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'Lifestylism' as a false and violent category: identity, friendship, politics. First notes.

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si
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Oct 19 2006 08:27

Some interesting posts here and there. Firstly I'd like to apologise for the slightly rushed tone of the OP: it would have benefited from a little light editing but I wanted done with it.

John.: I don't think that the fact that no-one 'bothers' to denounce lifestylists is particularly important. If nothing else I would take that as the proof that the so-called 'critique' of lifestylism has been internalised, become part of the invisible framework of discussion here, so much so that it no longer needs to be stated. The party has constructed its identity in opposition to various other ideologies, illusory or not: now that the project is complete the party reclines, fully formed, the living inversion of 'lifestylism'.

Bookchin's essay is a mad undialectical rant. By reducing anarchist consciousness to two utterly incommensurate strands he is forced into some truly bizarre manoeuvres, for instance disdaining Goldman as 'cheek and jowl with the individualists'. His ludicrous division between those who want what echoes of communism are possible now and those committed to a serious, strategic pursuit of a future communism is completely, mindbogglingly stupid.

The fact is that to be a communist entails certain ethical commitments; authentically to desire communism is to desire its realistion, however partial, in the present: but conversely of course we must understand the irrelevance of the liberal notion of the 'individidual' and his 'rights'; the need for a serious and strategic account of organisation, based on an understanding of the only force within the present society capable of realising, once and for all, what until that point can only be experienced as fragmented and occasional releases, the proletariat...

I am unsure whether anarcho-syndicalist organisation is the most effective, historically relevant form of organisation, or whether insurrectional accounts of consciousness are today more relevant. I am unsure whether the pursuit by the AF of the 'leadership of ideas' is progressive or reactionary. But these principles above are, for me, the basis of authentic, intelligent, timely communist being. To see that being rent in two, into - what - will and passion? - pains me, especially because I so often feel compelled to side one way or the other.

si
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Oct 19 2006 08:34

ps. of course I will happily admit that there is a problem with those who are genuinely individualists; stirner was not an idiot but he was wrong. But there is also a problem with the joyless, ascetic priests of organisational anarchism.

Whether either of those two categories exist is up to the reader to decide. Isn't it time we went for something more nuanced?

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Steven.
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Oct 19 2006 08:45

TBH si, sorry but I think you saying stuff like this:

Quote:
His ludicrous division between those who want what echoes of communism are possible now and those committed to a serious, strategic pursuit of a future communism is completely, mindbogglingly stupid.

shows that it's you're understanding isn't nuanced, not that the ideas aren't.

He doesn't do that. I've not read much Bookchin but from what I remember he does see embryonic communism in people's everyday lives (like we in libcom group do, whenever people get together to collectively solve a problem, whether it be very small like organising a party, or huge like setting up workers councils to run a whole city or country). That is very different to equating individual lifestyle choices - the refusal of work, being vegan, dumpsterdiving, living in a squat - with anarchism. (NB I'm not saying any of those things are bad, but saying that they are anarchism and you can only be an anarchist by doing those things is.)

si
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Oct 19 2006 09:16

John.: that essay strikes me as being somewhat more unpleasant than your exposition. Don't have time to do the close reading now: maybe inbetween lectures later today. But a quick note/question: what if those 'individual lifestyle choices' are in fact the means of struggle/life/play/experiment of a group of communists? If, not as a precondition of communist theory/practice but as an adjunct to it communists organise their lives in that way - squatting, skipping, evading work? Not enough time to fully ask the question now really - but were the situationists lifestylists?

Revol: that's absolutely true, and the tendency to mediate all value through political concepts is of course a)anti-social b)inhuman c)religious. And I've met my fair share of people who fall into that category. But they have been from both sides of this (false) divide. Btw I wasn't railing against either side; rather I was seeking to highlight the inanity of the division. As above: I ought to write more but haven't the time. maybe later.

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Red Marriott
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Oct 19 2006 09:35

It's certainly true that the role of organisational militant/activist is often as religious and lifestylist as any anarcho-vegan-dolie-squatter or whatever (and often less social.) The militant devotes/sacrifices himself to a fetishised greater other, 'the class', 'the organisation' - the lifestylist to a fetishised 'exemplary' self-activity in itself.

