who would you consider to be the MOST THEORETICAL of anarchist writers?

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nathanielfirst
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Apr 13 2009 02:54
who would you consider to be the MOST THEORETICAL of anarchist writers?

I.e. I'd think of marx as a very theoretical, i.e. complex, well thought out, theorist, more than trotsky, and stalin as not to clever. I'd think kierkegaard is not too theoretical, hegel very theoretical, etc.,
so using that kind of definition, what do you think? the most complicated theory among (dead or living) anarchists?
most theoretical left,
most theoretical right, for anyone that's read any of that?

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Entdinglichung
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Apr 13 2009 09:47

why not organising a vote ... or should we discuss until we reach a consensus? wink

gordonL
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Apr 13 2009 19:17

I would suggest the names of Murray Bookchin, Cornelius Castoriadis and Takis Fotopoulos - who can be considered as having written in the broad anarchist tradition. Among them probably Castoriadis in his mature phases was probably the mostly densely theoretical.

nathanielfirst
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Apr 18 2009 16:52

how do i organize a vote? i'd like to use like twenty or more names tho...

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Zanturaeon
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May 11 2009 00:15

I feel like Weeler is trying to be funny, but I kind of feel like this is the actual situation - that anarchists basically piggyback off of marxists in terms of theory and have almost nothing valuable to offer except for the very simple concept of authority and hierarchy.

shawnpwilbur
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May 11 2009 16:32

Proudhon is almost certainly one of the most theoretically sophisticated anarchist thinkers. Rudolf Rocker produced works like "Nationalism and Culture" that are strong on theory. The French mutualist tradition produced figures like Joseph Perrot and J. A. Langlois, who built on Proudhon's later work. And fellow-travelers like Jean Marie Guyau and Alfred Fouillee (both mentioned by Kropotkin in the Britannica article) should probably be counted long before we start shoe-horning folks like Castoriadis into the anarchist tradition.

Anarcho
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May 12 2009 08:50
Zanturaeon wrote:
that anarchists basically piggyback off of marxists in terms of theory and have almost nothing valuable to offer except for the very simple concept of authority and hierarchy.

Rubbish. Have you read much anarchist thought? It was Bakunin, not Marx and Engels, who advocated federations workers' councils, made up of mandated and recallable delegates as the framework of a free society. It was Bakunin, not Marx, who predicted the failure of social democracy and the need for anti-parliamentarian organising (syndicalism has its roots in Bakunin). It was the anarchists, not Marx and Engels, who placed the general strike at the heart of their vision of revolution, and so on.

It was Proudhon who first rooted exploitation in the workplace and wage labour, although Marx did improve upon the analysis. It was Proudhon who raised the ideas of mandated delegates, federations of communes, workers' self-management and co-operatives which drove the Paris Commune -- and which Marx heaped so much praise upon.

Kropotkin's Mutual Aid was a ground-breaking work whose main conclusions are now a standard part of evolutionary theory and anthropology. It documented how the struggle against class society produces the co-operative institutions which would replace it.

I could go on, but a significant amount of so-called "Marxist" positions were first advocated by anarchists like Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin and so forth. So I would suggest that we have contributed a lot of value to socialist ideas.

And, of course, it was Bakunin who correctly predicted that state socialism would simply create a new form of class society.

Section H of An Anarchist FAQ goes into this in more detail, with the appropriate references and quotes.

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jura
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May 12 2009 17:31
Anarcho wrote:
It was Proudhon who first rooted exploitation in the workplace and wage labour, although Marx did improve upon the analysis.

Proudhon's critique of economy is a load of moralist and speculative crap which has absolutely no relevance today, except for historians of anarchism and utopian socialism. I also wouldn't say Marx improved Proudhon's analysis. Of course Proudhon was (in the 1840s) an important influence on Marx, but their projects of critique of political economy are very different in terms of method and basic presuppositions, which is very clear for example in Marx's letter to Annenkov from 1846, in Poverty of Philosophy, and in a later letter to JB Schweitzer in the 1860s.

