Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism

Bookchin, Murray 1995. Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism: An Unbridgeable Chasm. Edinburg: AK Press.

For some two ceturies, anarchism - a very ecumenical body of anti-authoritarian ideas - developed in the tension between two basically contradirtory tendencies: a personalistic commitment to individual autonomya and a collectivist commitment to social freedom. these tendencies have by no means been reconciled in the history of libertarian thought. Indeed, for much of the last century, they simply coexisted within anarchism as a minimalist credo of opposition to the State rather that as a maximalist credo thaa articulated the kind of new society that had to be created in its place. (Bookchin 1995: 4)
So autonomy is individual and freedom is sorial. Minimalist - opposition to the state; maximalist - create a new society.
...anarchism as a whole advanced what Isaiah Berlin has called "negative freedom," that is to say, a formal "freedom from," rather than a substative "freedom to." Indeed, anarchism often celebrated its commitment to negative freedom as evidence of its own pluralism, ideological tolerance, or creativity - or even, as more than one recent posrmodernist celebrant has argued, its incoherence. (Bookchin 1995: 4)
This is what I thought when I read Berlin. I saw it as a good thing.
Indeed, Proudhon's famous declaration that "whoever puts his hand an me to govern me is an usurper and a tyrant; I declare him my enemy" strongly tilts toward a personalistic, negative freedom that overshadows his opposition to oppressive social institutions and the vision of an anarchist society that he projected. His statement easily blends into William Goodwin's distinctly individualistic declaration: "There is but one power to which I can yield a heartfelt obedience, the decision of my own understanding, the dictates of my own conscience." Godwin's appeal to the "authority" of his own understanding and conscience, like Proudhon's condemnation of the "had" that threatens to restrict his liberty, gave anarchism an immensely individualistic thrust. (Bookchin 1995: 5)
So... What's wrong with individualism? I happn to agree with both statements.
Hardly any anarcho-individualists exercised an influence on the emerging working class. They expressed their opposition in uniquely personal forms, especially in fiery tracts, outrageous behavior, and abberant lifestyles in the cultural ghettos of fin de siècle [end of the century] New York, Paris, and London. As a credo, individualist anarchismremained largely a bohemian lifestyle, most conspicuous in its demands for sexual freedom ("free love") and enamored of innovations in art, behavior, and clothing. (Bookchin 1995: 8)
So anarcho-individualism is basically pjorative analogue of "hippies" and "hipsters". Again, ain't nothing wrong with that.
In the traditionally individualist-liberal United States and Britain, the 1990s are awash in self-styled anarchists who - their flamboyant radical rhetoric aside - are custivating a latter-day anarcho-individualism that I will call lifestyle anarchism. Its preoccupations with the ego and its uniqueness and its polymorphous concepts of resistance are steadily eroding the socialist character of the libertarian tradition. No less than Marxism and other socialisms, anarchism can be profoundly influenced by the bourgeois environment it professes to oppose, with the result that the growing "inwardness" and narcissism of the yoppie generation have left their mark upon many avowed radicals. Ad toc adventurism, personal bravura, an aversion to theory oddly akin to the antirational biases of postmodernism, celebrations of theoretical incoherence (pluralism), a basically apolitical and anti-organizational commitment to imagination, desire, and ecstasy, and an intensely self-oriented enchantment of everyday life, reflect the toll that social reaction has taken on Euro-American anarchism over the past two decades. (Bookchin 1995: 9)
Ah, so Bookchin opposes individualists because they do not organise a social revolution.
Psychotherapy in all its mutations cultivates an inwardly directed "self" that seeks autonomy in a quiescent psychological condition of emotional self-sufficiency - not the socially involved self denoted by freedom. In lifestyle anarchism as in psychotherapy, the ego is counterposed to the collective; the self, to society; the personal, to the communal. (Bookchin 1995: 10)
And what is wrong with that? We know that the self is social - exactly for that reason we see liberation from repression and authority as liberation from social conventions. It also sounds as if there were no interactionist psychotherapies (I know of none but I haven't looked).
The ego - more precisely, its incarnation in various lifestylos - has become an idee fixee for many post-1960s anarchists, who are losing contact with the need for an organized, collectivistic, programmatic opposition to the existing order. Invertebrate "protests," directionless escapades, self-assertions, and a very personal "recolonization" of everyday life parallel the psychotherapeutic, New Age, self-oriented lifestyles of bored baby boomers and members of Generation X. Today, what passes for anarchism in America and increasingly in Europe is little more than an aintrospective personalism that denigrates responsible social commitment; an encounter group variously renamed a "collective" or an "affinity group"; a state of mind that arrogantly derides structure, organization, and public involvement; and a playground of juvenile antics. (Bookchin 1995: 10)
