Reviving anarchism

December 14th, 2010 § 0 comments

 Henry Farrell on two semi-academic books on the history of anarchism:

the “Wrong Address” theory of nationalism, under which History was supposed to confer group consciousness and solidarity upon Class, yet somehow ended up delivering it to Nationality instead

This loose network Anderson describes was genuinely global. Its participants were comfortable speaking several different languages. Indeed (and this is Anderson’s key argument), both 19th-century anarchists and nationalists always spoke to a world audience. They were caught within a world system that had been created by corrupt European powers that were now losing influence and control. Both anarchists and nationalists sought to break this system up. When they acted, they were acutely aware that they were being observed by audiences both foreign and domestic. They acted precisely so that the whole world would take note.

The Art of Not Being Governed fits together nicely with its predecessor, Seeing Like a State, as a landmark work of early 21st-century social science. The two books have complementary arguments; The Art of Not Being Governed might equally well have been titled The People States Can’t See. It is, first and foremost, a history of escape from the state, chronicling the stories of the various peoples who have fled to highlands, swamps and archipelagos where the state cannot easily reach them. Scott’s particular object of study is “Zomia”, the mountain marches of Southeast Asia that stretch from southern China down to Laos and northern Thailand, taking in parts of Burma and eastern India. Scott calls Zomia a “shatter zone” that has actively resisted incorporation into the various states around it and served as a refuge for peoples fleeing those states.

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