The predictions and visions made by anarchist thinkers you mention certainly are historically significant and they do provide food for thought, but I think they are not (with the exception of Kropotkin) real contributions to theory (like Marx's critique of economy is), but rather quite fragmentary guesswork.

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888
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May 12 2009 17:51
jura wrote:
The predictions and visions made by anarchist thinkers you mention certainly are historically significant and they do provide food for thought, but I think they are not (with the exception of Kropotkin) real contributions to theory (like Marx's critique of economy is), but rather quite fragmentary guesswork.

Maybe so, but they are also more important than contributions to theory.

Angelus Novus
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May 12 2009 20:01
888 wrote:
Maybe so, but they are also more important than contributions to theory.

More important in what sense? The "innovations" cited by Anarcho are tactical positions concerning the direction of a labor movement that existed from the mid-19th century up until the era of the two world wars.

Marx's critique of political economy is rigorous examination of the functioning of the capitalist mode of production.

Neither has a timeless, eternal quality (both would be irrelevant in a communist society, for example), but it's pretty obvious which is of more relevance to our contemporary condition.

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888
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May 12 2009 20:28

Actually most of the insights of Bakunin, Kropotkin, etc. are still extremely relevant in a broad sense, and will be as long as some kind of social hierarchy exists. A few of the details may be out of date, but that's it.

They are more important in the sense that despite his detailed and probably largely correct analysis of capitalism, Marx advocated some pretty useless political positions - conquest of state power through parliamentary parties, nationalisation of banks, etc., and so despite his analysis, he was unable to act productively.

Boris Badenov
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May 12 2009 20:45
888 wrote:
despite his analysis, he was unable to act productively.

but his analysis is the basis for acting productively today, and it's not like orthodox political Marxism carries any political value anymore amongst revolutionary socialists.
I agree that the insights of Bakunin and Kropotkin are still relevant, but if you look at Kropotkin for example, he used a lot of concepts borrowed from Marx in his own critique of capitalism and its social reality (concepts like surplus value, alienation, etc.), even though he was critical of what he perceived as the "metaphysical" theories of orthodox Marxists. Bakunin also was convinced of the great usefulness of the Marxist critique (and he attempted a Russian translation of Capital, I think).
Honestly, I don't really get the whole quest for the real "anarchist theorists;" it smacks of empty identity politics, based on this romantic conception of a conflict between anarchism (Bakunin) and "authoritarian" socialism (Marx), a conception which I think is largely useless today.

Angelus Novus
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May 12 2009 21:20
Vlad336 wrote:
Honestly, I don't really get the whole quest for the real "anarchist theorists;" it smacks of empty identity politics, based on this romantic conception of a conflict between anarchism (Bakunin) and "authoritarian" socialism (Marx), a conception which I think is largely useless today.

Word. I'll happily agree that 99% of Marxism is pure shit, but I don't think that Anarchism holds up any better as a body of "theory" (Anarchism as an actual current within the historical labor movement, on the other hand, is a pretty fascinating object of study, but the same also goes for its Social Democratic counterpart).

Marx's critique of political economy, on the other hand, holds up incredibly well, not just as a rather solid analysis of capitalism, but also as a sort of inaugural effort in a certain type of "critical social theory" (for lack of a better word) in which I would include Foucault's institutional and intellectual histories, some of the more empirically grounded stuff in queer theory, work on the social construction of race and nationality, and any other work that takes the self-evident categories of modern society and historicizes them.

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May 13 2009 14:27
jura wrote:
Proudhon's critique of economy is a load of moralist and speculative crap which has absolutely no relevance today, except for historians of anarchism and utopian socialism.

So you've read What is Property? System of Economical Contradictions? and so on?

jura wrote:
I also wouldn't say Marx improved Proudhon's analysis. Of course Proudhon was (in the 1840s) an important influence on Marx, but their projects of critique of political economy are very different in terms of method and basic presuppositions, which is very clear for example in Marx's letter to Annenkov from 1846, in Poverty of Philosophy, and in a later letter to JB Schweitzer in the 1860s.