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Joseph Kay
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Oct 19 2006 09:43

agreed, the self-sacrificing guilt based politics of 'militants' (in the situationist critique sense) or ascetic crimethincoid dropouts is useless (if not counter-revolutionary wink). i'm still not entirely sure what having corpses in your mouth means, but these people do, and it's bad grin

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Oct 19 2006 09:49
si wrote:
I am unsure whether the pursuit by the AF of the 'leadership of ideas' is progressive or reactionary.

its progressive. Glad we could clear that up for you grin

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Oct 19 2006 10:04
revol wrote:
atleast sad bastard organisational fetishers mark themselves off in their little ghettoes eg the ICC etc, whilst "lifestylists" tend to pop up everywhere and suck the fun out of everything.

Believe me, the ICC have sucked the fun out of every meeting I've seen them in - and, consequently, they probably don't get many party invites.

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Joseph Kay
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Oct 19 2006 10:05

they're already in the only party that matters wink

bastarx
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Oct 19 2006 10:54
revol68 wrote:
yeah, but the difference is that atleast sad bastard organisational fetishers mark themselves off in their little ghettoes eg the ICC etc, whilst "lifestylists" tend to pop up everywhere and suck the fun out of everything.

I do intend to respond to your earlier response to me but it's past my bedtime.

I more or less agree that the lifestylists are more annoying now but when it comes to the crunch I think they'll be irrelevant whereas many of the militants will be trying to herd the movement into the loving embrace of the unions or other recuperators.

cheers
Pete

si
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Oct 19 2006 12:16
revol68 wrote:
nowadays they tend to overlap, except in true post modern style the militant is no longer a jesuit for one organisation, he no longer gives up his desires for god, instead he makes god his desires, and hence everything becomes god and everything for god.

The old militant was the devout catholic, who whilst pious atleast left room for a seperation of religion from the private sphere, whilst the new militant lifestyler is protestant, insisting on a direct relationship with god (no longer mediated by priests or organisers) and hence piety becomes infused in all spheres of life.

genuinely interesting, although i'm sure not drawing all the meaning out of it. If nothing else the irony is admirably densely packed.

Tacks wrote:
si wrote:
I am unsure whether the pursuit by the AF of the 'leadership of ideas' is progressive or reactionary.

its progressive. Glad we could clear that up for you grin

easy sunshine. see you at the bookfair =)

John.: A re-reading of bookchin's essay utterly confirms your reading and refutes my own. My attack on him was unwarranted and false. What he writes is a substantial and impressive critique of that 'latter-day individualism' that he nominates as 'lifestyle anarchism'.

If 'lifestylism' merely means (as knightrose put it recently) that activity is mediated by a moral idea of virtue and the pursuit of a sense of wellbeing within that moral framework (with all the scorn and distaste at the activity of 'the masses' that entails) then of course it is a total farce. The problem I have is that in the libcom/enrager context this does not seem to be all it means. Rather, it seems to designate all those that the enrager collective split away from in the early days, and the projects they are today interested in - despite the fact that many of those projects and interests are absolutely not 'lifestylist' in the above sense - eg experimentation with social centres as a radical form; serious engagement and solidarity with groups involved with the struggle in France; critical internal discussions on the role of the militant within struggle, and serious attempts to actualise ideas based on those discussions etc etc.

The attack on lifestylism seems in a way to fetishise the inversion of those things you listed - against squatting, renting; against evasion of work, work; against skipping & theft, purchase: in short, against the separate, the 'normal' - from what I can tell the central plank of AF ideology. For me this move cuts off certain organisational possibilities, that is to say those which look inwards, at its members and its needs, as well as the looking outwards of the revolutionary critique of society. I am thinking here particularly of Bataille's Acephale group, to a lesser extent the Surrealists, to some degree the playful practice & communal cafe life of the situationists etc.

Not sure.

--si.

si
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Oct 19 2006 12:18

perhaps I am also thinking to a lesser extent of RD Laing & co-counselling, now I think about it.

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Oct 19 2006 12:43
si wrote:
John.: A re-reading of bookchin's essay utterly confirms your reading and refutes my own. My attack on him was unwarranted and false.

Wow. More posts like this!

