method of discerning the Truth about the Universe. There's nothing ideological or class-based about it. Give me a break.

I'm not going to get into the primmo debate again. However, science, as a rational system based on replicable results, is neutral. It can be applied and distorted to ruling class ends, but science by the virtue of it's cold rationality is neutral.

Black Badger
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Mar 31 2011 20:05

"Cold rationality" is a European ideological construct that serves to quash any possible counter-narrative of knowledge. I prefer my knowledge laden with ethical considerations thank you very much; knowledge has social consequences. Some fairly problematic applications of "cold rationality" have occurred since at least the mid-20th century.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but this has nothing to do with primitivism. You might try reading a little on the history and philosophy of Science before you put your analytical reputation on the line. Notable non-primitivist (and not even anarchist) critics of the philosophy and practice of Science include:
Paul Feyerabend ("Against Method"), Jonathan Marks ("Why I am Not a Scientist"), Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber ("Trust Us, We're Experts"), Thomas Kuhn ("The Structure of Scientific Revolutions"), Carolyn Merchant ("The Death of Nature"), and Theodore Adorno ("Against Epistemology" and "Negative Dialectics"). You might even find a couple of choice critiques from Reclus and Kropotkin if you look hard enough.

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Mar 31 2011 20:29
Black Badger wrote:
Quote:
How is slow blind progress through trial and error better than understanding how the body works?

Yep, Science is a completely objective and neutral method of discerning the Truth about the Universe. There's nothing ideological or class-based about it. Give me a break.

It's not neutral, it's still much better than reactionary back-to-the-old-ways traditionalist bullshit. Old methods happened upon something effective once in a while, through trial and error, but their attempts to explain why were almost completely wrong. That's why a few thousand years of traditional poking about contains as many useful techniques as a few decades of medicine.

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Mar 31 2011 20:54

Science as a process is the best method currently available for reasoning and making predictions about the natural world using incomplete information about it. Having read Feyerabend, I doubt that he would contest this point; instead, he criticized the misrepresentation of Science as having a formal, closed-form method of extracting knowledge, when this is clearly not the case. Kuhn gave a certain social model of the change of worldview in scientific communities, but even he wouldn't likely contest this point. I hesitate to use buzzwords that would simply be possible in these forums, but in practice Science is superior not in the body of knowledge (which is always wrong in some way, otherwise it would never change), but in the dialectic of scientists and what they study.

Trusting in a body of data put to much poorer scrutiny than that of medical science generally is a bad idea. In that sense it is better to see a doctor than an herbalist. If you find that oppressive or Western or class-based, well, it is a lot of these things under capitalism, but it will remain true under future socioeconomic relations as well.

Black Badger
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Mar 31 2011 21:08
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It's not neutral, it's still much better than reactionary back-to-the-old-ways traditionalist bullshit.

Again, what does this have to do with the essay in question? No claims to inferiority/superiority were made by the author, nor was there any declaration that humans should dispense with modern medicine.

Black Badger
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Mar 31 2011 21:09
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If you find that oppressive

Strawman much?

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Mar 31 2011 21:27
Black Badger wrote:
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If you find that oppressive

Strawman much?

Ignore most of the post to pick out one sentence much?

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Mar 31 2011 21:43
Quote:
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but this has nothing to do with primitivism.

Hence the:

Quote:
I'm not going to get into the primmo debate again.

Followed by the:

Quote:

However,
science, as a rational system based on replicable results...

With the "however" being a signifier that I'm staying away from the first topic, but choosing to address a secondary topic that was brought up in the course of discussion. A bit too scientific approach to debate perhaps?

Anyway, if you're going to make an argument and the best you have is 'read this giant list of books like me' without actually describing what you believe, it doesn't bode well for the proponents of "counter-narratives of knowledge".

Quote:
Some fairly problematic applications of "cold rationality" have occurred since at least the mid-20th century.

And talk about strawmen. I can only assume the alludes to things like eugenics, race science, etc. Social Darwinism is not science. It the co-option of scientific terminology and the use of a distorted scientific method to justify pre-existing social beliefs. But it's not science.