Poverty of Philosophy? Which is full of selective quotes, out-of-context quotes and, in at least one case, a completely "synthesised" quote by Marx which bears little relation to Proudhon's original words? As for the 1860s letter, he is hardly going to publically proclaim that much of his so-called "critique" of Proudhon was driven by an attempt to undermine his influences by any means necessary...

Yes, Marx contributed significantly to our understanding of capitalism -- and he did so on the shoulders of others, something he often failed to mention...

jura wrote:
The predictions and visions made by anarchist thinkers you mention certainly are historically significant and they do provide food for thought, but I think they are not (with the exception of Kropotkin) real contributions to theory (like Marx's critique of economy is), but rather quite fragmentary guesswork.

Reminds me of that joke about economists, when faced with something that works they say "never mind that, but does it work in theory"! I would say that most people would prefer "guesswork" which turned out to be right with a "theory" which did not work...

Anarcho
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May 13 2009 14:34
Angelus Novus wrote:
More important in what sense? The "innovations" cited by Anarcho are tactical positions concerning the direction of a labor movement that existed from the mid-19th century up until the era of the two world wars.

Oh, right, so arguing that the bourgeois state has to be smashed and replaced by a federation of workers' councils is merely a "tactical" position which was relevant up until the 1930s? ROTFL!

Angelus Novus wrote:
Marx's critique of political economy is rigorous examination of the functioning of the capitalist mode of production.

And his "tactical positions" helped ensure capitalism's survival, so allowing Marxists to keep examining the functioning of that mode of production -- and, of course, rigorously denouncing each other for not understanding the real "rigorous examination" Marx obviously meant...

Angelus Novus wrote:
Neither has a timeless, eternal quality (both would be irrelevant in a communist society, for example), but it's pretty obvious which is of more relevance to our contemporary condition.

Yes, anarchism. Particularly as capitalism has progressed and so has our understanding of it. Marx died in 1883, we can supplement his many insights with the works of others. And those Marxists who quote different parts of Marx's analysis to prove that other Marxists do not have the right "rigorous examination" smile

Really, the notion that there is a fully coherent "rigorous examination of the functioning of the capitalist mode of production" in Marx is lovely and quite sweet...

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jura
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May 13 2009 18:06
Anarcho wrote:
So you've read What is Property? System of Economical Contradictions? and so on?

I've read quite a bit of the long and boring SEC, which is supposed to be (judging by Proudhon's own words) his most prolific work on political economy. And I thought it was very weak.

anarcho wrote:
Poverty of Philosophy? Which is full of selective quotes, out-of-context quotes and, in at least one case, a completely "synthesised" quote by Marx which bears little relation to Proudhon's original words?

I hope you're not going to reiterate Rocker's ridiculous "critique" of Marx's treatment of Proudhon, but anyway - if you're not content with PoP, some of the footnotes in Capital are quite informative as well.

anarcho wrote:
Reminds me of that joke about economists, when faced with something that works they say "never mind that, but does it work in theory"! I would say that most people would prefer "guesswork" which turned out to be right with a "theory" which did not work...

Well, personally I'd rather be eventually wrong but do the most on the theoretical level to understand my situation (and provide a solid theoretical basis for generations of communists to come), than spew out moralist phrases referring to "Justice" and "Providence" (Proudhon's favorite categories) which later "turn out to be right".

BTW, how did Marx's theory (the critique of political economy) "not work"?

Angelus Novus
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May 13 2009 19:48
Anarcho wrote:
Oh, right, so arguing that the bourgeois state has to be smashed and replaced by a federation of workers' councils is merely a "tactical" position which was relevant up until the 1930s? ROTFL!

Yes, as it pertains to a discussion of what tactics to employ to achieve a revolution, hence the adjective "tactical". And yes, the classical labor movement comprised of the three internationals, various workers parties, trade unions, etc. where these discussions had any sort of mass resonance and relevance does not exist anymore.

