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:: Anarchists off the starboard bow

My mom, of all people, had me track down this book, The Coming Insurrection. It sounded intriguing, so I got myself a copy as well. The alleged authors ("the invisible committee") were arrested by the French government who labeled it a "manual for terrorism," which means I'm now probably on everyone's Watch List from Homeland Security to the French Foreign Legion (thanks, Mom!).

It's a strange little book. These folks are clearly anarchists; while some of their criticisms of modern society ("Today's work is tied less to the economic necessity of producing goods, than to the political necessity of producing...consumers") have merit, their solutions (shoplift, plunder and loot, but also learn how to grow tomatoes so when the stores are empty you'll have something to fall back on?) don't seem to have much long-term viability. Much of it is just plain incoherent (one review called it "elegant...eloquent" -- all I can say is they must have had a different translation from mine!). Here's an example of their daffy logic, talking about the evils of work:

Individuals are possessed of so little life that they have to earn a living, to sell their time in exchange for a modicum of social existence...[but] the commune eludes work...they put their benefits in common and acquire clothing workshops, a bakery, putting in place the gardens that they need.

What they fail to grasp, seemingly, is that keeping a garden viable is work. In fact, it's a hell of a lot MORE work than sitting in an office. As is making your own clothing or running a bakery. So where's the benefit? How will I have more free time if I join a commune where I have to make or grow all my own food (which maybe I don't ENJOY doing) instead of getting a fair wage for work I DO enjoy, which I can then exchange for tasty goodies grown by people who also enjoyed their work?? There's just no sense to it. Here's another: Things like jogging, karate, fishing, what have you are, they say, all artificial hobbies invented by a desperate need to fill up spare time, yet they argue that going their route we will have MORE spare time which, presumably, we would fill with...what?

They tear down everything but have nothing to offer in its place. Money is evil, work is slavery, capitalism is exploitation, education is pointless, yadda yadda yadda. Well now, I think barter's all very well -- but once civilization has broken down into their ideal of tiny little communes, how do they think a commune in northern Europe will avoid scurvy if all they have to offer the traveling merchant from Egypt as barter for his lemons is some nice Roquefort Blue, which will melt or go moldy (ok, moldiER) long before he can get it home to Cairo? (Where they won't want it anyway because feta's so much better, and local to boot, ha ha!) Growing your own food is great -- but who's going to run their nuclear power plants so they don't have to take time out from cultivating haricots verts to make candles? Will we start paying the local doctor in chickens again -- and what if he doesn't want any more chickens but chickens are all you've got?

Pfffft. They've stated the problem in some interesting ways but their solutions are just plain wacky. The French government (and Glen Beck, of course) gave it WAAAAAY more attention than it deserves.


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Jul. 26th, 2009 04:01 pm (UTC)
Pie crust, yes, damn it, now THERE'S some serious work worth doing! Yes, you have put your finger on it: all this free time will be used for, and I quote, "a liberation of energy that no 'time' contains; lines that take shape, that accentuate each other, that we can follow at our leisure, to their ends, until we see them cross with others." Er, huh?

Email me your address and I'll send you my copy so you need not attract the attention of the Lurkers In The Ether. Also that way when they come for me the incriminating evidence will be gone, heh heh heh.

[Addendum: In keeping with their anticapitalist views, the full text of the book is available online here. But you can still have mine if you prefer not to stare at a tiny screen, or want the freedom to scrawl rude ripostes in the margin as you read.]

Edited at 2009-07-26 04:06 pm (UTC)
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