Black Badger
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Mar 31 2011 23:00
Quote:
Ignore most of the post to pick out one sentence much?

I do not dispute your characterization of Science as dialectical, incomplete, and "always wrong in some way." Nor do I dispute your statement that it's usually a good idea to go to a medical doctor rather than a herbalist -- depending on what's going on. Therefore no comment was necessary.

The reason I latched on to one phrase is that I have not said anywhere or at any time that it is "oppressive" (either subjectively or objectively) to rely on modern medicine. You are imputing opinions to me that I do not have.

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Mar 31 2011 23:26
Black Badger wrote:
Quote:
Ignore most of the post to pick out one sentence much?

I do not dispute your characterization of Science as dialectical, incomplete, and "always wrong in some way." Nor do I dispute your statement that it's usually a good idea to go to a medical doctor rather than a herbalist -- depending on what's going on. Therefore no comment was necessary.

The reason I latched on to one phrase is that I have not said anywhere or at any time that it is "oppressive" (either subjectively or objectively) to rely on modern medicine. You are imputing opinions to me that I do not have.

As others have said you have been insinuating much, but saying little, about your own opinions, so you are in no position to criticize others for mischaracterizing them. If you find it reasonable to go to a doctor rather than an herbalist, what was the point of your initial response to this post:

888 wrote:
"Herbal healing" what a twat. How is slow blind progress through trial and error better than understanding how the body works?

It expresses the same sentiment, perhaps not as diplomatically.

dinosavros
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Apr 1 2011 00:46
Paulappaul wrote:
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Why would farmers want to work hard to develop a surplus large enough to feed whole cities (millions) before taking care of himself.

This is the same ignorant notion people use against Socialism as an alternative. It's the "Oh people are greedy, they will only take care of themselves" mentality. It's not to bright either, not to bright.

Paulappaul is this a particularly ignorant notion? I think it's a quite basic and important argument and you will hear it from many people and not just primitivists. Many people are greedy. People very often put their own needs over the needs of those outside their family & tribal/social network. In practice mutual aid is something that tends to happen within one's immediate social network; while it is very rare for large groups of people to deliberately make big sacrifices in their material comforts in solidarity with people who live far away from them.

Black Badger
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Apr 1 2011 01:55
Quote:
It expresses the same sentiment, perhaps not as diplomatically.

I dispute that it expresses the same sentiment. The idea that European and non-European herbalists do not understand "how the body works" is ludicrous, colonialist, and -- yes -- racist. The implication is that only smart Euro-Americans, who have created a modality of healing based on the idea of the human body as some kind of machine containing a series of discrete organ systems, understand "how the body works." And therefore the rest of us are twats. This sort of patronizing authoritarian ethnocentrism is particularly galling when coming from self-declared revolutionaries.

Not having expressed many opinions doesn't mean I don't have any. If you want to know what mine may be, the best way to find out is to ask me; imputing opinions to others is offensive.

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Apr 1 2011 02:28
Black Badger wrote:
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It expresses the same sentiment, perhaps not as diplomatically.

I dispute that it expresses the same sentiment. The idea that European and non-European herbalists do not understand "how the body works" is ludicrous, colonialist, and -- yes -- racist. The implication is that only smart Euro-Americans, who have created a modality of healing based on the idea of the human body as some kind of machine containing a series of discrete organ systems, understand "how the body works." And therefore the rest of us are twats. This sort of patronizing authoritarian ethnocentrism is particularly galling when coming from self-declared revolutionaries.

No, a lot of non-whites throughout the world know about the human body very well. They know this through learning medical science, a main portion of which methodology has its origin in Europe. You may find this racist, but technology and science developed faster in Europe, that is why it is so dominant. What is actually racist is saying that non-whites should lmit themselves to herbalism, though I imagine you don't mean that, either. I bet you also think that claiming that guns are more effective weapons than bows and arrows is racist, that claiming that planes are more effective means of long-range transportation than ox-carts is racist, that preferring to have a brain surgeon remove my tumor rather than a traditional Chinese medicine man is colonialist, etc. Well, your definition of colonialism and racism is defeatist and stupid, and I am glad that most people who are not white are more sensible than you.

