We are nearing the end of the year and November was another fantastic month for the Center for a Stateless Society. We were honored to be able to publish a Portuguese translation of Kevin Carson’s The Iron Fist Behind the Invisible Hand and included a brand new introduction, by Carson, just for our Portuguese speaking readers. Our Portuguese speaking writers and translators are amazing and our growing presence in Brazil is humbling. Our Brazilian fans are the most active and engaged part of our social media outreach. Our C4SS Portuguese facebook “like” page has already reached 3,000 likes, up from 2,000, in only two months. At this rate of growth, I wouldn’t be surprised if Centro por uma Sociedade Sem Estado eclipses our C4SS English facebook counterpart in traffic and support by 2017.
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What will $5 a month get you from C4SS? Well let’s see,
For the month of November, C4SS published:
2 Weekly Abolitionists,
1 Missing Comma,
5 Weekly Libertarian Leftist Reviews,
2 Blog posts,
2 Reviews, and
16 C4SS Media uploads to the C4SS youtube channel.
And, thanks to the dedication of our Media Coordinators and translators, C4SS translated and published:
3 Italian translations,
4 Spanish translations,
9 Portuguese translations
Fellows on Patreon
Kevin Carson and Thomas Knapp have both popped up on the creator supporting site Patreon. Patreon allows individual to directly support their favorite creators, or in this case, left-libertarian writers. You can pledge any amount that fits your budget or enjoyment of their work, and, for certain pledged amounts, they offer bonuses.
C4SS Study: Power and Property
C4SS Fellow, Grant Mincy, has complete the first of two full length studies for C4SS on the topics of power, property, commons governance and ecology. The first, Power and Property: A Corollary, takes us through a sketch of how property and power share a mutually determining relationship that can either liberate or destroy us. He then gives a history of the people, institutions, flora, fauna and biome of the Appalachian Mountains; using the setting as a backdrop for describing and explaining the interconnected relationship between power and property.
When thinking of Appalachia, I am amazed by the sheer amount of water in the region. Imagine a drop of water falling from the sky over the rolling mountain ecosystem. As it plummets towards the Earth, a vast green valley and ridge awaits it. The water may land on a mountaintop, perhaps on the limbs of a great Eastern Hemlock, only to join with countless other molecules and make its way to the topsoil. The water would either provide nutrients to the local plant community or make its way into the ground where millions of microbes and bacteria await to naturally filter the precious resource. Water could escape to fresh mountain springs, to be lapped up by a number of animals or perhaps travel further still — until a great turn in the rocky slope takes it to the beginnings of a trickling stream. Here, the water will travel along the river continuum, passing vast aquatic communities, providing habitat for some of the regions incredible, endemic biodiversity. The water will carve and erode ancient rock, just to lay the sediments that will one day tell future travelers about our unique place in history. Water is nourishment, and it is incredibly important to this regions ecology.
In the final analysis, any individual or institution with a claim to property wields power. When the libertarian examines property rights, they must consider systems of power, domination, enclosure and assimilation. If one is to mix labor with land, the individual(s) hold dominion over it. A claim to property is a claim to power, but where should such power lie? If we wish for a society rooted in liberty, then there exist a necessary reclaiming of the commons. Full commitment to liberty demands both the individual and the collective.
Kevin Carson has just turned in his latest study, his eighteenth study for C4SS, surveying the Kropotkinian anarchism of Colin Ward. We expect to publish this study by the end of December.
The Communism of Everyday Life
We were finally able to publish Kevin Carson’s anticipated review of David Graeber’s Debt: The First 5,000 Years this month. It complements nicely last month’s Debt… review, Debt: The Possibilities Ignored, by William Gillis.
David Graeber is one of the social theorists, along with Pyotr Kropotkin, James C. Scott, Elinor Ostrom and Colin Ward, that offers invaluable insights into how a stateless society is likely to look and feel. Graeber also offers us important historical and analytical tools for identifying weak points in the state’s hold over our lives and drawing attention to those existing aspects of our lives that offer a bulwark against the state and possibilities for expanding liberty. As Kevin Carson summarizes:
If we look at things in another few decades, I think, I think we will see a world in which surviving states, corporations and other hierarchical institutions are much weaker and much smaller, the major portion of social life will be coordinated by self-organized, horizontal institutions like local markets, p2p networks and social commons, and average people have a degree of control over the circumstances of their daily lives unprecedented since the hunter-gather era or the pre-state agrarian village.
Graeber’s book, and the view of human nature presented in it, is a tribute to the fact that — in the words of the Inuit hunter’s declaration — we are human; and because we are human we help each other. We have done this since our hunter-gather origins, long before the rise of states, and states — despite their pretensions of the contrary — have acted largely to suppress this human tendency or subvert it, in the interest of making us easier for one parasitic ruling class after another to exploit.