Yup. Bookchin derides individualists because they don't suit his purposes. Antics are cool.
Theriideological pedigree is basically liberal, grounded in the myth of the fully autonomous individual whose claims to self-sovereignty are validated by axiomatic "natural rights," "intrinsic worth," or, on a more sophisticated level, an intuited Kantian transcendental ego that is gererative of all knowable reality. These traditional views surface in Max Stirner's "I" or ego, which shares with existentialism a tendency to absorb all of reality into itself, as if the universe turned on the choices of the self-oriented individual. (Bookchin 1995: 11)
I fail to see anything wrong in this. It is as if Bookchin is speaking of an ideal that doesn't exist but keeps battering it as if it did.
Strictly defined, the greek word autonomia means "independence," connoting a self-managing ego, independent of any clientage or reliance on others for its maintenance. To my knowledge, it was not widely used by the Greek philosophers; indeed, it is not even mentioned in F.E. Peter's historical lexicon of Greek Philosophical Terms. Autonomy' like liberty, refers to the man (or woman) who Plato would have ironically called the "master of himself," a condition "when the better principle of the human soul controls the worse." Even in Plato, the attempt to achieve autonomy through mastery of oneself constituted a paradox, "for the master is also the servant and the servant the master, and ina ll these modes of speaking the same person is predicated" (Republic, book 4, 431). Characteristically, Paul Goodman, an essential individualistic anarchist, maintained that "for me, the chief principle of anarchism is not freedom but autonomy, the ability to initiate a task and to do it one's own way" - a view werthy of an aestete but not of a social revolutionary. (Bookchin 1995: 12)
So it becomes more and more clear that Bookchin opposes lifestyle anarchism because it does not lead to social revolution but personal autonomy. He does not see the very real possibility of the two converging.
The confusion between autonomy and freedom is all too evident in L. Susan Brown's The Politics of Individualism (POI), a recent attempt to articulate and elaborate a basically individualist anarchism, yet rehain some filiations with anarcho-communism. If lifestyle anarchism needs an academic pedigree, it will find it here in her attempt to meld Bakunin and Kropotkin with John Stuart Mill. Alas, herein lies a problem that is more than academic. Brown's work exhibits the extent to which concepts of personal autonomy stands at odds with conceps of social freedam. In essence, like Goodman she interprets anarchism as a philosophy not of social freedom but of personal autonomy. She then offers a notion of "existential individualism" that she contrasts sharply both with "instrumental individualism" (or C. B. Macpherson's "possessive [bourgeois] individualism") and with "collectivism" - leavened with extesive quotations from Emma Goldman, who was by no means the ablest thinker in the libertarian pantheon. (Bookchin 1995: 13)
It is becoming clear why many anarchists dislike Bookchin. He is an "intellectual efficientist".
If anything, functioning an the basis of consensus assures that important decision-making will be either manipulated by a minority or collapse completely. And the decisions that are made will embody the lowest common denominator of views and constitute the least creative level of agreement. I speak, here, from painful, years-long experience with the use of consensus in the Clamshell Alliance of the 1970s. Just at the moment when this quasi-anarchic antinuclear-power movement was at the peak of its struggle, with thousands of activists, it was destroyed through the manipulation of the consensus process by a minority. The "tyranny of structurelessness" that consensus decisien-making produced permitted a well-organized few to control the unwieldy, deinstitutionalized, and largely disorganized many within the movement. (Bookchin 1995: 17-18)
Here Bookchin seems to have a valid point. The consensus process does have its faults. But he does not pose a substitute, which is why consensus is still implemented, or worse, only beginning to be implemented.
What, finally, is a "temporary autonomous zone"? "The TAZ is like an uprising which does not engage directly with the State, a guerilla operation which liberates an area (of land, of time, of imagination) and then dissolves itself, to re-form elsewhere/elsewhen, before the State can crush it" (TAZ, p. 101). In a TAZ we can "realize many of our true Desires, even if only for a season, a brief Pirate Utopia, a awarped free-zone in the old Space/Time continuum)" (TAZ, p. 62). (Bookchin 1995: 23)
This may be why some anonymous writers prefer liberated spaces to autonomous spaces.


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