Archive | May 3, 2009

Dialectical Anarchism: Mind the Gap

Murray BookchinThe late Murray Bookchin famously claimed that the gap between “social anarchism” and “lifestyle anarchism” was unbridgeable. Over at IAS, John Clark has an excellent essay challenging Bookchin’s thesis. Particularly noteworthy is the following passage:

The idea that there is an “unbridgeable chasm” between two viewpoints that share certain common presuppositions and goals, and whose practices are in some ways interrelated, is a bit suspect from the outset. It is particularly problematic when proposed by a thinker like Bookchin, who claims to hold a dialectical perspective. Whereas nondialectical thought merely opposes one reality to another in an abstract manner, or else places them inertly beside one another, a dialectical analysis examines the ways in which various realities presuppose one another, constitute one another, challenge the identity of one another, and push one another to the limits of their development. Accordingly, one important quality of such an analysis is that it helps those with divergent viewpoints see the ways in which their positions are not mutually exclusive but can instead be mutually realized in a further development of each.

I find this quotation useful in thinking not just about the specific opposition that Bookchin put forward but likewise about a number of other divides in our movement. When social anarchists tell us that anarcho-capitalists aren’t really anarchists, or when right-libertarians tell us that mutualists aren’t really libertarians, it might be worth replying with this quotation or something like it.

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