Murray Bookchin in Burlington, VT in 1990
|Born||January 14, 1921|
New York City, New York
|Died||July 30, 2006(2006-07-30) (aged 85)|
|School||Anarchist communism; later, social ecology, libertarian municipalism, Communalism|
|Social hierarchy, dialectics, post-scarcity anarchism, libertarian socialism, ethics, environmental sustainability, conservationism, history of popular revolutionary movements|
|Social ecology, Communalism, libertarian municipalism, dialectical naturalism|
Murray Bookchin (January 14, 1921 – July 30, 2006) was an American social theorist, author, orator, historian, and political philosopher. A pioneer in the ecology movement, Bookchin formulated and developed the theory of social ecology within anarchist, libertarian socialist, and ecological thought. He was the author of two dozen books covering topics in politics, philosophy, history, urban affairs, and ecology. Among the most important were Our Synthetic Environment (1962), Post-Scarcity Anarchism (1971) and The Ecology of Freedom (1982). In the late 1990s he became disenchanted with the increasingly apolitical lifestylism of the contemporary anarchist movement, stopped referring to himself as an anarchist, and founded his own libertarian socialist ideology called Communalism.
Bookchin was a prominent anti-capitalist and advocate of society's decentralisation along ecological and democratic lines. His ideas have influenced social movements since the 1960s, including the New Left, the Anti-Nuclear Movement, the Anti-Globalization Movement, Occupy Wall Street, and more recently, the democratic confederalism of Rojava. He was a central figure in the American Green Movement and the Burlington Greens.
Bookchin was born in New York City to RussianJewish immigrants Nathan Bookchin and Rose (Kaluskaya) Bookchin. He grew up in the Bronx, where his grandmother, Zeitel, a Socialist Revolutionary, imbued him with Russian populist ideas. After her death in 1930, he joined the Young Pioneers, the Communist youth organization (for children 9 to 14)  and the Young Communist League (for older children) in 1935. He attended the Workers School near Union Square, where he studied Marxism. In the late 1930s he broke with Stalinism and gravitated toward Trotskyism, joining the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). In the early 1940s he worked in a foundry in Bayonne, New Jersey where he was an organizer and shop steward for the United Electrical Workers as well as a recruiter for the SWP. Within the SWP he adhered to the Goldman-Morrow faction, which broke away after the war ended. He was an auto worker and UAW member at the time of the great General Motors strike of 1945-46. In 1949, while speaking to a Zionist youth organization at City College, Bookchin met a mathematics student, Beatrice Appelstein, whom he married in 1951. They were married for 12 years and lived together for 35, remaining close friends and political allies for the rest of his life. They had two children, Debbie, and Joseph.
From 1947, he collaborated with a fellow lapsed Trotskyist, the German expatriate Josef Weber, in New York in the Movement for a Democracy of Content, a group of 20 or so post-Trotskyists who collectively edited the periodical Contemporary Issues – A Magazine for a Democracy of Content. Contemporary Issues embraced utopianism. The periodical provided a forum for the belief that previous attempts to create utopia had foundered on the necessity of toil and drudgery; but now modern technology had obviated the need for human toil, a liberatory development. To achieve this "post-scarcity" society, Bookchin developed a theory of ecological decentralism. The magazine published Bookchin's first articles, including the pathbreaking "The Problem of Chemicals in Food" (1952). In 1958, Bookchin defined himself as an anarchist, seeing parallels between anarchism and ecology. His first book, Our Synthetic Environment, was published under the pseudonym Lewis Herber in 1962, a few months before Rachel Carson's Silent Spring. The book described a broad range of environmental ills but received little attention because of its political radicalism.
In 1964, Bookchin joined the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and protested racism at the 1964 World's Fair. During 1964-67, while living on Manhattan's Lower East Side, he cofounded and was the principal figure in the New York Federation of Anarchists. His groundbreaking essay "Ecology and Revolutionary Thought" introduced ecology as a concept in radical politics. In 1968 he founded another group that published the influential Anarchos magazine, which published that and other innovative essays on post-scarcity and on ecological technologies such as solar and wind energy, and on decentralization and miniaturization. Lecturing throughout the United States, he helped popularize the concept of ecology to the counterculture. His widely republished 1969 essay Listen, Marxist! warned Students for a Democratic Society (in vain) against an impending takeover by a Marxist group. "Once again the dead are walking in our midst," he wrote, "ironically, draped in the name of Marx, the man who tried to bury the dead of the nineteenth century. So the revolution of our own day can do nothing better than parody, in turn, the October Revolution of 1917 and the civil war of 1918-1920, with its 'class line,' its Bolshevik Party, its 'proletarian dictatorship,' its puritanical morality, and even its slogan, 'Soviet power'". These and other influential 1960s essays are anthologized in Post-Scarcity Anarchism (1971)
In 1969-1970, he taught at Alternate U, a counter-cultural radical school based on 14th Street in Manhattan. In 1971, he moved to Burlington, Vermont with a group of friends, to put into practice his ideas of decentralization. In the fall of 1973, he was hired by Goddard College to lecture on technology; his lectures led to a teaching position and to the creation of the Social Ecology Studies program in 1974 and the Institute for Social Ecology soon thereafter, of which he became the director. In 1974, he was hired by Ramapo College in Mahwah, New Jersey, where he quickly became a full professor. The ISE was a hub for experimentation and study of appropriate technology in the 1970s. In 1977-78 he was a member of the Spruce Mountain Affinity Group of the Clamshell Alliance. Also in 1977, he published The Spanish Anarchists, a history of the Spanish anarchist movement up to the revolution of 1936. During this period, Bookchin forged some ties with the nascent libertarian movement. "He spoke at a Libertarian Party convention and contributed to a newsletter edited by Karl Hess. In 1976, he told a Libertarian activist that 'If I were a voting man, I'd vote for MacBride' — LP nominee Roger MacBride, that is."
In From Urbanization to Cities (published in 1987 as The Rise of Urbanization and the Decline of Citizenship), Bookchin traced the democratic traditions that influenced his political philosophy and defined the implementation of the libertarian municipalism concept. A few years later, The Politics of Social Ecology, written by his partner of 20 years, Janet Biehl, briefly summarized these ideas.
In 1995, Bookchin lamented the decline of American anarchism into primitivism, anti-technologism, neo-situationism, individual self-expression, and "ad hoc adventurism," at the expense of forming a social movement. Arthur Verslius said, "Bookchin... describes himself as a 'social anarchist' because he looks forward to a (gentle) societal revolution.... Bookchin has lit out after those whom he terms 'lifestyle anarchists.'" The publication of Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism in 1995, criticizing this tendency, was startling to anarchists. Thereafter Bookchin concluded that American anarchism was essentially individualistic and broke with anarchism publicly in 1999. He placed his ideas into a new political ideology: Communalism (spelled with a capital "C" to differentiate it from other forms of communalism), a form of libertarian socialism that retains his ideas about assembly democracy and the necessity of decentralization of settlement, power/money/influence, agriculture, manufacturing, etc.
In addition to his political writings, Bookchin wrote extensively on philosophy, calling his ideas dialectical naturalism. The dialectical writings of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, which articulate a developmental philosophy of change and growth, seemed to him to lend themselves to an organic, even ecological approach. Although Hegel "exercised a considerable influence" on Bookchin, he was not, in any sense, a Hegelian. His later philosophical writings emphasize humanism, rationality, and the ideals of the Enlightenment. His last major published work was The Third Revolution, a four-volume history of the libertarian movements in European and American revolutions.
He continued to teach at the ISE until 2004. Bookchin died of congestive heart failure on July 30, 2006, at his home in Burlington at the age of 85.
General sociological and psychological views
Bookchin was critical of class-centered analysis of Marxism and simplistic anti-state forms of libertarianism and liberalism and wished to present what he saw as a more complex view of societies. In The Ecology of Freedom: The Emergence and Dissolution of Hierarchy, he says that:
My use of the word hierarchy in the subtitle of this work is meant to be provocative. There is a strong theoretical need to contrast hierarchy with the more widespread use of the words class and State; careless use of these terms can produce a dangerous simplification of social reality. To use the words hierarchy, class, and State interchangeably, as many social theorists do, is insidious and obscurantist. This practice, in the name of a "classless" or "libertarian" society, could easily conceal the existence of hierarchical relationships and a hierarchical sensibility, both of which-even in the absence of economic exploitation or political coercion-would serve to perpetuate unfreedom.
