Philosophy and Critical Theory

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Associational anarchism and human emancipation as developed selfhood
Chris Wyatt

In recognising that freedom should not be kept apart from the conditions of its profitable exercise, a conception that blends congenially positive and negative ideals must, this book argues, propose a mode of organisation that moves beyond both the negative freedom of right-libertarianism and the positive freedom of welfare statism. In doing so, the associational anarchist conception of freedom is a distinct amalgamation of certain tenets from the self-determination and self-realisation traditions, parsed through structures that recast yet ultimately respect the inviolability of a sphere of life within which the individual is sovereign. This specific conceptual constellation may be thought of as a newly formed ‘anarcho-Marxist humanism’. Most centrally, a particular mode of egalitarian property rights is pictured that, fundamentally, is democratised to its pluralist cores. Moving beyond the bounds of statehood, political intermediation is arranged through a reinvigorated and anarchised functional devolution. Demarcated labour processes, when horizontally aligned with other equally differentiated functions, are the most enriching form of production and the optimal method of social provision. Significantly, if products are not manifested with autonomy and independent powers, so there is neither a personification of the inanimate nor a thingification of the subject, they will not exist as alienated entities, and neither will the workers who produced them. It is through these organisational forms that associational anarchism fills out in finer detail the categories that class-struggle anarchism has always rightfully endorsed.

in Associational anarchism
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Chris Wyatt

Through a discussion of the forms that a non-statist federal coordination may assume, this chapter argues that the functional principle of representation will be a valuable addition to a social anarchist constitution. Here the free federal structures outlined in the works of Michael Bakunin and Peter Kropotkin are juxtaposed with Cole’s functional federation, where their similarities are drawn out. It has been claimed that this idea throws up an awkward theoretical dilemma that stretches social anarchist theory. This is the critique that an anarchist federation contains an irresolvable strain between the demands of decentralisation and the redistribution of natural resources. Associational anarchism weakens this structural tension by placing control of rare natural resources, those that are not abundant in every region, into the hands of the guilds and not the local communities themselves, and even if it cannot resolve it in full, a loss of complete voluntarism can be justified by appealing to the key anarchist principle of mutual aid. Moving on, the exposition of associational anarchism’s federal structures is completed by indicating how its strategy of democratised investment planning can be harmonised with citizens’ ethical considerations pertaining to the public sphere. At this point, the anarcho-republican perspective is introduced. Its proposal that ‘freedom as non-domination’ must be recast in a non-statist constitution which moves beyond the institution of private property leads, the chapter contends, straight to associational anarchism. This specific cooperative mode of production serves the generic desires of the higher-self well.

in Associational anarchism
Chris Wyatt

This chapter establishes the various elements that when integrated in certain ways constitute the conception of freedom pieced together and defended in this book, ‘freedom as Marxian-autonomy’. Both Isaiah Berlin’s distinction between ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ liberty and Gerald MacCallum’s triadic formula are delineated. The chapter explains why it is a version of the latter that pervades the entire constitution of associational anarchism, and the sense in which it has something significant to offer the more general anarchist theory of ‘advanced selfhood’. In order to establish the other essential premises upon which the associational anarchist conception of freedom stands, three main traditions of political thought that conceptualise liberty in distinct ways are introduced. The next step is to clarify how Marx’s notion of freedom can be incorporated into MacCallum’s formula, and, further, how the former can also be combined with an idealist (sometimes referred to as ‘freedom as autonomy’) interpretation of the latter. Although the chapter endorses Marx’s critique that the abstract individualism of liberalism cannot provide an adequate account of the communal relations through which people gain their self-understandings, state socialist solutions to the liberal contradiction are also rejected. The chapter moves on to indicate the ways in which liberalism’s reductive ontology is replaced with what the book understands as the ‘functionally demarcated higher-self’. Through a discussion of anarchism’s complex relation with democracy, the chapter concludes with an account of the plural democratic forms that constitute the core of associational anarchism’s mode of organisation.

in Associational anarchism
Chris Wyatt

The disputes about what counts as interference with freedom have a long and varied history. This chapter adds to this mountainous body of literature by contrasting the guild cooperative with the private enterprise economies, both taken in ideal-typical terms. Expositions on the Hayekian and the radical republican conceptions of coercion are provided. The former regards coercion as both interpersonal and intentional, as the arbitrary instrument of someone else’s will, while the latter has a wider understanding in the sense that coercion exists not only within the workplace but also through systemic forms of domination, where it is experienced in unpremeditated ways. Particular attention is paid to the radical republican claim that the forms through which anonymous interdependency is organised in class-divided societies result in a loss of real freedom. Following suit, the chapter argues that as the terms of transactions and the dissemination of productive assets are greatly significant to the meaningful exercise of agency, an adequate conception of freedom needs to incorporate a more extensive account of coercion. The chapter then explains that in the guild system, as there is an egalitarian access to productive resources, and because there are no plutocracies exerting disproportionate control over the means of investment, there is no structural domination as conceived by the radical republicans. This argument is completed by weaving together the anarchist voluntary and free communal service principles through an associational anarchist reading of freedom to do/become and freedom from. Through these sets of social relations, anonymous interdependence is reorganised felicitously.

