Two Cheers for Anarchism: Six Easy Pieces on Autonomy, Dignity, and Meaningful Work and Play
James C. Scott
James Scott taught us what's wrong with seeing like a state. Now, in his most accessible and personal book to date, the acclaimed social scientist makes the case for seeing like an anarchist. Inspired by the core anarchist faith in the possibilities of voluntary cooperation without hierarchy, Two Cheers for Anarchism is an engaging, high-spirited, and often very funny defense of an anarchist way of seeing--one that provides a unique and powerful perspective on everything from everyday social and political interactions to mass protests and revolutions. Through a wide-ranging series of memorable anecdotes and examples, the book describes an anarchist sensibility that celebrates the local knowledge, common sense, and creativity of ordinary people. The result is a kind of handbook on constructive anarchism that challenges us to radically reconsider the value of hierarchy in public and private life, from schools and workplaces to retirement homes and government itself.
Beginning with what Scott calls "the law of anarchist calisthenics," an argument for law-breaking inspired by an East German pedestrian crossing, each chapter opens with a story that captures an essential anarchist truth. In the course of telling these stories, Scott touches on a wide variety of subjects: public disorder and riots, desertion, poaching, vernacular knowledge, assembly-line production, globalization, the petty bourgeoisie, school testing, playgrounds, and the practice of historical explanation.
Far from a dogmatic manifesto, Two Cheers for Anarchism celebrates the anarchist confidence in the inventiveness and judgment of people who are free to exercise their creative and moral capacities.
Coordinating Committee, let alone the older, mainstream civil rights organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Congress on Racial Equality, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The enthusiasm, spontaneity, and creativity of the cascading social movement ran far ahead of the organizations wishing to represent, coordinate, and channel it. Again, it was the widespread disruption, caused in large part by the violent reaction of
rules may prove more accurate than apparently more exact systems. A case in point is the advice given by Squanto to white settlers in New England about when to plant a crop new to them, maize. He reportedly told them to “plant corn when the oak leaves were the size of a squirrel’s ear.” An eighteenth-century farmer’s almanac, by contrast, would typically advise planting, say, “after the first full moon in May,” or else would specify a particular date. One imagines that the almanac publisher would
workers refuse this objectification and boredom, asserting their autonomy in creative ways. Modern agribusiness has, almost diabolically, managed to exploit the desire for small property and autonomy to its own advantage. The practice of contract farming in poultry-raising is a diagnostic example.10 Knowing that huge confinement operations are epidemiologically dangerous, the largest firms subcontract the raising of fryers to “independent” farmers. The subcontractor is solely responsible for
forms, and it seems useful to distinguish them by how articulate they are and whether or not they lay claim to the moral high ground of democratic politics. Thus, disruption aimed at realizing or expanding democratic freedoms—such as abolition, women’s suffrage, or desegregation—articulate a specific claim to occupy the high ground of democratic rights. What about massive disruptions aimed at achieving the eight-hour workday or the withdrawal of troops from Vietnam, or, more nebulous, opposition
Thomas Jefferson, vol. 1, 1858, p. 437. 6. Barrington Moore, Jr., Injustice: The Social Basis of Obedience (Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 1978). 7. Robert E. Lane, Political Ideology: Why the American Common Man Believes What He Does (Glencoe, IL: Free Press, 1962). 8. Steven H. Hahn, The Roots of Southern Populism: Yeoman Farmers and the Transformation of the Georgia Upcountry (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984). 9. See, e.g., Alf Ludke, “Organizational Order or Eigensinn? Workers’ Privacy