Bookchin also points to an accumulation of hierarchical systems throughout history that has occurred up to contemporary societies which tends to determine the human collective and individual psyche:
The objective history of the social structure becomes internalized as a subjective history of the psychic structure. Heinous as my view may be to modern Freudians, it is not the discipline of work but the discipline of rule that demands the repression of internal nature. This repression then extends outward to external nature as a mere object of rule and later of exploitation. This mentality permeates our individual psyches in a cumulative form up to the present day-not merely as capitalism but as the vast history of hierarchical society from its inception.
Main article: Social ecology
In the essay "What Is Social Ecology?" Bookchin summarizes the meaning of social ecology as follows:
Social ecology is based on the conviction that nearly all of our present ecological problems originate in deep-seated social problems. It follows, from this view, that these ecological problems cannot be understood, let alone solved, without a careful understanding of our existing society and the irrationalities that dominate it. To make this point more concrete: economic, ethnic, cultural, and gender conflicts, among many others, lie at the core of the most serious ecological dislocations we face today—apart, to be sure, from those that are produced by natural catastrophes.
Starting in the 1970s, Bookchin argued that the arena for libertarian social change should be the municipal level. In a 2001 interview he summarized his views this way: "The overriding problem is to change the structure of society so that people gain power. The best arena to do that is the municipality—the city, town, and village—where we have an opportunity to create a face-to-face democracy." In 1980 Bookchin used the term "libertarian municipalism", to describe a system in which libertarian institutions of directly democratic assemblies would oppose and replace the state with a confederation of free municipalities. Libertarian municipalism intends to create a situation in which the two powers—the municipal confederations and the nation-state—cannot coexist. Its supporters—Communalists—believe it to be the means to achieve a rational society, and its structure becomes the organization of society.
Legacy and influence
Though Bookchin, by his own recognition, failed to win over a substantial body of supporters during his own lifetime, his ideas have nonetheless influenced movements and thinkers across the globe.
Notable among these is the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), an organisation in Turkey which has fought the Turkish state since the 1980s to try to secure greater political and cultural rights for the country's Kurds. Though founded on a rigid Marxist–Leninist ideology, the PKK has seen a shift in its thought and aims since the capture and imprisonment of its leader, Abdullah Öcalan, in 1999. Öcalan began reading a variety of post-Marxist political theory while in prison, and found particular currency in Bookchin's works.
Öcalan attempted in early 2004 to arrange a meeting with Bookchin through his lawyers, describing himself as Bookchin's "student" eager to adapt his thought to Middle Eastern society. Bookchin was too ill to accept the request. In May 2004 Bookchin conveyed this message "My hope is that the Kurdish people will one day be able to establish a free, rational society that will allow their brilliance once again to flourish. They are fortunate indeed to have a leader of Mr. Öcalan’s talents to guide them". When Bookchin died in 2006, the PKK hailed the American thinker as "one of the greatest social scientists of the 20th century", and vowed to put his theory into practice.
"Democratic Confederalism", the variation on Communalism developed by Öcalan in his writings and adopted by the PKK, does not outwardly seek Kurdish rights within the context of the formation of an independent state separate from Turkey. The PKK claims that this project is not envisioned as being only for Kurds, but rather for all peoples of the region, regardless of their ethnic, national, or religious background. Rather, it promulgates the formation of assemblies and organisations beginning at the grassroots level to enact its ideals in a non-state framework beginning at the local level. It also places a particular emphasis on securing and promoting women's rights. The PKK has had some success in implementing its programme, through organisations such as the Democratic Society Congress (DTK), which coordinates political and social activities within Turkey, and the Koma Civakên Kurdistan (KCK), which does so across all countries where Kurds live.
- "From Spectacle to Empowerment". 1983, the Vermont Peace Reader.
- "Community Control or Statist Politics: A Reply to David Lewis". May 1991, Green Multilogue.
- "State Capitalism in Russia". Autumn 1950, Contemporary Issues 7. (under pseudonym M. S. Shiloh)
- "Anarchism: Past and Present". 1980, Vol. 1, No. 6 of Comment: New Perspectives in Libertarian Thought.
- "Libertarian Municipalism: The New Municipal Agenda". 1987, From the author with text from 'From Urbanization to Cities' (1987; London: Cassell, 1995).
- "Libertarian Municipalism: An Overview". 1991, Green Perspectives.
- Municipalization: Community Ownership of the Economy "Municipalization: Community Ownership of the Economy". 1986, Quebec, Canada.
- Murray Bookchin Reader Introduction. 1997, Edited by Janet Biehl, Wellington House, London, England.
- On "Remaking of the American Left".
- "Ecology and Revolutionary Thought". 1964, Bookchin's Comment, republished in the British monthly Anarchy in 1965.
- "Listen, Marxist!" as brochure by Anarchos for the SDS conference in 1969.
- A Meditation on Anarchist Ethics. 1994, The Raven: Anarchist Quarterly, vol. 7, no. 4 (Winter 1994), pp. 328-46.
- "History, Civilization and Progress: Outline for a Criticism of Modern Relativism".
- "The Population Myth, I". 1988.
- "The Population Myth, II". 1988.
- "What is Communalism? The Democratic Dimension of Anarchism".
- "On 'Remaking the American Left'".
- "The American Crisis". 1980, New Perspectives in Libertarian Thought, Vol. 1, No. 4.
- "The American Crisis II". 1980, New Perspectives in Libertarian Thought, Vol. 1, No. 5.
- "A Philosophical Naturalism". 1995, The Philosophy of Social Ecology: Essays on Dialectical Naturalism, 2nd ed. revised.
- "The Crisis in the Ecology Movement". May 1988, Newsletter of the Green Program Project, no. 6.
- "Anarchy and Organization: A Letter to the Left"
Leaving the twentieth century, leftism of every stripe is in disarray and defeat — anarcho-leftism included. And Murray Bookchin’s Social Ecology is certainly no exception to this trend.
Bookchin, one of the best known of contemporary North American anarchists, has spent much of his life staking out his own personal eco-anarchist ideological territory under the banners of Social Ecology and Libertarian Municipalism. He is the author of a steady stream of books from the sixties to the present, including his classic collection of essays titled Post-Scarcity Anarchism published in 1971, his excellent volume on the history of the Spanish anarchist movement written in the seventies, and his failed attempt in the eighties at constructing a philosophical magnum opus in The Ecology of Freedom.
Bookchin has never been content with merely constructing one more radical ideology in competition with all the others. His dream has always been to lead a coherent left-wing ecological radical grouping into a serious contest with the powers that be. However, his attempts at constructing such a grouping (from the Anarchos journal group in the New York of the sixties to the recent Left Green Network within the Greens milieu) have never met with much success.
In his latest book, Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism, Bookchin aims to pin the blame for his lifetime of frustration (despite his decades of valiant effort!) on an evil anti-socialist conspiracy which has subverted his dreams at every turn: the dreaded specter of “Lifestyle Anarchism.” For Bookchin, lifestyle anarchism is a contemporary manifestation of the individualist anarchist currents which have always bedeviled the world anarchist movement proper. The fact that the anarchist “movement” itself has always been more of a polymorphous insurrectionary milieu encompassing everything from anarcho-syndicalists, anarcho-communists and anarcho-futurists to anarchist feminists, anarchist primitivists and anarcho-situationists doesn’t really matter to him. The important thing is that he has finally been able to name the anti-organizational cabal which opposes him and to explain the esoteric links between its often seemingly unrelated or even mutually contradictory efforts!
Enter Bob Black.
Now a lot of people don’t like Bob Black. Many anarchists would be alarmed if he moved in next door. Anyone with good sense would probably be upset if he started dating her younger sister. Most everyone is loathe to provoke his anger or face it head on.