That's a big thing to do, hats off to Si

I hope the rest of your post didn't reveal it was actually sarcasm, cos i didn't read it grin

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EdmontonWobbly
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Oct 19 2006 13:49
Quote:
The attack on lifestylism seems in a way to fetishise the inversion of those things you listed - against squatting, renting; against evasion of work, work; against skipping & theft, purchase: in short, against the separate, the 'normal' - from what I can tell the central plank of AF ideology.

This is the problem though, you are subsituting the individual for the class as the agent of social change. This stuff isn't revolutionary precisely because it can't go beyond subverting value. These acts are individualist tantrums in the face of the impossibility of their program going beyond anything but mere revolt.

Anyways the main point I wanted to get across is that calling the category of lifestylism 'violent' is just nonsense.

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Oct 19 2006 15:06
si wrote:
The attack on lifestylism seems in a way to fetishise the inversion of those things you listed - against squatting, renting; against evasion of work, work; against skipping & theft, purchase

Not at all, that's just the thing. You seem to have internalised the strawman of social anarchism as what it actually is. (As shown by your question "were the situs lifestlyists? of course they weren't. That they were mostly arty drop-outs themselves is irrelevant. They did not equate their lifestlye choices with revolution. They equated the revolution with what it actually is, namely the re-organisation of society on the basis of directly democratic workers' councils). It's not against any of those things, it's just saying that individual lifestlye choices - mostly in the realm of consumption - are not the only thing which is revolutionary.

This is claimed by people like crimethinc, who say that all people who continue to work or consume are complicit with the system (see harbinger #5), which is an utterly moronic position.

i've got shitloads of work on so can't say all i want which is a shame, cos with the bookchin comment etc. it looks like we're getting somewhere (i.e. past the strawmen).

things you talk about saying we have distanced ourselves from - social centres etc. - are unrelated to lifestlyism. I know that things like the square weren't lifestlyist (tho obviously some would hang around it). Our problem with things like that is much less of a issue, in that it's more to do with direction and efficient use of resources, and that lots of it is substitutionist and divorced from everyday life, and echoes a fair few "anarchist" projects which actually just try to fill holes in the welfare state. Also the tendency of people involved in such projects to place them above everyone else an insult others for not "doing" as much as them is problematic as for the most part it is mostly privilege and subcultural lifestyle choices which make that activity possible (i.e. not having kids, jobs or spouses, not having many relationships outside the anarchist subculture, etc.)

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Oct 19 2006 16:15
si wrote:
]The attack on lifestylism seems in a way to fetishise the inversion of those things you listed - against squatting, renting; against evasion of work, work; against skipping & theft, purchase: in short, against the separate, the 'normal' - from what I can tell the central plank of AF ideology.

john has addressed the more general points very well - just to pick you up on the ideology of the AF.

In no AF material will you find any reference to 'normal' or 'everyday'. This is conscious. AF also have a citique of 'progress' as framed by enlightenement liberalism - just like Zerzan and Bonano - we just don't respond by writing off the past and using Mad Max 2 as our utopian template.

The AF, like most anarchist orgs, contains people who have gone down a number of paths before anarchist communism; the labour party, activism, trot groups - and thats formed our individual characters without characterising the fed. Unfortunately, most peoples first reference of anarchism in this country will be the subculture, so their are plenty of vegan shoplifter weed smokers* knocking about too. They don't let their lifestyle define their politics. I don't stand in a shop thinking 'if i pinch this i'm sticking it to the man', i pinch it on the basis that in large shops i might as well have bought it ('wastage' - i have worked in retail) and that this is just a rational choice.** If i have a cheeky line in the pub i'm not thinking 'i do this line in utter defiane of the bourgoise conformist status quo the is repelled by my desires' it just happens to be one of the drugs they haven't legalised yet.***

I weigh up whether or not to squat with where and how i want to live and whether squatting would provide for my needs (at the moment, yes, yes it would)****

do you see what i'm getting at? A lot of 'lifestylism' are rational choices in certain situations - like getting a job is. Its not totally divorced from politics, but it doesn't detract from wanting communism via organised revolution. The only thing i'd say doesn't go is 'work avoidance' - being on the dole is fine, but it is no better than working. But then as ive tried to point out, stealing/paying, getting wrecked/staying sober are all equal too.

*maybe when they were younger
**I don't actually shoplift mind, i can't beothered
*** Not really, i'm straight edge
**** I don't actually live in a squat

ha ha grin

posi
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Oct 19 2006 17:14

Thanks for bringing this up Si - I've brought this subject up before, but this has been a far better discussion:

Jack wrote:
fwiw, I think we were wrong to focus on the lifestylism as opposed to the individualism, which encompasses their lifestylism, but is wider.