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And his "tactical positions" helped ensure capitalism's survival, so allowing Marxists to keep examining the functioning of that mode of production

Egads! It's a conspiracy! Marx single-handedly ensured capitalism's survival in order to keep on studying it!

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Yes, anarchism. Particularly as capitalism has progressed and so has our understanding of it.

Anarchism doesn't exist anymore, not as a historical movement, not as a vibrant school of thought with mass resonance. Marxism is also dead; the mass parties of the second and thirds international have become neo-liberalized and social democratized, respectively, and to the extent that any attention is paid to Marx at all, it's usually as a "great thinker" of the Western canon.

The Critique of Political Economy, however, providing as it does an analysis of capitalism "at its ideal average", and not a study of a specific historically existing capitalism, will remain relevant as long as capitalism exists. Note that this is not the same thing as saying there is nothing left to do in studying capitalism, anymore than fundamental principles and axioms in any other field of knowledge preclude further study.

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Entdinglichung
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May 15 2009 09:27

Proudhon was also one of the first modern antisemitic "thinkers" wo called for the extermination of the Jews, furthermore he was a total sexist ... unfortunately, some anarchists who want to distance themselves 100% from marxist theory resort to crap of writers like Proudhon, Duehring or Gesell

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darren p
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May 15 2009 21:54

Karl Marx was the most theoretical of anarchist writers:
http://www.marxists.org/archive/rubel/1973/marx-anarchism.htm

Anarcho
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May 18 2009 13:22
jura wrote:
I hope you're not going to reiterate Rocker's ridiculous "critique" of Marx's treatment of Proudhon,

No, as noted, I'm comparing what Proudhon actually wrote and what Marx claimed he wrote...

jura wrote:
but anyway - if you're not content with PoP, some of the footnotes in Capital are quite informative as well.

I'm not suggesting we dump Capital, just recognise that Marx has his limitations. Particularly when it comes to his attacks on other socialists...

jura wrote:
Well, personally I'd rather be eventually wrong but do the most on the theoretical level to understand my situation (and provide a solid theoretical basis for generations of communists to come), than spew out moralist phrases referring to "Justice" and "Providence" (Proudhon's favorite categories) which later "turn out to be right".

Actually, I wasn't talking about the critique of capitalism but rather Marx's political strategy. Which was obvious, I thought.

jura wrote:
BTW, how did Marx's theory (the critique of political economy) "not work"?

As noted, I was referring to his political strategy. Or does Marx's "theory" just equate to his critique of economics these days?

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May 18 2009 13:28
Entdinglichung wrote:
Proudhon was also one of the first modern antisemitic "thinkers" wo called for the extermination of the Jews,

Yes, he suggested that option -- in his private notebooks! These were published long after his death, so hardly impacts on Proudhon's ideas and influence at the time he was writing.

Compare to Engels, who urged the genocide of what he termed "unhistoric" peoples in print in the 1840s. Apparently suggesting that whole groups of people be eliminated, down to their very names, is not considered that big a deal...

Entdinglichung wrote:
furthermore he was a total sexist

Yes, as was Rousseau and other important political thinkers. No one is defending Proudhon's sexism, or racism. Like Marx, we should take what is useful and forget the rest.

Entdinglichung wrote:
... unfortunately, some anarchists who want to distance themselves 100% from marxist theory resort to crap of writers like Proudhon, Duehring or Gesell

Not sure who you are referring to here, as all the anarchists I know recognise the importance of Marx -- we just do not hero worship him. Why should we? We are critical of anarchists like Proudhon!

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May 18 2009 13:35
Angelus Novus wrote:
Egads! It's a conspiracy! Marx single-handedly ensured capitalism's survival in order to keep on studying it!

Man, really, take yout tablets! This is getting bad. You seem to think that social democracy had no impact on the continued survival of capitalism (it saved the German state in 1920, for example, not to mention helping it out post-WWII). Equally, you seem to be unaware that Marx's ideas on political action and forming political parties played a key role in the development of social democracy....