And not without reason. Bob may be a brilliant critic and hilarious wit, but he’s not a nice guy. His infamous reputation isn’t built on fair play or good sportsmanship.
Maybe this is why Murray Bookchin’s latest rant, Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism: An Unbridgeable Chasm, never criticizes Bob Black directly. In fact it never so much as mentions Bob’s name. Even though it’s obvious from the book’s contents that by all rights Bob should have received the same type of attempted (though ultimately feeble) thrashing Bookchin reserved for George Bradford, John Zerzan, Hakim Bey, et al.
Obviously, Murray knows better than to challenge Bob to a duel, even a rhetorical one. But that hasn’t stopped Bob, in an uncharacteristically generous spirit, from giving Bookchin his due anyway.
Bob’s defense of anarchy in Anarchy after Leftism isn’t meant to express solidarity with those targeted in the latest attacks framed by Bookchin’s pidgin dialectics. Nor is Bob really interested in rescuing anarchist ideology from itself. He just wants to set the record straight by clearing away worse than useless polemics. Defending the potential for anarchy is merely an unpleasant task of menial anti-ideological labor that Bob has performed because no one else volunteered to wash these particular dirty dishes,  while he wants to get on with cooking another meal.
But that’s by no means all that’s going on here. Disposing of Murray Bookchin’s ideological and rhetorical rubbish gives Bob the chance to develop the grounds for a more general attack on the remaining vestiges of leftism while he’s at it. Cleaning house of leftism is a much bigger task than dealing with one man’s leftist career. So in one sense, by drawing attention to his ineffectual polemic, Bookchin has made himself an excuse for the beginning of a much larger process of critique, a process that will undoubtedly continue to unfold with increasing militance into the coming century. It will require awareness and effort from all of us to finish this task, but it will be done.
Bob’s double critique in Anarchy after Leftism only gains incisiveness from the attitude of lumpen noblesse oblige he has adopted for his task. Rather than letting his own sordid past (and present) get in the way, the lack of any revenge motive (seemingly Bob’s favorite muse) allows him to unleash his pen with just as much wit, but with fewer red herrings, obscure put-downs and tortured self-justifications than ever. The result is a modest feast made up of consistently entertaining prose, an immanent critique of a would-be eminent social critic, and one more nail in the coffin of obsolete leftism, anarchist-style.
You might not want to invite Bob into your house. I certainly wouldn’t. But at least thank him for doing the dishes. And let’s get on with the next feast!
Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed
Alternative Press Review
This small book is nothing more than a critique of another small book, Murray Bookchin’s Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism: An Unbridgeable Chasm.  His consists of the title essay plus “The Left That Was: A Personal Reflection.” Published in 1995, it was an unexpected intervention in an intramural debate which had been going on for at least twenty years between traditionalistic anarchists — leftist, workerist, organizational, and moralist — and an ever more diverse (and an ever more numerous) contingent of anarchists who have in one way or another departed from orthodoxy, at least in Bookchin’s eyes.
Bookchin caught a lot of us heterodox anarchists by surprise. Most of us have read some of Bookchin’s books and many of us, myself included, have learned from them, especially the earlier books from the 1970s. Bookchin’s subsequent and ever-intensifying preoccupation with municipal politics we were mostly inclined to ignore as an idiosyncrasy. He seemed to take no notice of what we were up to. He was absent from publications like the Fifth Estate, Popular Reality, Front Line, The Match!, and Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed. It was as if he took the anarchists for granted. They didn’t know that Bookchin thought they were sinking swiftly into ideological and moral decay.
They do now. Bookchin views-with-alarm almost every new tendency in anarchism except his own specialty, ecology. What’s more, the nefarious novelties exhibit malign thematic affinities. Not only are they pernicious, they are pernicious in essentially the same way. They represent a recrudescence of an old heresy, “individualism,” decked out in trendy post-modernist fashions in a configuration Bookchin calls “lifestyle anarchism.” Much worse than a falling-away from some aspects of classical left-wing anarchism, lifestyle anarchism is (he insists) fundamentally opposed to the defining tenets of anarchism. (How this could have happened on his watch he does not explain.)
For Bookchin, then, lifestyle anarchists are not just errant comrades, they are traitors. As such they are even worse than avowed opponents of anarchism. He mistreats them accordingly. His jeremiad is downright nasty. There aren’t many epithets he doesn’t work in somewhere or another, and never mind if they sometimes contradict each other (for instance, “individualism” and “fascism” applied to the same people). They don’t have to be true to be effective. Bookchin started out as a Stalinist, and it sure shows in the abusive style and unscrupulous content of his polemic. He wants no dialogue with his self-appointed enemies, only their irreparable discredit.
I get the distinct impression that Bookchin, an elderly man said to be in ill health, is cashing in his chips as a prominent anarchist theorist and staking all his influence and reputation on demolishing all possible alternatives to his own creed, what he calls “social anarchism.” A parting shot.
He missed the target. He had to miss the target, since there is none. There’s no such thing as “lifestyle anarchism.” There are only a lot of anarchists exploring a lot of ideas — a lot of different ideas — that Bookchin disapproves of. It follows that this book is not a defense of “lifestyle anarchism.” There’s no such unicorn, so I couldn’t defend it even if I wanted to. The very phrase is Bookchin’s invention, much as Stalin invented a nonsense category, the “bloc of Rights and Trotskyists,” to collect all his political enemies for their more convenient disposal. At the time, Bookchin believed this, and everything else, the Party told him to believe. He hasn’t changed much; or, if he did, he’s changed back.
If I were only taking Bookchin to task for his incivility, I’d be a hypocrite, for I’ve penned plenty of blunt critiques of various anarchists and anti-authoritarians. A Dutch anarchist, Siebe Thissen, has described me — not as a criticism — as the severest critic of contemporary anarchism (1996: 60). Maybe I am, although criticism of anarchists takes up only a fraction of the content of my previous three books. But I’ve often been tough on anarchists I considered authoritarian, dishonest or stupid.
Often harsh but, I like to think, rarely unfair. Some people, especially those I’ve criticized, mistake my being articulate for my being rude, or mistake my noticing them for being obsessed with them. Be that as it may, for me to set myself up as the Miss Manners of anarchism would not be appropriate. I do think Murray Bookchin needs a lesson in manners, and I’m going to give him one, but incivility is the least of what’s wrong with his dyspeptic diatribe. It’s what he says, far more than how he says it, that I mean to have done with.
I am not, except incidentally, defending those whom Bookchin targets as “lifestyle anarchists.” (For the record, I’m not one of his identified targets.) I am debunking the very category of lifestyle anarchism as a construct as meaningless as it is malicious. And I am coming down with crushing force on “an ugly, stupid style and substance of doctrinal harangue” (Black 1992: 189), the worst survival of Bookchin’s original Marxism. I’ve done it before and, frankly, I rather resent having to do it again. Bookchin has made the cardinal author’s mistake of falling for his own jacket blurbs. Otherwise he could never write such a wretched screed and hope to get away with it. His previous contributions to anarchism, even if they were as epochal as he likes to think, are no excuse for this kind of gutter-gabble. His swan-song sounds nothing but sour notes. And sour grapes.
Which is why I think there’s a place for my polemic. If even the great Bookchin can’t get away with talking trash, maybe less eminent anarchists will be less tempted to talk trash. If even the quasi-academic Bookchin’s quasi-scholarship doesn’t hold up under even modest scrutiny, maybe some unduly impressionable anarchists will learn to question the authority of footnotes and jacket blurbs. Better scholars than Bookchin live in dread of somebody someday looking up their footnotes. I’ll be getting around to several of them, too. But, worst things first.
Most people will take no interest in what Bookchin and I have to say about anarchism. These books aren’t destined for the best-seller lists. Even some feel-good anarchists will dismiss the ruckus as “in-fighting.” But on one point at least I think Bookchin would agree with me: in-fighting can be as important as out-fighting. Indeed it’s impossible to tell them apart. The fighting has a lot to do with determining who is in and who is out. But anybody who thinks that anarchism is, or might be, important should consider this controversy important. I admit I’m almost as vain as Bookchin, but maybe I am the “lifestyle anarchist” to call him out for a showdown at high noon out at the Circle-A Ranch.
