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Chris Wyatt

This chapter introduces associational anarchism’s mode of organisation in full. In transcending the divide between state and civil-society, democratic participation is extended to the economic and civic realms and is centred on the various self-managing organisations individuals belong to. Self-governance applies both within and between these differentiated formations. It is the organisational contours sketched in Cole’s Guild Socialism Restated (1920) that are primarily drawn from. Particular attention is paid to the functional principle of representation, which breaks down chiefly into a system of economic guilds and formal agencies to represent consumers. While these interrelating economic structures are retained and adapted throughout this book, both the role and the powers of Cole’s communes are heavily revised. The chapter then explains how goods and resources will be allocated democratically. At this point, David Schweickart’s ingenious approach to the planning of new investment is introduced. In order to assimilate his scheme into the guild system, it will be subject to a thorough functional demarcation. From here it is shown that although both planning and market-exchange will continue to have a role, it will not be through the central planning of command socialism or the mixed-economy typical of social democracy. The method of democratic planning and the delineation of the guild market system are both original and are hence unique to associational anarchism. It is these structural arrangements that make up the organisational aspects of freedom as Marxian-autonomy. The chapter concludes by establishing the internal structures the guild cooperatives will need to assume in order to make labour a fulfilling and enriching experience for all associates.

in Associational anarchism
Towards a left-libertarian conception of freedom
Author:

This book presents a new left-libertarian conception of liberty, ‘freedom as Marxian-autonomy’, which is explored above all in terms of its organisational contours. The project brings together in theoretical dialogue Karl Marx’s (1818–83) critique of capitalism, certain ideals adapted from the guild socialist writings of G.D.H. Cole (1889–1959) and the sub-schools of social anarchism. In doing so it contributes towards the healing of a major historical schism in socialist theory. The outcome is a newly formed anarchist constitution, ‘associational anarchism’. In offering something important to the recent outpourings in current anarchist discourse, the book contends that liberty can be attained without passing through the mediation of self-interested employers, career politicians or state planners. The foundational claim is that a condition of freedom requires equal and democratic access to the material means of life, where self-mastery is attained in both the productive and consumptive spheres. Negative (non-coercion) and positive (self-direction, self-development) ideals are combined congenially in a conceptual framework that does not frame them in perpetual contradiction. This specific protection of a set of individual liberties, of which the political liberties are of equal value, effectively challenges the ideological belief that only liberalism safeguards negative liberty. As the book unfolds, an argument is developed that hard market forces must lose their ascendancy in much the same way the socialist state must be stripped of its unaccountable authority. The associational anarchist configuration of social planning with a guild-regulated market system is offered as the necessary corrective.

Chris Wyatt

This short chapter brings together in a few summary paragraphs the new forms of associational anarchism’s hybrid constitution, the kernel of which is a democratic pluralism organised through a specific functional devolution. It is true that certain social anarchist tenets have been modified. This is especially so with regards to a role for a body-politic, an ethic of representation, hierarchical structures, self-legislation and centralisation, together with a weakened commitment to strict economic equality of outcome. The chapter indicates though that the content of associational anarchism’s essential maxims – in particular the new forms of local decision-making, self-governance and the universalisation of creative forms of labour – are still very much anarchist in essence. In order to minimise the powers of the commune to the absolute minimum, a subordinated role for a market mechanism in the field of consumption goods had to be admitted. But the mild guild market system, regulated horizontally through the networks of public agencies – rather than through hard markets forces, plutocrats or intervening states – is constituted through a pluralised egalitarian control over the means of production, where there is neither a capitalist class nor a dominant role for capital. As huge concentrations and centralisations of capital and wealth cannot accumulate, equality of opportunity is more sustainable than it is in systems of untrammelled markets. The chapter concludes by confirming the ways in which the institutional arrangements within and between the guilds and consumer councils complement the twentieth-century anarchist notion of developed selfhood.

in Associational anarchism
Chris Wyatt

This short chapter provides a speculative account of what the realm of freedom in associational anarchism entails. Here desires are not ranked in any order in the sense that no reference is made to the collective or individual higher-self. Where uniform procedures emerge, they will be accommodated within the civic sphere of a functional mode of organisation. This social domain is constituted through the cultural and health councils, which are required to work in union with the corresponding education and health guilds. In the process of stabilising a cooperative and complementary relationship with the civic guilds, the civic councils will assume an additional role insofar as they will also maintain the public arenas through which the physical and spiritual pursuits of local populations, the aim-independent ‘ends in themselves’, will take place. Their method of operation is explained through an inquiry into whether Marx’s communism has any role in liberal freedom, which includes a discussion on the contrast between the values of pluralism and monism. The chapter argues that this book’s redirection of Marx’s critique of capital along an associational anarchist path has profound consequences for life in the realm of freedom, which departs radically from how it turns out wherever the realm of necessity is planned and administered through a centralised authority. Certain conjectures are put forward that suggest the realm of freedom will, within its anarchist-sensitive value-pluralism, engender a very different set of values to those typically endorsed in bourgeois society.

in Associational anarchism
Abstract only
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
Abstract only
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
Abstract only
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