Angelus Novus wrote:
Anarchism doesn't exist anymore, not as a historical movement, not as a vibrant school of thought with mass resonance.

Wow, people spend a lot of time here discussing something that does not exist! And, obviously, the current movement is different from the "historical movement" but it still exists. And as a vibrant school of thought, it still exists and we are working on the mass resonances....

Angelus Novus wrote:
Marxism is also dead; the mass parties of the second and thirds international have become neo-liberalized and social democratized, respectively, and to the extent that any attention is paid to Marx at all, it's usually as a "great thinker" of the Western canon.

And, of course, Marx had no impact on the historical evolution...

Angelus Novus wrote:
The Critique of Political Economy, however, providing as it does an analysis of capitalism "at its ideal average", and not a study of a specific historically existing capitalism, will remain relevant as long as capitalism exists.

The average does not exist... and anarchists were aware that capitalism was rooted in wage labour long before Marxism existed. So, the key is to understanding how capitalism has evolved and this means paying attention to specific historical examples of capitalism, as well as defences and critiques of defences by economists. And, of course, learning from the thinkers that came after Marx (and others who contributed to our understanding of capitalism).

Angelus Novus
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May 19 2009 11:59
Anarcho wrote:
As noted, I was referring to his political strategy. Or does Marx's "theory" just equate to his critique of economics these days?

Marx's critique of political economy is the only part of his oeuvre that merits the description "theory".

Perhaps that is the confusion underlying your off-topic overzealousness on this thread: people here meant "theory" as in "theory", not "theory" as in "advocacy of political positions". If theory is understood to mean the latter, than every newspaper opinion columnist is a "theorist".

So rather than taking it as some slight against your anarchist favorites, maybe just realize that the original query was not "who had the better positions with regard to tactics within the First International", but rather "what are some anarchist theorists who exist on par with Marx?" And people gave some rather fair answers.

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Man, really, take yout tablets! This is getting bad.

Your constant resort to personal attacks of this sort does not help to disguise your weak arguments.

Quote:
You seem to think that social democracy had no impact on the continued survival of capitalism (it saved the German state in 1920, for example, not to mention helping it out post-WWII). Equally, you seem to be unaware that Marx's ideas on political action and forming political parties played a key role in the development of social democracy....

Classical Social Democracy was Lassallean, not Marxian. This is not only the position of actual scholars on German Social Democracy; it was also the position of Marx himself (see "Critique of the Gotha Program").

One can and should criticize Marx's political positions (although I'm not sure how relevant such a critique would be in the 21st century), but one should deal with his actual positions, not the position of German Social Democracy.

Quote:
Wow, people spend a lot of time here discussing something that does not exist!

Bad argument. Scholars of the antebellum U.S. south also spend a lot of time discussing chattel slavery in that region; that doesn't mean it still exists. Anarchism and Marxism were both ideologies within the classical labor movement. One can find inspiration and certain useful ideas when studying that history, but that doesn't mean they exist in any meaningful sense. At the most, they exists as subcultures.

Quote:
The average does not exist...

Actually, the average does exists, since for Marx, the average = those features of capitalism that distinguish it from other modes of production. In other words, Capital is an attempt to study what makes capitalism capitalism, as opposed to being a study of the genesis of capitalism or an empirically-existing capitalism. The examples from English capitalism are illustrative.

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earning from the thinkers that came after Marx (and others who contributed to our understanding of capitalism).

Stop constructing straw men. Not a single person on this thread suggested there is nothing to learn from thinkers after Marx.

Anarcho
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Jun 2 2009 13:52
Angelus Novus wrote:
Marx's critique of political economy is the only part of his oeuvre that merits the description "theory".

Nice to know, which suggests all that work he put into understanding the state and how to change society were all pointless...

Angelus Novus wrote:
Perhaps that is the confusion underlying your off-topic overzealousness on this thread: people here meant "theory" as in "theory", not "theory" as in "advocacy of political positions". If theory is understood to mean the latter, than every newspaper opinion columnist is a "theorist".

Sure, Marx had no theory of the state just an "advocacy of political positions"....