A throwback to vulgar Marxism in more than one sense, Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism may turn out to be the last tract of its kind, at least the last one with anarchist pretensions. Soon there will be nobody left in North America with the requisite Leninist background to practice this highly stylized genre of defamation. Debunking it may assist anarchists in letting go of the leftism they have outgrown, some of them without realizing it. Cleansed of its leftist residues, anarchy — anarchism minus Marxism — will be free to get better at being what it is.
Chapter 1: Murray Bookchin, Grumpy Old Man
Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism may well be the worst book about anarchists that any of them has ever written.
According to the cover blurb, Murray Bookchin, born in 1921, has been “a lifelong radical since the early 1930s.” “Radical” is here a euphemism for “Stalinist”; Bookchin was originally “a militant in the Young Pioneers and the Young Communist League” (Clark 1990:102; cf. Bookchin 1977:3). Later he became a Trotskyist. At one time Bookchin himself, “as one who participated actively in the ‘radical’ movements of the thirties” (1970: 56), put the word “radical,” considering the context, in quotation marks, but now he is nostalgic about that milieu, what he calls the Left That Was (66–86).
About 25 years ago, Murray Bookchin peered into the mirror and mistook it for a window of opportunity. In 1963 he wrote, under a pseudonym, Our Synthetic Society (Herber 1963), which anticipated (although it seems not to have influenced) the environmentalist movement. In 1970, by which time he was pushing 50 and calling himself an anarchist, Bookchin wrote “Listen, Marxist!” — a moderately effective anti-authoritarian polemic against such Marxist myths as the revolutionary vanguard organization and the proletariat as revolutionary subject (Bookchin 1971:171–222). In this and in other essays collected in Post-Scarcity Anarchism (1971), Bookchin disdained to conceal his delight with the disarray of his Marxist comrades-turned-competitors. He thought he saw his chance. Under his tutelage, anarchism would finally displace Marxism, and Bookchin would place the stamp of his specialty, “social ecology,” on anarchism. Not only would he be betting on the winning horse, he would be the jockey. As one of his followers has written, “if your efforts at creating your own mass movement have been pathetic failures, find someone else’s movement and try to lead it” (Clark 1984: 108).
Bookchin thereupon set out to conquer the anarchists for the eco-radicals (the Greens), the Greens for the anarchists, and all for one — the great one — Murray Bookchin himself. He would supply the “muscularity of thought” (Bookchin 1987b: 3) that they lacked. By now he’s been “a prophetic voice in the ecology movement for more than thirty years,” if he does say so himself (Institute for Social Ecology 1996: 13) (Bookchin co-founded the ISE). He cranked out several well-padded, largely repetitious books. The Ecology of Freedom (1982; rev. ed. 1991) is the one he apparently regards as his magnum opus. At any rate, one of his jacket blurbs (Bookchin 1987a) quotes a revolutionary anarchist weekly, the Village Voice, to that effect (cf. Clark : 215).
The material base for these superstructural effusions was Bookchin’s providential appointment as a Dean at Goddard College near Burlington, Vermont, a cuddle-college for hippies and, more recently, punks, with wealthy parents (cf. Goddard College 1995). He also held an appointment at Ramapo College. Bookchin, who sneers at leftists who have embarked upon “alluring university careers” (67), is one of them.
Something went awry. Although Dean Bookchin was indeed widely read by North American anarchists — one of his acknowledged sycophants (Clark 1984: 11) calls him “the foremost contemporary anarchist theorist” (Clark 1990: 102; cf. Clark 1982: 59) — in fact, not many anarchists acknowledged him as their dean. They appreciated his ecological orientation, to be sure, but some drew their own, more far-reaching conclusions from it. The Dean came up against an unexpected obstacle. The master-plan called for anarchists to increase in numbers and to read his books, and those parts came off tolerably well. It was okay if they also read a few anarchist classics, Bakunin and Kropotkin for instance (8), vetted by the Dean, with the understanding that even the best of them afford “mere glimpses” of the forms of a free society (Bookchin 1971: 79) subsequently built upon, but transcended by, the Dean’s own epochal discovery, social ecology/social anarchism. Bookchin does not mind standing on the shoulders of giants — he rather enjoys the feel of them under his heel — so long as he stands tallest of all.
He must have had no doubt that he would. He seemed to have no competition intramurally. Paul Goodman, “the most widely known anarchist” (De Leon 1978:132), untimely died. Tweedy British and Canadian anarchist intellectuals like Herbert Read, Alex Comfort and George Woodcock shuffled off into the literary world. Aging class-struggle fundamentalists like Sam Dolgoff and Albert Meltzer could be counted on to just keep doing what they were doing, whatever that was, and with their usual success. “We all stand on the shoulders of others,” as the Dean generously allows (1982: Acknowledgements). Dean Bookchin could stand on the shoulders of midgets too. The footing was even surer there.
What the Dean did not expect was that anarchists would start reading outside his curriculum and, worse yet, occasionally think for themselves, something that — in all fairness — nobody could have anticipated. They read, for instance, about the ethnography of the only societies — certain of the so-called primitive societies — which have actually been operative anarchist societies on a long-term basis. They also read about plebeian movements, communities, and insurrections — Adamites, Ranters, Diggers, Luddites, Shaysites, Enrages, Carbonari, even pirates (to mention, to be brief, only Euro-American, and only a few Euro-American examples) — seemingly outside of the Marxist-Bookchinist progressive schema. They scoped out Dada and Surrealism. They read the Situationists and the pro-situs. And, yes, like earlier generations of anarchists, they were receptive to currents of cultural radicalism. Indeed, instead of listening to “decent music” (64 n. 37), they often preferred punk rock to Pete Seeger and Utah Philips (“the folk song,” he has explained, “constitutes the emotional, aesthetic, and spiritual expression of a people” [Bookchin 1996: 19]). And usually their hair was either too long or too short. Who sent them down this twisted path?
In some cases it was the “self-styled anarchist” (1, 2,9) — this is a favorite Bookchin slur — who wrote:
The graffiti on the walls of Paris — “Power to the Imagination,” “It is forbidden to forbid,” “Life without dead times” [sic], “Never work” — represent a more probing analysis of these sources [of revolutionary unrest in modern society] than all the theoretical tomes inherited from the past. The uprising revealed that we are at the end of an old era and well into the beginning of a new one. The motive forces of revolution today, at least in the industrialized world, are not simply scarcity and material need, but also the quality of everyday life, the demand for the liberation of experience, the attempt to gain control over one’s destiny [emphasis in the original].
This was not a solemn revolt, a coup d’etat bureaucratically plotted and manipulated by a “vanguard” party; it was witty, satirical, inventive and creative — and therein lay its strength, its capacity for immense self-mobilization, its infectiousness.
The lumpen-bohemian crazy who penned this paean to “neo-Situationist ‘ecstasy’” (26) is the prelapsarian Murray Bookchin (1971: 249–250, 251), These are all, in fact, situationist slogans. Some of us believed him then. Now he tells us we were wrong, although he never tells us he ever was. Why should we believe him now?
The Hard Right Republicans like Newt Gingrich along with the Neo-Conservative intellectuals (most of the latter, like the Dean, being high-income, elderly Jewish ex-Marxists from New York City who ended up as journalists and/or academics) blame the decline of Western civilization on the ‘60s. Bookchin can’t credibly do that, since it was in the ‘60s that he came out as an anarchist, and built up the beginnings of his reputation as a theorist. In his golden years, he has to tread very carefully on this dark and bloody ground:
For all its shortcomings, the anarchic counterculture during the early part of the hectic 1960s was often intensely political and cast expressions like desire and ecstasy in eminently social terms, often deriding the personalistic tendencies of the later Woodstock generation (9).
