Two Cheers for Anarchism: Six Easy Pieces on Autonomy, Dignity, and Meaningful Work and Play
James C. Scott
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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.
progress and renewal appear instead to depend vitally on major episodes of extra-institutional disorder is massively in contradiction to the promise of democracy as the institutionalization of peaceful change. And it is just as surely a failure of democratic political theory that it has not come to grips with the central role of crisis and institutional failure in those major episodes of social and political reform when the political system is relegitimated. It would be wrong and, in fact,
scientific forestry had radically reduced its diversity. The lack of tree species diversity was replicated at every level in this stripped-down forest: in the poverty of insect species, of birds, of mammals, of lichen, of mosses, of fungi, of flora in general. The planners had created a green desert, and nature had struck back. In little more than a century, the successors of those who had made scientific forestry famous in turn made the terms “forest death” (Waldsterben) and “restoration
sisters who had arrived together the year before. After introducing myself and explaining why I wanted to hear about their experience, I listened as they praised their care with animation and some enthusiasm. “Another suitable place,” I began to think. Just then, the phone could be heard ringing faintly in the distance at the nurses’ station. The nurse excused herself, explaining that they were always a bit shorthanded on Sunday, and sped down the hall to answer the phone. The moment she was
Fund, anti–World Bank movement would have gone largely unnoticed. The hardest case, but one increasingly common among marginalized communities, is the generalized riot, often with looting, that is more an inchoate cry of anger and alienation with no coherent demand or claim. Precisely because it is so inarticulate and arises among the least organized sectors of society, it appears more menacing; there is no particular demand to address, nor are there any obvious leaders with whom to negotiate.
CHAPTER SIX Particularity and Flux 1. François Rochat and Andre Modigliani, “The Ordinary Quality of Resistance: From Milgram’s Laboratory to the Village of Le Chambon,” Journal of Social Issues 51, no. 3 (1995): 195–210. 2. The Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., recognizes the power of particularity by giving every visitor a card with an individual photograph of a Jew whose particular fate they learn only at the end of the visit. 3. Most of these plaques were not a state initiative