Angelus Novus wrote:
So rather than taking it as some slight against your anarchist favorites, maybe just realize that the original query was not "who had the better positions with regard to tactics within the First International", but rather "what are some anarchist theorists who exist on par with Marx?" And people gave some rather fair answers.

Actually, the topic was a discussion of the most theoretical anarchist writers. Comparing them to Marx does not come into it, really. And the point I was making was that to state that "There are no good theoretical anarchist writers" is just not true, giving suitable evidence to show that was the case. The tactics within the First International flowed from a theoretical analysis of society, the state, and so forth,...

Angelus Novus wrote:
Your constant resort to personal attacks of this sort does not help to disguise your weak arguments.

I'm just replying in kind to your utterly mad interpretations of my comments....

Angelus Novus wrote:
Classical Social Democracy was Lassallean, not Marxian. This is not only the position of actual scholars on German Social Democracy; it was also the position of Marx himself (see "Critique of the Gotha Program").

Ah, yes, that is why Marx urged that the parties merged, why he critiqued the program to bring it closer to his ideas, and so forth... Please, do not try to deny that Social Democracy was not inspired by Marx's ideas, the utilisation of "political action" to capture the republican state and introduce socialism. After all, both Marx and Engels spent considerable time on the party, as did Kautsky and Luxemburg... All of whom would have been surprised to discover their party was not Marxist...

Angelus Novus wrote:
One can and should criticize Marx's political positions (although I'm not sure how relevant such a critique would be in the 21st century), but one should deal with his actual positions, not the position of German Social Democracy.

Very true, which is what I've done (see, for example, section H.3.10 of AFAQ). The links with subsequent social democratic practice are clear...

Angelus Novus wrote:
Bad argument. Scholars of the antebellum U.S. south also spend a lot of time discussing chattel slavery in that region; that doesn't mean it still exists.

As far as I'm aware anarchism as a social movement and theory still exist. There is a conference of the anarchist movement this weekend. I assume that only non-existent people will be attending...

Angelus Novus wrote:
Anarchism and Marxism were both ideologies within the classical labor movement. One can find inspiration and certain useful ideas when studying that history, but that doesn't mean they exist in any meaningful sense. At the most, they exists as subcultures.

Not sure how to respond to someone who denies reality. Anarchism does exist. I'm a member of an anarchist movement which produces journals, papers, books, webpages, forums (like this one). It is hard to take seriously the comment that anarchism does not exist given this, particularly on an anarchist forum. I can understand saying that the anarchist movement is very small, but to say that it does not exist?

Angelus Novus wrote:
Actually, the average does exists, since for Marx, the average = those features of capitalism that distinguish it from other modes of production.

Average capitalism? Its defining core? wage labour, in other words, something which socialists before Marx had identified (such as Proudhon).

Angelus Novus wrote:
In other words, Capital is an attempt to study what makes capitalism capitalism, as opposed to being a study of the genesis of capitalism or an empirically-existing capitalism. The examples from English capitalism are illustrative.

As were other socialist works before. I am merely suggesting that we give credit where credit is due rather than placing all such contributions into a dushbin labelled pre-Capital... That, for some, seems shocking....

Angelus Novus wrote:
Stop constructing straw men. Not a single person on this thread suggested there is nothing to learn from thinkers after Marx.

Wow, you respond to the genuflecting of Marx by pointing out that, important as his contribution was to understanding capitalism, that others made contributions before and after him and you get accused to "constructing straw men"... Still, I guess my comment about genuflecting will become an example of me hating Marx...

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Jun 3 2009 12:31

There's nothing more trite than the Marxist anarchist argument.

As for anarchism being a movement, as someone said before, it's going be moving somewhere to be a movement. A conference hardly indicates it is.

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JimN
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Jun 5 2009 17:15

I don't know about you guys, but I'd love to be having this debate sitting in a post-capitalist society maybe at my local history club. Title of discussion - " Those Old Guys With Beards We Owe So Much To! But Who Was First?"