By definition “the early part of the hectic 1960s” is presumably the years 1960–1964. This is the first time I’ve heard tell of an “anarchic counterculture” during the Kennedy Administration. As manifested in — what? the Peace Corps? the Green Berets? And while there were personalistic tendencies in the early 1960s, no one then anticipated, and so no one derided, the specific “personalistic tendencies of the later Woodstock generation.” Not Bookchin, certainly, who concluded prematurely that “Marxian predictions that Youth Culture would fade into a comfortable accommodation with the system have proven to be false” (1970: 60).
What did the all-seeing Dean do to combat these nefarious trends in the 20-odd years they have been infecting anarchism? Nothing. He had better things to do than come to the rescue of the anarchist ideology he considers the last best hope of humankind. On the one hand, he was consolidating his alluring academic career; on the other, he was making a play for ideological hegemony over the Green movement. Were we all supposed to wait up for him?
There were those who actually tried to implement the Dean’s directive to formulate “a coherent program” and “a revolutionary organization to provide a direction for the mass discontent that contemporary society is creating” (1). Note that Bookchin demands one organization, although he does not say if he wants an American CNT, an American FAI, or an American symbiote of both such as formed in Spain, with less than entirely positive consequences (Bookchin 1994: 20–25; cf. Brademas 1953).
During the recent decades of decadence, there were several opportunities for the Dean to participate in this important work. He claims that his parents were Wobblies (2–3) — I wonder what they thought when he became a Communist? — but he did not himself join the Industrial Workers of the World although it still, after a fashion, exists. In the late 1970s, some class-struggle anarchists formed the Anarchist Communist Federation, which collapsed in acrimony after a few years. The Dean did not join. One ACF faction set up the syndicalist Workers Solidarity Alliance; Bookchin didn’t join that one either. And finally, in the last few years the direct-actionist newspaper Love & Rage has tried to turn its support groups into the nuclei of a national anarchist organization. Once again, Bookchin held himself aloof.
Why? No doubt all these organizations fell somewhat short of his requirements, but as my mother says, “what do you want, an egg in your beer?” The CNT and the FAI were also imperfect. Everything is imperfect. If your fundamental critique of contemporary North American anarchists is that they have failed to assemble in a continental federation, surely you should have told them what is to be done, and how, a long time ago. The involvement of so distinguished a militant as Bookchin might energize an organization which might otherwise appear to be a sect of squabbling, droning dullards, perhaps because, in each and every instance, it is a sect of squabbling, droning dullards.
The only possible justification is that — to do justice to the Dean (and do I ever want to do exactly that!) — he laid down two requirements, not just one. A directive organization, yes — but with “a coherent program.” Such time as remained after the performance of his administrative and academic responsibilities (and the lecture circuit) the Dean has devoted to providing the coherent program. No doubt Bookchin can organize the masses (he must have had a lot of practice, and surely great success, in his Marxist-Leninist days). So can many other comrades — but no other comrade can concoct a coherent program the way Bookchin can. It is, therefore, only rational for a division of labor to prevail. Less talented comrades should do the organizational drudge-work, freeing up Dean Bookchin — after hours — to theorize. It’s an example of what capitalist economists call the Law of Comparative Advantage. All of that Kropotkinist-Bookchinist talk about rotation of tasks, about superseding the separation of hand-work and brain-work — time enough for that after the Revolution.
The Dean’s booklet thunders (in a querulous sort of a way) that “anarchism stands at a turning point in its long and turbulent history” (1). When didn’t it? In the time-honored sophist manner, the Dean offers an answer to a nonsense question of his own concoction. “At a time when popular distrust of the state has reached extraordinary proportions in many countries,” etc., etc., “the failure of anarchists — or, at least, many self-styled anarchists — to reach a potentially huge body of supporters” is due, not entirely of course, but “in no small measure to the changes that have occurred in many anarchists over the past two decades... [they] have slowly surrendered the social core of anarchist ideas to the all-pervasive Yuppie and New Age personalism that marks this decadent, bourgeoisified era” (1).
Now this is a curious claim. Anarchism is unpopular, not because it opposes popular ideological fashions, but because it embraces them? It’s unpopular because it’s popular? This isn’t the first time I’ve identified this obvious idiocy (Black & Gunderloy 1992).
Simple logic aside (where Dean Bookchin cast it), the Dean’s empirical assumptions are ridiculous. North American anarchism is not “in retreat” (59), it has grown dramatically in the last twenty years. The Dean might have even had a little to do with that. It is leftism which is in retreat. That this growth of anarchism has coincided with the eclipse of orthodox anarcho-leftism by more interesting varieties of anarchy doesn’t conclusively prove that the heterodox anarchies are the growth sector, but it sure looks that way. For instance, the North American anarchist publication with the highest circulation, Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed, is on Bookchin’s enemies list (39, 50).
As for the supposition that “Yuppie and New Age personalism” are “all-pervasive” in our “decadent, bourgeoisified era,” this says more about Dean Bookchin and the company he keeps than it does about contemporary society. If you are an upper middle class academic in an affluent leftist enclave like Burlington or Berkeley, you might well think so, but to generalize those impressions to the general society is unwarranted and narcissistic (“personalistic,” as it were). America (or Canada) is still much more like Main Street than Marin County. If the Dean really thinks the brat-pack collegians in his Burlington ashram are representative North American youth, he doesn’t get out enough.
Berating “Yuppies” for their self-indulgence, something Bookchin carries to the point of obsession (1 & passim), doesn’t defy media-managed popular opinion, it panders to it. As is typical of progressives, Bookchin is behind the times. Not only are the ‘60s over, as he has finally figured out, so are the ‘70s and the ‘80s. The Old Left that he nostalgically recalls, what he calls the Left That Was (66–86), extolled discipline, sacrifice, hard work, monogamy, technological progress, heterosexuality, moralism, a sober and orderly if not downright puritanical lifestyle, and the subordination of the personal (“selfishness”) to the interest of the cause and the group (be it the party, the union or the affinity group):
The puritanism and work ethic of the traditional left stem from one of the most powerful forces opposing revolution today — the capacity of the bourgeois environment to infiltrate the revolutionary framework. The origins of this power lie in the commodity nature of man under capitalism, a quality that is almost automatically translated to the organized group — and which the group, in turn, reinforces in its members.
This passage might have been written by Jacques Camatte, whose essay “On Organization” has exerted an anti-organizational influence on a lot of us “lifestyle anarchists” (Camatte 1995: 19–32). By now the reader will be on to my game (one of them, anyway): the above-quoted author is once again Bookchin the Younger (1971: 47; cf. Bookchin 1977: ch. 11). Again:
In its demands for tribalism, free sexuality, community, mutual aid, ecstatic experience, and a balanced ecology, the Youth Culture prefigures, however inchoately, a joyous communist and classless society, freed of the trammels of hierarchy and domination, a society that would transcend the historic splits between town and country, individual and society, and mind and body (Bookchin 1970: 59).
Bookchin the Elder’s values, in contrast, are precisely those of the New Right and the neo-conservatives who have set the country’s current political and ideological agendas — not the New Age bubbleheads Bookchin may meet in Vermont’s socialist Congressman Bernie Saunders’ hot tub.
“Yuppie” is, on the Dean’s lips, an ill-chosen epithet. It is (lest we forget) a neologism and semi-acronym for “young urban professional.” To which aspects of this conjuncture does Dean Bookchin object? To urbanism? Bookchin is the apostle of urbanism (1987): he thinks that “some kind of urban community is not only the environment of humanity: it is its destiny” (1974: 2). To professionalism? A college professor/bureaucrat such as Bookchin is a professional. The high technology Bookchin counts on to usher in post-scarcity anarchism (1971: 83–135; 1989: 196) is the invention of professionals and the fever-dream of techno-yuppies. So if Dean Bookchin, an old urban professional, disparages young urban professionals, what is it about them that he hates so much? By a process of elimination, it cannot be that they are urban and it cannot be that they are professional. It must be that they are young, as the Dean is not. Actually, a lot of them aren’t all that young — most are baby boomers entering middle age — but to a Grumpy Old Man of 75 like Dean Bookchin, that’s young enough to resent. But it’s not their fault, after all, that most of them will live on long after Murray Bookchin is dead and forgotten.