Jester’s for the Warfare State
Ryan Calhoun‘s article, Jon Stewart, Jester for the Warfare State, struck a chord, positively and negatively, with audiences that see him as an important critique against the absurdity of state power and those that see him as running interference for the status quo against radical levelling alternatives to the state altogether.
Stewart is a Fool. He will apologize to the King and his Court for disrespecting their most holy of political processes and go back to smashing pies in people’s faces as if that makes him different. He is in reality an integral part of the mechanism which maintains the legitimacy of the warfare state. His opinions differ in only boring, trivial minutia from your average Neocon. He must apologize because he realizes he doesn’t just mock the system but himself. He will never have to apologize for his comments on the draft. He will never have to apologize for his worship of Harry Truman. Frankly, as a fan of comedy and honesty, I wouldn’t want him to. Stewart has his beliefs and I want him to be open about them. I want to know who the warmongers are and who the fools are. I know now, like I never knew before, that he is a jester for murderers. Analysis of his comedy above that level is an insult to Carlin and to every revolutionary mind that made American comedy more than just a late night TV gag.
Privatization as a Means for Disaster Capitalism
Kevin Carson’s Detroit, Disaster Capitalism and the Enclosure of the Water Commons offers us a powerful look at the false promises of “privatizing” our way towards liberty. He summarizes the “privatization cycle” as a means for Disaster Capitalists to subsidize and expand modern day enclosures of common pool resources.
The typical “privatization cycle” occurs as follows:
First, a basic infrastructure is created at taxpayer expense, either funded directly by taxpayer revenues or by bonds that will be repaid by the taxpayers. When it’s a country outside the US — especially a Third World country — foreign aid or World Bank loans may also help fund the project.
The infrastructure’s main purpose is usually to provide below-cost water or electric utilities, transportation, etc., to big business interests. In the Third World, that means foreign aid and World Bank loans to build the local power, water and transportation infrastructure needed to make Western capital investments (like offshored production) profitable. In California, the whole corporate agribusiness sector depends on massively subsidized water from government-funded dams. And as we will see below, large-scale business and industrial water consumers in Detroit have received preferential treatment like forbearance on tens of thousands of dollars in past-due water bills, while ordinary household ratepayers in poor neighborhoods are treated without mercy.
Second, Disaster Capitalists (to use Naomi Klein’s term) seize on opportunities presented by US-sponsored coups (like Pinochet and Yeltsin), economic meltdowns (the European periphery and Detroit) and military regime change (the US invasion of Iraq) to coerce governments into selling off that debt-financed infrastructure to global capital. And the Disaster Capitalist toolkit includes using such debt (either to bondholders or to foreign lenders), and fiscal insolvency from debt, in exactly the same way as debt peonage or debt to a company store — to blackmail government entities into “privatizing” their infrastructure to “private” (but politically connected) corporations or to domestic kleptocrats. The purchase price is a sweetheart deal, pennies on the dollar, because of the purchasing corporations’ insider ties to the political authorities selling off the goods.
Third, governments frequently spend more in capital investments to make the “privatized” infrastructure salable than they realize from the sale of it.
Fourth, the first item on the agenda of the corporation acquiring the newly “privatized” infrastructure is typically asset-stripping — jacking up rates, using the revenues as a cash cow, and simultaneously starving it of needed maintenance expenditures. The asset-stripping frequently yields more in returns, in a short time, than the company paid for the infrastructure.
And fifth — as Nicholas Hildyard pointed out in “The Myth of the Minimalist State: Free Market Ambiguities” (Corner House Briefing 05, March 1998) — far from operating as a “free market” actor, the newly “privatized” utility or other infrastructure usually operates within a web of state subsidies and protections that more or less guarantee it a profit.
The Production of Uncertainty
Grant Mincy describes the terrifying process of community disempowerment and manufactured consent through the dual monocropping effects of uncertainty and narrative control in his On the Horizon: Quiescence and the Production of Uncertainty.
Quiescence is often used to portray the legitimacy of systems of power and domination. The state seeks social and economic stability and utilizes power to ensure such stability. Because of this, systems of power and domination are maintained not because of their legitimacy, but because of quiescence itself. This is the very nature of power: Maintain the existing order by further centralization.
The tools of uncertainty manufacture consent. From disasters such as the TVA ash spill, the BP Horizon incident, or any industrial disaster, the public arena is dismissed while government/industry scientists, state agencies and the corporate sector dominate the discussion. This allows systems of power and domination, as explained by Button, to both define and control the distribution and interpretation of knowledge, while community members are made to feel as if they are arbitrators of uncertainty. Furthermore, Sociologist Max Weber notes that power systems wish to increase the superiority of the professionally informed by keeping knowledge and intention a secret. This allows the elite to hide knowledge and keep their actions protected from criticism. The control of the discussion governs what is understood about disasters — manufactured uncertainty produces quiescence.
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