John. wrote:
social centres etc. - are unrelated to lifestlyism. I know that things like the square weren't lifestlyist (tho obviously some would hang around it). Our problem with things like that is much less of a issue, in that it's more to do with direction and efficient use of resources, and that lots of it is substitutionist and divorced from everyday life

These two points are absolutely correct... the 'Sack Parliament' action was an attempted mass mobilisation, and had did not fetishise lifestyle at all. But it was nevertheless a perfect demonstration of the failings of the subculture: divorced from everyday life, extremely unrealistic, organised in an alienated and irresponsible manner - rather than building activity around people's felt needs, it tried to rally activity behind the fulfillment of the needs of a small group. (Hopefully its failure will prompt some reconsideration by those involved in its planning and execution.) I think something may have been one of Si's original points.

Si wrote:
the negation of workerism continues to result, in many sectors, in post-classist and moral visions of activity and strategy.

I don't know whether it's right to say that 'life-stylism' is a 'false and violent category'. But the point of the original post, as I saw it, was just to discourage writing people off,

Si wrote:
people who, on slightly closer inspection, could turn out to be people who for all their flaws and illusions are committed, intelligent and passionate, interested, interesting.

For people who don't have any real connection with people involved in the movement under discussion, there isn't a lot to be done with this - except not being rude when you do meet (which is something people on this board have definitely been guilty of)... for others like me and Si, actively arguing for realistic, classed politics rooted in everday life is still valuable.

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Steven.
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Oct 19 2006 17:53
Jack wrote:
And if they're able to convince themselves that, what hope is there they're likely to change?

The people keep changing!

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Oct 19 2006 18:45
Jack wrote:
Do you really think turnover is that high?

Yes. At least in this case.

Just take my word on it wink

posi
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Oct 19 2006 21:06
Jack wrote:
Do you not think that after the utter failure of 3 DSEI's, G8 protests, climate change camp etc. etc. that if they were going to learn from stuff like this, it would have happened by now?

I mean yea it'd be great if they did embrace decent politics, and started to organise on a class basis, but you have to remember that even as these actions get even worse, less effective and smaller, the organisers are still claiming them as successes. And if they're able to convince themselves that, what hope is there they're likely to change?

I don't think Sack Parliament is being claimed as a success, to be honest. Though I agree that the pretend blockade was so claimed, even though it was manifestly shit.

It's not a given that there'll be any change... all I can say is that, personally, through knowing some of the people involved in such actions, there are signs of them being prepared to re-evaluate. And - at least for the people I know - I believe that this would be less true if I hadn't taken the time to have political arguments with them. And if other people had also made those arguments, or other equivalent ones (or just not been rude/dismissive), it would be (at least a bit) more true.

On the other hand, this does not look pretty...

John. wrote:
The people keep changing!

Umm, some do. The ones who've been around for a few years, who still haven't learnt their lesson, are more of a problem though. Especially because some of them are phenomenally energetic and by dint of effort drag others into doing stupid stuff. I think that there is a lot of rotation, but it's at the periphery, rather than the core... it takes a rare kind of persistence to put that much effort into stuff. When real movements melt away, particularly zealous personalities are what's left - a historical re-enactment society.

The AF's comments on Sack Parliament were too soft politically, but made in the right sort of spirit...

Admin - IMC link fixed

bastarx
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Oct 19 2006 21:14
John. wrote:
This is claimed by people like crimethinc, who say that all people who continue to work or consume are complicit with the system (see harbinger #5), which is an utterly moronic position.

Of course we're complicit with the system. The mistake isn't in recognising that, but in thinking that the solution is voluntaristic attempts at withdrawal from it.

Pete

Skraeling
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Oct 20 2006 00:38

I think that most critiques of lifestylism are a-historical. Lifestylism is presented by people like Bookchin as an evil idea that has impurified the perfect ideal of anarchism (ie. the socialist core of anarchism).