And one more thing: Now that we know why the heretical anarchists have “failed to reach a potentially huge body of supporters,” what’s his excuse? One of his editors calls him “arguably the most prolific anarchist writer” (Ehrlich 1996: 384). (Although he has yet to outproduce the late Paul Goodman, who “produced a stream of books containing some of his enormous output of articles and speeches” (Walter 1972: 157) and he is likely to be soon surpassed by Hakim Bey — a far better writer — which may account for some of the insensate hatred the Dean displays for Bey.) So the truth is out there. Where, after all these years, are the Bookchinist masses?
The Dean’s vocabulary of abuse evokes what he calls the Left That Was (66) but hardly the fondness he feels for it. His epithets for unorthodox anarchists are the standard Stalinist epithets for all anarchists. He berates anarchist “decadence” over and over, to which he often appends abstract denunciations of “bourgeois” or “petty bourgeois” tendencies. “Decadence” is an epithet so indiscriminately applied that a spirited case has been made for retiring it from responsible discourse (Gilman 1975). Even without going quite so far, undeniably “’decadent’ as a term of political and social abuse has a generous range of applications,” especially as deployed by Marxists and Fascists (Adams 1983: 1).
To speak of the Dean’s denunciations of le bourgeois as “abstract” is my characteristically courteous way of hinting that he of all people had better pick his words more carefully. I say “abstract” because a college dean is a member of the bourgeoisie if, in any objective sense, anybody is. Bookchin surely has a higher income than anybody he’s targeted. Dean Bookchin has to be deploying the word in a subjective, moralistic, judgmental sense which, however, he isn’t defining.
It never used to bother the Dean that “many militant radicals tend to come from the relatively affluent strata” (Bookchin 1971: 25) — as his student disciples still do. Who else can afford to sit at his feet? For 1996–1997, the two-semester masters’ program in Social Ecology costs $10,578 (Goddard College 1996). Back then he considered it a “historic breach” that it was “relatively affluent middle class white youth” who created the implicitly revolutionary Youth Culture (Bookchin 1970: 54–55).
No one can possibly pronounce with any confidence upon the class position of present-day North American anarchists in general, much less the class positions of “individualists,” Bookchinists, etc. (Although my impression is that most anarcho-syndicalists are campus-based and none of them are factory workers. Work is much easier to glorify than it is to perform.) Nor does it bother the Dean that almost the only luminaries unconditionally admitted to his anarchist pantheon, Bakunin and Kropotkin, were hereditary aristocrats. Class-baiting is evidently a weapon to be deployed with fine discrimination.
For Bookchin, as for Stalinists, class is not a category of analysis, only an argot of abuse. Long ago he dismissed “workeritis” as “reactionary to the core” rendered meaningless by the trans-class decomposition of contemporary society (1971: 186–187). So completely did class disappear from Bookchin’s ideology that a review of one of his goofier books (Bookchin 1987) exclaimed that “it is what is missing altogether that renders his book terminally pathetic. Nowhere does he find fault with the most fundamental dimension of modern living, that of wage-labor and the commodity” (Zerzan 1994: 166). He now reverts to the hoary Marxist epithets — “bourgeois,” “petit-bourgeois” and “lumpen” — but with no pretense that they have, for him, real social content. Otherwise, how could he apply all these words to the same people? In their relations to the means of production (or lack thereof), lifestyle anarchists cannot be both bourgeois and lumpens. And how likely is it that out of these “thousands of self-styled anarchists” (1), not one is a proletarian?
Where Bookchin accuses rival anarchists of individualism and liberalism, Stalinists accuse all anarchists of the same. For example, there was that Monthly Review contributor who referred to Bookchinism as “a crude kind of individualistic anarchism” (Bookchin 1971: 225)! In other words,
...capitalism promotes egotism, not individuality or “individualism.”...The term “bourgeois individualism,” an epithet widely used today against libertarian elements, reflects the extent to which bourgeois ideology permeates the socialist project —
— these words being, of course, those of Bookchin the Younger (1971: 284). That the Dean reverts to these Stalinist slurs in his dotage reflects the extent to which bourgeois ideology permeates his project. Fanatically devoted to urbanism, the Dean was being complimentary, not critical, when he wrote that “the fulfillment of individuality and intellect was the historic privilege of the urban dweller or of individuals influenced by urban life” (1974: 1). Individuality’s not so bad after all, provided it’s on his terms.
As for “decadence,” that is an eminently bourgeois swear-word for people perceived to be having more fun than you are. By now the word has lost whatever concrete meaning it ever had. Calling post-leftist anarchists “decadent” is just Dean Bookchin’s way of venting his envy and, as Nietzsche would say, ressentiment that they are not afflicted with the hemorrhoids, tax audits, or whatever it is that’s raining on his Mayday parade.
Chapter 2: What is Individualist Anarchism?
Dean Bookchin posits an eternally recurring “tension” within anarchism between the individual and the social (4). As this is none other than the central conundrum of Western political philosophy, the Dean is neither original nor — more important — has he identified a specifically anarchist tension. He goes on to identify the antitheses within anarchism as “two basically contradictory tendencies: a personalistic commitment to individual autonomy and a collectivist commitment to social freedom” (4). This is the “unbridgeable chasm” his book title refers to.
If the Dean is right — that individual autonomy and social liberation are not just in tension but basically contradictory — then anarchy is impossible, as anti-anarchists have always maintained. Bookchin here rejects out of hand what he used to espouse, “a society that would transcend the historic splits between...individual and society” (1970: 59).
Not all of us share his conservative fatalism. We too have our apprehensions and our times of despair. But to surrender to them entirely (which I condemn nobody for doing, if he’s honest about it) is to renounce any affiliation with anarchism. The Dean won’t fish, neither will he cut bait. He won’t shit, neither will he get off the pot.
Some of those with impeccable, Bookchin-approved credentials, such as Kropotkin, had a more tolerant take on this genuinely tragic dilemma:
Anarchist Communism maintains that most valuable of all conquests — individual liberty — and moreover extends it and gives it a solid basis — economic liberty — without which political liberty is delusive; it does not ask the individual who has rejected god, the universal tyrant, god the king, and god the parliament, to give unto himself a god more terrible than any of the preceding — god the Community, or to abdicate upon its altar his independence, his will, his tastes, and to renew the vow of asceticism which he formerly made before the crucified god. It says to him, on the contrary, “No society is free so long as the individual is not so!” (Kropotkin 1890: 14–15)
Bookchin is the veritable high priest of what Kropotkin calls “god the Community,” “more terrible than any of the preceding,” the most vicious and oppressive god of all.
“Social freedom” is like the “free market” in the sense that the freedom referred to has to be metaphorical. It makes no literal sense to attribute freedom to behavioral interaction systems, even feedback systems, lacking the necessarily individual qualities of consciousness and intention. It’s like saying an anthill or the solar system or a thermostat is free. Free from, and for, what? What else could a society or a market possibly be free of if not autonomous individuals?
If one assigns any value to individual autonomy, logically there are only two possibilities for it to even exist, much less flourish, in society. (Contrary to what the Dean implies , not even Max Stirner thought it was possible outside of society [1995: 161, 271–277].) The first is a compromise: liberalism. The individual exchanges part of his precarious natural liberty for society’s protection of the rest of it, and also for the practical opportunities for advancing his interests only opened up in a social state. This was the position of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Adam Smith and William Blackstone. In the public sphere, freedom means democracy; In the private sphere, it means individual rights.
The second resolution of the quandary, the radical one, is anarchism. Anarchism rejects the dichotomy as false — maybe not false as existing society is constituted, but false in its supposed fatality. In an anarchist society the individual gains freedom, not at the expense of others, but in cooperation with them. A person who believes that this condition — anarchy — is possible and desirable is called an anarchist. A person who thinks it is not possible or not desirable is a statist.
As I shall have no difficulty demonstrating later on, it so happens that the Dean himself is not an anarchist, merely, in his own terminology, a “self-styled anarchist.” But that’s no reason for those of us who (albeit unenthusiastically, if I may speak for myself) are anarchists not to heed his critique. From George Bernard Shaw to Guy Debord, anti-anarchists who took anarchism seriously have often supplied crucial critiques the anarchists were unable or unwilling to construct themselves. Unfortunately, Bookchin’s isn’t one of them.