Black Badger wrote:
Not having expressed many opinions doesn't mean I don't have any. If you want to know what mine may be, the best way to find out is to ask me; imputing opinions to others is offensive.

No. It is your responsibility to present opinions when you are entering a debate. No-one is going to ask you nicely. If you are offended, maybe you shouldn't be arguing with people online.

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Apr 1 2011 02:13
Quote:
Nothing in the essay states that concern with adequate medical care is stupid. From what I remember of the essay, bringing up humans using medicine for as long as we've been humans was not to point to the superiority of any system of healing. This point was made to counter the charge made by anti-primitivists that without modern industrial medicine, people would die from infections and serious injuries -- the presumption being that everyone is helpless without antibiotics and hospitals. That's what's stupid, not pointing out that there are other healing modalities. There's no statement in the essay implying or declaring that Native American healing methods would cure AIDS or cancer (which aren't cured by industrial medicine either by the way). And do you dispute that thousands die on the job every year?

People died in past from infections and Serious Injuries that today we can heal. Is it okay for these people to die, when humans possess the knowledge to heal them? I said treat AIDS, not heal, please read. I dispute this primitivist implication that "oh well people die in Industrial accidents" to try and justify doing away with a system that will cause millions to die.

Quote:
A city or centralized hub of human activity is needed and so that requires infrastructure (sewars, roads, etc). If said society values free association and the right to choose one's profession or none at all, then who is going to volunteer hours of work in a sewer or another quite dangerous job? Sure there can be volunteers, rotating on a schedule but not all tasks are equal as people need to be trained in how to maintain and build these systems. I often wonder how this is going to work in a potentially desperate, post-revolutionary period (if only at the beginning of said society).

When the sewers run into the street, when our living room fills with shit, dead fish and tampons, we'll figure it out, alright? Volunteers will probably stand up and organized method of running things will occur. Workers' Councils have always taken up the hard work of such things. Political parties such as the Black Panthers and the Social Democratic Party of Germany have always ridden the back of providing social services such as taking out the trash.

Quote:
Many people are greedy. People very often put their own needs over the needs of those outside their family & tribal/social network.

Faced with Material Conditions we are greedy. Let's take theft for instance. When somebody robs a store to feed themselves because the economy is poor, it's "greed" and "arrogance" because the rest of the consumers have to compensate for him. He was compelled, not by some internal desire to fuck over everybody else, but by certain material conditions which necessitated that he do it to survive. Consider those welfare users who are called "Greedy" because they are taking everyone else money for themselves, is it by need or by desire to fuck everyone over? People want to right thing. A good look over Kropotkin "Anarchist Morality" and other Anarchist books may do good for you.

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Apr 1 2011 02:40
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I dispute that it expresses the same sentiment. The idea that European and non-European herbalists do not understand "how the body works" is ludicrous, colonialist, and -- yes -- racist. The implication is that only smart Euro-Americans, who have created a modality of healing based on the idea of the human body as some kind of machine containing a series of discrete organ systems, understand "how the body works." And therefore the rest of us are twats. This sort of patronizing authoritarian ethnocentrism is particularly galling when coming from self-declared revolutionaries.

You are certainly a twat if you think it's racist to not believe that the body is made up magical energy flows and humours. Of course the body is "some kind" of machine, get a grip. What the hell do Americans have to do with it? Euro-Arab better describes the origins of modern medicine. You betray your american liberal guilt with that phrase.

Black Badger
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Apr 1 2011 04:42

Once again I been turned into a primitivist despite having said I am not one. And somehow I must have let slip, through my cultural relativist/liberal guilt haze, that non-Europeans must limit themselves to herbalism. You guys are amazing. Imputation and misrepresentation are not the tools of debate or discussion in any comradely context I'm aware of; maybe that's just me being American (we are often renowned for our naive friendliness). I'm no match for you, having been trained to limit my remarks and questions to what people actually say rather than what I thought -- or wished -- I heard. I will leave you to your regularly scheduled program.

