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Paperback Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism : An Unbridgeable Chasm Book

ISBN: 187317683X

ISBN13: 9781873176832

Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism : An Unbridgeable Chasm

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Book Overview

This book asks and tries to answer several basic questions that affect all Leftists today. Will anarchism remain a revolutionary social movement or become a chic boutique lifestyle subculture? Will its primary goals be the complete transformation of a hierarchical, class, and irrational society into a libertarian communist one? Or will it become an ideology focused on personal well-being, spiritual redemption, and self-realization within the existing...

Customer Reviews

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The chasm has widened beyond view...

Murray Bookchin's honest eye-opening piece, "Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism: An Unbridgeable Chasm," rightfully and finally asks the question that had been festering in the anarchist movement since the days of Proudhon; either anarchism will be social or it will be lifestyle. Ultimatley Bookchin would break with anarchism, "I'm tired of defending anarchism against the anarchists": "I do not fault myself for trying to expand the horizon of anarchism in the sixties along cultural lines. I regret only that I failed, not that I saw the wrong possibilities for profoundly changing our society. Tragically, many self-professed American anarchists didn't even try to do much back then and have since abandoned their convictions for private life and academic careers. Surely failure doesn't mean that one shouldn't try?" I cannot summarize anymore about what this piece is about other than what its title states; George Woodcock turned out to be right--anarchists had no taste for democracy. At least Murray had the satisfaction of knowing he had tried. In the end, his loyalty to democracy as a concept and a praxis was stronger than his loyalty to anarchism. So when he had to choose between them, he chose democracy. In continuance with his wirings on libertarian municipalism, Murray in his later years of life settled on democratic communalism as his vision for a future non-hierarchical, free and egalitarian society based upon a confederation of municipalities based on community control. For further references see: "Bookchin Breaks With Anarchism", an article written by his longtime companion Janet Biehl in order to clarify why Murray split with anarchism: [...]

All those who identify as Anarchists need to read and grapple with this book

Written some ten years ago, Bookchin's devasating and concise critique is even more relevant today then when it was written. Anarchism today in the English speaking world especially is in a state of total disarray, having its socialistic core washed away and its previous concern for genuine change and an actual social revolution destroyed. In 1999 Bookchin, as a result of what was happening to Anarchism in the West, broke with Anarchism while remaining a revolutionary libertarian socialist -- a specific form of lbertarian socialism he has termed Communalism. One cannot blame Bookchin at all for his action. For he had seen a movement he had participated in for some 40 years collapsing around him into a bourgeoisized mystical, New Age, misanthropic, anti-civilizational, cult for middle class kids who want to simply "do there own thing" but not actually do anything that might genuinely challenge the establishment. Bookchin may very well be vindicated in the end as the movement he left behind dissolves into irrelevancy, his leaving it and moving to a genuinely revolutionary democratic and libertarian philosophy, program, and ideal may help someday bring the Left back its ethical vision of a free and just world. Hopefully some person interested in Anarchism will read this and learn that if Anarchism is to have any relevance in the struggle for human liberation, it must ask itself some very difficult questions, hopefully Bookchin's book will provoke them to do just that and create a movement that might actually change the world for the better.

a grumpy man that should be heard

I'll concede that Bookchin comes across like a grumpy old man. On the other hand, he has a deep insight that close attention should be paid to. He makes a distinction between freedom and autonomy, and points out that freedom is a social condition which precedes autonomy. Autonomy has become sacrosanct in our American culture. Bookchin gives scathing critiques of a few anarchist books with ideas that overemphasize autonomy at the expense of social freedom. I've been thinking lately about the practical ramifications for the insight of the anarchist principle. Do we vote? The idea of an anarchist system sounds contradictory. But I think you will find in this book, a new way of thinking about these kinds of problems. I highly recommend it.

Long on Polemics, Short (but sweet) on Positive Vision

This book contains "a short note to the reader" and two essays. At 86 pages, it looks to be a short, fast read. It isn't. (I started reading in Anchorage, continued reading during an hour layover in Seattle, and finished about 20 minutes before arriving in LA!) Bookchin stakes out his reasons for writing the first essay in a "note to the reader" that begins with:"Anarchists have formed neither a coherent program nor a revolutionary organization to provide a direction for the mass discontent that contemporary society is creating. Instead, this discontent is being abosrbed by political reactionaries and channeled into hostility toward ethnic minorities, immigrants, and the poor and marinal, such as single mothers, the homeless, the elderly, and even environmentalists, who are being depicted as the principal sources of contemporary social problems ... Thousands of self-styled anarchists have slowly surrendered the social core of anarchist ideas to the all-pervasive Yuppie and New Age personalism that marks this decadent, bourgeosified era." (p. 1)He goes on to point out that:"The various oppressions that [capitalism] inflicts upon society have been grossly imputed to the impact of 'technology,' not the underlying social relationships between capital and labor, structured around an all-pervasive marketplace economy that has penetrated into every sphere of life, from culture to friendships and family." (p. 2)Looking back to the roots of anarchism (Emma Goldman, the Wobblies), he decries:"They demanded a revolution -- a _social_ revolution -- without which these aesthetic and psychological goals could not be achieved for humanity as a whole ... regrettably, this revolutionary endeavor, indeed the high-minded idealism and class consciousness on which it rests, is central to fewer and fewer of the self-styled anarchists I encounter today." (p 3)Bookchin then launches into his first essay, dedicating 52 pages to attacking what he calls Lifestyle Anarchism and then five pages to Social Anarchism. This annoys me more than anything else. I would much rather have seen a balanced treatment, spending another 50 some pages to outline his vision of Social Anarchism. The heart of his polemics seems to be attacking the substitution of an egoistic, undisciplined, do-your-own-thing mentality for solidarity and revolutionary commitment. He takes issue with those who promote an "individualism" unconnected with community, noting that the individual arises out of, is nurtured by, and co-creates with community. He assails those who promote anarchism as mere chaos. Similarly, he goes after those who would take refuge in mysticism at the expense of social analysis and concrete revolutionary commitment. He refutes those who see "technology" as THE problem, demonstrating that neo-ludditism is no substitute for a rational anarchy. (Had he read Rianne Eisler's The Chalice and the Blade, he might have picked up some even more powerful arguments here.) He concludes that:"A bourg

Great, much needed criticism

Bookchin does an excellent job in critiquing the "lifestyle anarchism" that permeates much of the left. Instead of working for social justice activism, lifestylists would rather retreat into mysticism and petty-bourgeois subcultures. Analyzes many of the key theorists of this genre. Good resource for serious left activists.
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