What is remarkable about Dean Bookchin’s posturing as the Defender of the Faith, aside from the fact that he doesn’t share it, is how many of the Church Fathers (and Mothers) he has excommunicated as “individualists.” Predictably, William Godwin (5), Max Stirner (7, 11) and Benjamin Tucker (8) Bookchin summarily dismisses as individualists, although that hardly does justice to the richness of their insights and their relevance to any anarchism. (Although even Kropotkin acknowledged that Godwin espoused communism in the first edition of Political Justice, only “mitigating” that view in later editions [Kropotkin 1995; 238], and the anarcho-syndicalist Rudolf Rocker acknowledged that Godwin “was really the founder of the later communist Anarchism” [1947: 7].) 1
But that’s only the beginning of the purge. The Dean condemns even Proudhon as an individualist (5), although he elsewhere pays tribute to “Proudhon’s emphasis on federal-ism [which] still enjoys considerable validity” (Bookchin) 1996: 24). When Bookchin says that something from a classical anarchist still enjoys considerable validity, this is his way of saying that’s whom he filched it from. The federalism of Proudhon’s later years (1979) is virtually identical to Bookchin’s call for a “confederation of decentralized municipalities” (60). Which is tantamount to saying that in the end Proudhon was not an anarchist, as I am not the only one to have noticed (Steven 1984). Indeed, the Dean has come close to admitting it himself (Bookchin 1977: 21).
The Dean now claims that the prominent Spanish anarchist Federica Montseney was a “Stirnerite” [sic] in theory if not in practice (8). In his The Spanish Anarchists she is “one of the FAI’s luminaries” (Bookchin 1977: 243). The FAI was a “vanguard” (the word is Bookchin’s) anarcho-communist secret society (Bookchin 1994: 21–22; cf. Brademas 1953).
Even Emma Goldman is under a cloud. Although she was an avowed anarcho-communist, she also displayed a disqualifying affinity with Nietzsche (8), and she was, after all, “by no means the ablest thinker in the libertarian pantheon” (13). Bookchin has a muscular, masculine disdain for anarchist women such as Emma Goldman, Federica Montseney and L. Susan Brown. Only his innate modesty kept the Dean from naming who is the ablest thinker in the libertarian pantheon, but then again, who, having read him, needs to be told?
Paul Goodman, a “communitarian anarchist” (Stafford 1972: 112), Bookchin calls “an essentially individualistic anarchist” (12), although Goodman was essentially an urban-oriented, humanistic anarcho-collectivist (Goodman & Goodman 1961: ch. 6 & 220; cf. Stafford 1972: 112–113) from whom Bookchin has cribbed many ideas without admitting it. Notice, for instance, the remarkable absence of any inferences to the by then deceased Goodman in Bookchin’s The Limits of the City (1974) or The Rise of Urbanization and the Decline of Citizenship (1987), although he did let slip the name in Crisis in Our Cities (Herber 1965: 177) at a time when Goodman was in his prime whereas the future Dean was so far from foreseeing his own celebrity that he wrote under a pseudonym. He’ll soon wish he’d written this trashy had under a pseudonym.
“Individualist” anarchists in the original sense — people like Max Stirner (1995) and John Henry Mackay — were never numerous, as Bookchin observes with too much satisfaction (6–8). And they were always few and far between, strange to say, in decadent, bourgeois North America, supposedly their natural breeding-ground. Stirner did not identify himself as an anarchist, probably because the only (indeed, the very first) “self-styled” anarchist in the 1840s when he was writing was Proudhon, for whom moralism, as Stirner noticed, served as a surrogate for religion (ibid.: 46) — as it does for the Dean. The rather few individuals who at later times considered themselves Stirnerists have, however, usually considered themselves anarchists as well, such as the Italian peasant guerrilla Renzo Novatore (Black & Parfrey 1989: 92–93)
It is worth mentioning — because so many people who toss his name around have never read him — that Stirner had no social or economic program whatsoever. He was no more pro-capitalist than he was pro-communist, although Marxists like Marx, Engels and Bookchin have routinely and mindlessly castigated him as an apologist for capitalism. Stirner was just not operating at that level. He was staking a claim, the most radical claim possible, for the individual as against all the ideologies and abstractions which, purporting to liberates him in general and in the abstract, left the individual as personally, practically subordinate as ever: “In principle... Stirner created a utopistic vision of individuality that marked a new point of departure for the affirmation of personality in an increasingly impersonal world” (Bookchin 1982: 159). From Stirner’s perspective — which on this point is also mine — ideologies like liberalism, humanism, Marxism, syndicalism, and Bookchinism have all too much in common (cf. Black 1994: 221–222).
Nobody the Dean denounces as a “Stirnerite,” not Michael William (50), not Hakim Bey (23) is a Stirnerist if this implies that he affirms amoral egoism and is indifferent to or entirely agnostic about social and economic formations. Both obviously assume as axiomatic the need for a social matrix for individual efflorescence. What distinguishes them, in more than one sense, from the Dean is their appreciation of the epistemic break in bourgeois thought wrought by the likes of Stirner and Nietzsche:
A sense of incompleteness haunts Western philosophy after Hegel’s death and explains much of the work of Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer, Stirner, Nietzsche, the surrealists and the contemporary existentialists. For the Marxians merely to dismiss this post-Hegelian development as “bourgeois ideology” is to dismiss the problem itself.
You guessed it: Bookchin the Younger again (1971: 276). For Bookchin to dismiss this post-Hegelian development as “bourgeois ideology” is to dismiss the problem itself.
In a more recent, still narrower sense, “individualism” designates those who combine rejection of government with espousal of an absolutely unlimited laissez-faire market system. Such ideologues do exist, but Bookchin never even mentions a contemporary example, although he cannot be unaware of their existence, since he made use of one of their publishers, Free Life Books (Bookchin 1977). Considerable contact with some of them over the years has persuaded me that most anarcho-capitalists are sincere in their anarchism, although I am as certain that anarcho-capitalism is self-contradictory as I am that anarcho-syndicalism is. Unlike the Dean, I’ve on occasion taken the trouble to confute these libertarians (Black 1986:141–148; Black 1992: 43–62). But the point is, nobody the Dean targets in this screed is by any stretch of the imagination (not that he has one) an “individualist” anarchist in the usual contemporary sense of the term. He never even claims that any of them are.
The Dean makes the bizarre allegation that those he calls lifestyle anarchists, decadent successors to the individualist anarchists, claim (the quotation marks are his) their “sovereign rights” (12):
Their ideological pedigree is basically liberal, grounded in the myth of the fully autonomous individual whose claims to self-sovereignty are validated by axiomatic “natural rights,” “intrinsic worth,” or, on a more sophisticated level, an intuited Kantian transcendental ego that is generative of all knowable reality (11).
A digression on the, for lack of a better word, ethics of punctuation marks is in order here. “Quotation marks,” wrote Theodor Adorno,
...are to be rejected as an ironic device. For they exempt the writer from the spirit whose claim is inherent in irony, and they violate the very concept of irony by separating it from the matter at hand and presenting a predetermined judgment on the subject. The abundant ironic quotation marks in Marx and Engels are the shadows that totalitarian methods cast in advance upon their writings, whose intention was the opposite: the seed from which eventually came what Karl Kraus called Moskauderwelsch [Moscow double-talk, from Moskau, Moscow, and Kauderwelsch, gibberish or double-talk]. The indifference to linguistic expression shown in the mechanical delegation of intention to a typographic cliché arouses the suspicion that the very dialectic that constitutes the theory’s content has been brought to a standstill and the object assimilated to it from above, without negotiation. Where there is something which needs to be said, indifference to literary form almost always indicates dogmatization of the content. The blind verdict of quotation marks is its graphic gesture (Adorno 1990: 303).