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Apr 1 2011 05:09

Oh, come now. Are you forcefully trying to live up to the cliché of the passive-aggressive American radical? How about you break that mold by presenting actual opinions so that you won't be misrespresented and libeled? How about you argue points instead of getting offended by people disagreeing with you and not shutting up under the combined racist-colonialist name-calling attack?

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Apr 1 2011 06:11

Wait....so not believing in pseudo-scientific mystic spiritual based healing is racist?

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Apr 1 2011 06:18
Juan Conatz wrote:
Wait....so not believing in pseudo-scientific mystic spiritual based healing is racist?

That is the logical conclusion from Black Badger's posts so far. Of course, logic itself is Eurocentric and racist, so...

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Apr 1 2011 15:06
Black Badger wrote:
Once again I been turned into a primitivist despite having said I am not one. And somehow I must have let slip, through my cultural relativist/liberal guilt haze, that non-Europeans must limit themselves to herbalism. You guys are amazing. Imputation and misrepresentation are not the tools of debate or discussion in any comradely context I'm aware of; maybe that's just me being American (we are often renowned for our naive friendliness). I'm no match for you, having been trained to limit my remarks and questions to what people actually say rather than what I thought -- or wished -- I heard. I will leave you to your regularly scheduled program.


In short: I lost the argument but I want everyone to be feel bad for me.

dinosavros
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Apr 2 2011 13:59
Paulappaul wrote:
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Many people are greedy. People very often put their own needs over the needs of those outside their family & tribal/social network.

Faced with Material Conditions we are greedy. Let's take theft for instance. When somebody robs a store to feed themselves because the economy is poor, it's "greed" and "arrogance" because the rest of the consumers have to compensate for him. He was compelled, not by some internal desire to fuck over everybody else, but by certain material conditions which necessitated that he do it to survive. Consider those welfare users who are called "Greedy" because they are taking everyone else money for themselves, is it by need or by desire to fuck everyone over? People want to right thing. A good look over Kropotkin "Anarchist Morality" and other Anarchist books may do good for you.

Yes OK let's take theft for instance since you want to use it as an example. Most people, even very reactionary people, would find it understandable and even laudable if you stole food from someone who has more than enough in order to feed your starving family. What about people who steal from others who have less than themselves, not in order to feed a starving family but to accumulate consumer goods. Capitalism is essentially based on this sort of exploiting behavior but it is not just limited to the ruling classes, a lot of poor people rip each other off very often. You can't brush this reality off with platitudes like "People want to [do] the right thing", you are unlikely to convince anyone with this line of argument, with all due respect to Kropotkin.

But the argument didn't begin with theft as such but questions like the following in Jarach's essay.

Quote:
Agricultural work would probably require more than the fabled three to five hours a week if peasants and farmers are expected to feed the entirety of the world’s population. If there are to be large urban centers ATR, then there will need to be large nearby areas devoted to farming in order to feed those in the cities. And that’s leaving aside the entire question of a remedy to landlessness: how many newly liberated peasants and farmers would return to the areas from which they’d been exiled and dispossessed and continue producing large-scale monoculture crops for export to the cities? Shouldn’t we expect — as has been the case throughout modern history — that they would reclaim and self-organize their fields with local/regional subsistence as a priority? What is the anarcho-syndicalist program regarding the redistribution of land, and how do they plan to feed six billion people while respecting, supporting, and protecting the autonomy of those who wish to grow food? During any transition to a revolutionary urbanism, would there be sufficient reserves to feed six billion people? It is doubtful that even the most perfect anarcho-syndicalist scenario can make the feeding of six billion any easier.

The challenge for those anarchists wedded to the idea of maintaining and/or extending an urbanized society is to provide a few hints (certainly not blueprints) about how roads, sewers, (inter)continental transport, fiber optics, and other accoutrements of modern industrialism can be sustained without threats, coercion, guilt-mongering, and the more banal pressure to conform.[22] At some point a balance needs to be found between the general well-being of any human(e) culture and the specific demands of urban existence. A friend once remarked to me in the course of such a speculative discussion that if it came down to a choice between freedom and telephones, he knows which he’d pick.

I haven't seen anyone answer this convincingly yet.