in Associational anarchism
Chris Wyatt

This chapter substantiates in various ways the associational anarchist pledge to safeguard a certain configuration of negative freedoms. On a revised liberal reading, agency is cooperative individuals who associate distinct aspects of themselves in democratic formations of producers and consumers (‘X’), interference is now potentially from the federated functional bodies (‘Y’) and the ends have been modified to ensure compatibility with a cooperative political economy (‘Z’). The aim is to attain what the book refers to as the pluralist delimited yet interrelating aspects of the collective higher-self. So while the ‘X’, ‘Y’ and ‘Z’ relation has been arranged in order to accommodate a left-libertarian account of idealist liberty, the liberal emphasis on freedom from intentional external interference has been retained. Here it is shown why some restrictions on liberal freedoms must be balanced against the way overall liberty is enhanced throughout the guild system. The chapter moves on to consider a sector consisting of individual agents and small firms who seek to labour on their own account. Where inequalities of outcome are non-accumulative, the dissemination of numerous pieces of economic knowledge and the reconciliation of the diverse aims of independent agents will not be frustrated by the encroachment of powerful economic cartels. The price mechanism can now serve the telecommunication purpose asked of it more effectively, and in a way that genuinely reflects autonomous consumption, rather than its induced character. Analogous to the guild system, the anonymous interdependency of self-employed circles cannot be converted into the intermediate condition of structural domination.

in Associational anarchism
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Chris Wyatt

The book’s theoretical attempt to unite the private sphere of production with the public sphere of citizenship within a newly constructed system of communal ownership presents a viable decentralised alternative to both liberal democracy and state socialism. The outcome is an organisational schema of horizontalised networks, which are held together through what the book argues are libertarian politics. Although there is no role for a centralised state, there is a pluralist self-governance to fulfil the functions of coordination and administration. Political intermediation proceeds via a complex web of interrelating functional associations, which operate within a system of revitalised communities. As routine methods of management are carried out through modes of self-regulation that embody the key anarchist values of equality, solidarity and mutual aid, this specific configuration of functional devolution adds formative detail to the guiding anarchist principle that coercive and authoritarian structures must be replaced with voluntary and libertarian alternatives.

in Associational anarchism
Chris Wyatt

This chapter addresses the conceptual schema of associational anarchism’s legal framework, which may be thought of as non-parliamentary jurisprudence. Anarchism renunciates the legal authority of the modern state. It points to the possibility of life beyond the law, of a social order held together by a cooperation that, where necessary, may be legitimately coerced if derived through collective and democratic decision-making. In general, it has been suggested that minor infringements can be left to public pressure, with more serious cases solved through trials, compensation, isolation and ultimately expulsion. This chapter qualifies these claims in certain ways. On the grounds that laws are determined inclusively by all who are subject to them, and that they are not enforced by the coercive institutions of the state, an anarchist legal order can be coherently theorised. Here the chapter engages with the intriguing political thought of J.J. Rousseau. The guilds will self-legislate within their own jurisdiction at the local level, and their legal decision-making will assume the mode of general will deliberations. The idea is that individual cooperators will determine the legal rules they themselves agree to comply with in their productive lives. The chapter moves on to indicate how interpersonal conflicts beyond the sphere of production may be settled consistently without recourse to a centrally administered judiciary. At this point, the distinction drawn in the works of Michael Bakunin and Peter Kropotkin between ‘customary law’ and ‘codified law’ is explained, which leads to a discussion of the associational anarchist innovation of the ‘justice councils’.

in Associational anarchism
Chris Wyatt

This lengthy chapter defines how the ‘freedom to do/become’ strand in freedom as Marxian-autonomy is embodied within a self-determining policy. The product mix is determined by an unconventional combination of non-statist planning and a non-capitalist market system. Through an engagement with Hayek’s sceptical epistemology, the chapter indicates how a subordinated market, regulated by the guilds and consumer councils, can fulfil social imperatives. Whilst his critique of state socialist planning is not challenged, the chapter argues that the domination of enterprise monopoly in a neo-liberal economy, with its irrevocable administration through central planning, cannot be routinely prevented. From here the chapter indicates the specific ways in which domination by any kind of tyranny will be prevented in the guild system. Participatory planning is arranged through the transparent deliberations between, at the most immediate level, the whole local guild and a corresponding department of the cooperative consumer council, then at the regional levels between the guilds, or the Industrial Guild Congress (IGC), and the two consumer councils. The latter will, through continuous deliberations with the local guilds, play a large role in coordinating agents’ interpersonal relations. At the local level, the cooperative consumer councils will fulfil their objectives through both planning (pre-production) and by perfecting market deficiencies (post-production), including where necessary the blocking of certain products. These measures provide the optimal means through which agents can effectively self-assess their given desires, and, chiefly, for exposing and eradicating the harmful effects of externalities.

in Associational anarchism
Chris Wyatt
in Associational anarchism
Chris Wyatt
in Associational anarchism