But lifestylism happens in a particular context. I think that during periods of low class struggle, and a low level of struggle in society in general, it seems quite apt to some people to withdraw into small social scenes. But during the opposite, many ferals and crusties and whatnot, get drawn into the wider struggles and often end up supporting workers struggles. A good example is in the 1970s, a lot of the "carnival anarchists" (they were sort of like Crimethincers of today) in Australasia ended up organising pickets and supporting strikes (while doing a whole lot of counter-cultural stuff at the same time). While in the early 1960s, during a period of dreary conformity in society, there were a group of Sydney Libertarians who made a philosophy out of declaring a new society impossible, hence they withdrew into their own social scene.

The funny thing about Bookchin is that he wrote an essay about the counter-culture in 1970 that argued that it was revolutionary, and the revolution consisted of counter-cultural practices like smoking dope and "fucking off on the job" spreading to workers.

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Steven.
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Oct 20 2006 06:10
Peter wrote:
John. wrote:
This is claimed by people like crimethinc, who say that all people who continue to work or consume are complicit with the system (see harbinger #5), which is an utterly moronic position.

Of course we're complicit with the system. The mistake isn't in recognising that, but in thinking that the solution is voluntaristic attempts at withdrawal from it.

Ok sure (I was using "complicit" in the way they were, which was saying that you can't criticise or oppose capitalism while continuing to have a job. Indeed, that the only way to oppose it is by dropping out).

Mike Harman
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Oct 20 2006 07:08
Quote:
The funny thing about Bookchin is that he wrote an essay about the counter-culture in 1970 that argued that it was revolutionary,

Not sure about the second bit, but pretty sure he wrote another one in 1973 that pointed out how wrong the 1970 one was.

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Oct 20 2006 14:04
revol68 wrote:
I mean when was the last time you opened a bottle of wine at a party to be harangued by someone from the The 5th International Committee for the Formation of the 4th International?

It used to happen to me a lot. Years ago, I used to hang out with the International Socialists here in Norway, just because of their good parties. Their retreats usually turned into week long drinking binges, and their favorite mode of recruiting was to get somebody really drunk, and then talk him or her into joining. Of course, they didn't explain what membership actually involved until they were already signed up...

In the end, I had to stop seeing them because they just wouldn't stop trying to recruit me, and it got to be really annoying after a while.

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Oct 20 2006 14:15

I feel your pain dude, we should start a support group for anarchists who are friends with trots.

Skraeling
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Oct 21 2006 00:06
Mike Harman wrote:
Quote:
The funny thing about Bookchin is that he wrote an essay about the counter-culture in 1970 that argued that it was revolutionary,

Not sure about the second bit, but pretty sure he wrote another one in 1973 that pointed out how wrong the 1970 one was.

What essay was that? I've never heard of it and I'd be interested in reading it. The 1970 one i was referring to is "The Youth Culture: An Anarcho-Communist View," in the anthology HIP CULTURE: 6 ESSAYS ON ITS REVOLUTIONARY POTENTIAL (New York: Times Change Press, 1970). That essay is quite rare and not up on the web. Basically, Bookchin argues that the counter culture prefigures a joyous anarchist communist society.

Feighnt
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Oct 21 2006 05:29
Felix Frost wrote:
Of course, they didn't explain what membership actually involved until they were already signed up...

i dont know anything about this, and you've just piqued my curiousity...

what did membership actually involve??

Mike Harman
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Oct 21 2006 08:39
Skraeling wrote:

What essay was that? I've never heard of it and I'd be interested in reading it. The 1970 one i was referring to is "The Youth Culture: An Anarcho-Communist View," in the anthology HIP CULTURE: 6 ESSAYS ON ITS REVOLUTIONARY POTENTIAL (New York: Times Change Press, 1970). That essay is quite rare and not up on the web. Basically, Bookchin argues that the counter culture prefigures a joyous anarchist communist society.

OK I wasn't talking about a specific one wink There's several places where he says he was wrong about the counter culture - in the reader and Anarchism, Marxism and the Future of the Left at least. Basically when he noticed it's recuperation.

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Felix Frost
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Oct 21 2006 11:39
Feighnt wrote:
Felix Frost wrote:
Of course, they didn't explain what membership actually involved until they were already signed up...

i dont know anything about this, and you've just piqued my curiousity...

what did membership actually involve??

Paying hefty dues, attending all the weekly party meetings, standing on street corners selling papers for hours every week, following the party line on every question, taking orders from the central committee,.. You know, the usual leftist sect stuff.