As a tenured academic, the Dean is presumably aware that in scholarly discourse — and surely his magisterial essay is such — quotation marks identify quotations, yet his 45 footnotes fail to reference any use of these expressions by anybody. That is because no such quotations exist. So-called lifestyle anarchists (meaning: non-Bookchinists) don’t usually think or write that way. They tend not to go in for rights-talk because it is just an ideological, mystifying way of saying what they want, something better said honestly and directly.
By this maladroit misrepresentation, the Dean inadvertently exposes his original misunderstanding of the so-called individualist anarchists. Max Stirner was an amoral egoist or individualist. Godwin and Proudhon were, if they were individualists at all, moralistic individualists preoccupied with what they called justice. Lysander Spooner was an example of a clearly moralistic, natural-rights individualist anarchist. But when the prominent individualist publisher Benjamin Tucker went over to Stirnerist egoism in the late nineteenth century, he split the American individualists. (This, as much as the competition from collectivists credited by Bookchin [6- 7], brought about the decline of the tendency.) Although there were exceptions, the moralistic natural-rights individualists — which were most of them — usually ended up as essentially advocates of pure free-market capitalism. Those attracted to the amoralist, egoist or (if you please) “Stirnerist” position necessarily shared with Stirner a whole-sale rejection of moralism, that being what Stirner, and Nietzsche after him, absolutely exploded as a tenable point of view. But no more than Stirner did they exhibit any interest in laissez-faire (or any) economics. Capitalism, as Max Weber noticed, has its own moralism, often if not always expressed as the “Protestant ethic.” The egoists/amoralists and the free-market natural-rightists parted over precisely this point. The egoist/amoralists have contributed something to the “lifestyle anarchists,” the natural-rightists have not.
For instance, take L. Susan Brown (please! — no, just kidding), who’s attempted, says the Dean, “to articulate and elaborate a basically individualist anarchism, yet retain some filiations with anarcho-communism” (13), In a footnote he’s more candid: “Brown’s hazy commitment to anarcho-communism seems to derive more from her own preference than from her analysis” (62). In other words, maybe she means well but she’s just a ditzy dame, like Emma Goldman. Just believing in anarcho-communism isn’t good enough to acquit you of the charge of individualism. You have to emote a politically correct, anti-individualist “analysis” too. I wonder how many Makhnovists, and how many Spanish rank-and-file insurrectionaries fighting for comunismo libertario would have passed whatever final exam our pedant might assign to them to test their “analysis.” I have a pretty good idea how they would have received such an insolent inquisition. Post-situationist that I am, I am far from sure that “the revolution will not be televised,” but I am quite sure it will not be on the final exam, not if teacher knows what’s good for him. As Marx so truly said, the educator himself needs educating. And as Diogenes said, why not whip the teacher when the student misbehaves?
The Dean has brought “down to date” (as Mark Twain would say) the New England Puritan exercise known as the “relation of faith.” In order to join the Congregational Church, the applicant not only had to affirm each and every tenet of Calvinism, he had to demonstrate that he had gone through a standardized sequence of spiritual experiences. (Alcoholics Anonymous is the only Protestant cult which still imposes this requirement.) Most believers never made it that far. What the Dean means by an inadequate “analysis” is obvious enough: any analysis other than Bookchinism is no analysis at all. The “disdain for theory” he ascribes to “individualist” anarchism (11) is really disdain for, or rather indifference to, his theory. Nowadays, anarcho-communism is Bookchinism or it is nothing — according to Bookchin (60).
Like it or not — personally (and “personalistically”), I like it — there’s an irreducible individualistic dimension to anarchism, even social anarchism, as L. Susan Brown is hardly heretical in pointing out (1993: ch. 1). According to Kropotkin, Anarcho-Communism says that “No society is free so long as the individual is not!” (1890: 15). If it sounds as if anarchism has, as the Dean might say, “filiations” with liberalism, that’s because anarchism does have filiations with liberalism. What else could the Dean possibly mean when he writes that social anarchism is “made of fundamentally different stuff” than lifestyle anarchism, it is “heir to the Enlightenment tradition” (56)? As anarcho-syndicalist Rudolf Rocker wrote (and he was only summarizing the obvious):
In modern Anarchism we have the confluence of the two great currents which during and since the French Revolution have found such characteristic expression in the intellectual life of Europe: Socialism and Liberalism....
Anarchism has in common with Liberalism the idea that the happiness and the prosperity of the individual must be the standard in all social matters. And, in common with the great representatives of Liberal thought, it has also the idea of limiting the functions of government to a minimum. Its supporters have followed this thought to its ultimate logical consequences, and wish to eliminate every institution of political power from the life of society (1947: 16, 18–19).
If he hadn’t seen these words before, the Dean would have come across part of these passages as quoted by Brown (1993:110). Naturally he’d rather debunk Brown, an obscure young academic (Jarach 1996), than the illustrious anarchist elder Rocker. Bookchin’s a playground bully who doesn’t mind hitting a girl with glasses, but he’d be off his Rocker to mess with Rudolf.
Nobody chooses his ancestors. Rationally, no one should be ashamed of them. Visiting the sins of the fathers on the children, even unto the fourth generation (Exodus 34:7) — as the Dean is doing, pretty much on schedule — hardly comports with the Enlightenment rationalism he claims as his ancestry (21, 56).
The Left That Was which provided Bookchin’s original politics, Marxism-Leninism, also supplied him with a muscular polemical praxis and a versatile vocabulary of abuse. I’ve already drawn attention to one of these gambits, denigration-by-quotation-marks. Its “filiations” include Lenin’s “Left-Wing” Communism, an Infantile Disorder (1940) and countless texts by Marx and Engels, as Adorno (1990) noticed. John Zerzan, reviewing Bookchin (1987), noted a related way that the Dean abused quotation marks: “Another device is to ignore the real history of urban life, as if illusory; he resorts at times to putting such terms as ‘elected’ representatives, ‘voters’ and ‘taxpayers’ in quotes as though the terms really don’t, somehow, correspond to reality” (Zerzan 1994: 165). As if to confirm that he’s incorrigible, Bookchin refers to this review, not as a review, but as a “review” (59). Bookchin was doing the same thing almost 40 years ago when the first chapter of The Limits of the City (1974: ix) was written: Tenochtitlan was the “capital,” not the capital, of the urban, imperialistic, cannibalistic Aztec empire (ibid.: 7, 9).
Bookchin just doesn’t know when to shut up. Having lambasted individualists as liberals, he turns around and insinuates that they are fascists! Critics of industrial technology (specifically, George Bradford of the Fifth Estate) who argue that it determines, as well as being determined by, social organization are, opines the Dean, “deeply rooted in the conservative German romanticism of the nineteenth century” which “fed into National Socialist ideology, however much the Nazis honored their antitechnological ideology in the breach” (29). This would be a sophisticated version of guilt-by-association if it were sophisticated. The Dean doesn’t bother to even identify these “conservative German” romantics — he hasn’t read them, probably couldn’t even name them — much less substantiate their unlikely influence on contemporary “lifestyle” anarchists. Retro-leftist that he is, Bookchin must suppose that bracketing the hate-words “conservative” and “German” is a one-two punch nobody recovers from. One page later (30), he admits that “there is no evidence that Bradford is familiar with Heidegger or Jünger,” the twentieth-century German intellectuals he j’accuses as carriers of nineteenth-century conservative German romantic ideology.
McCarthyism is the political strategy of guilt by association. If you know a Communist, or if you know someone who knows someone who is a Communist, presumptively you are a Communist and you’ll have to talk your way out of it, preferably by ratting somebody out. The ex-Communist Bookchin has outdone Senator McCarthy. The Senator sought to uncover association as evidence of guilt. The Dean affirms guilt as evidence of association. That’s really all there is to his dirty little diatribe. To be even less fair than Joe McCarthy is quite an accomplishment, what Nietzsche used to call a “downgoing.”
And another thing, nineteenth-century romanticism was neither exclusively conservative nor exclusively German. What about the liberal or radical German romanticism of Beethoven and Büchner and Schiller and Heine? And what about the non-German radical romanticism of Blake and Burns and Byron and Shelley?
The Dean relates that the Nazis honored their romantic, anti-technological ideology “in the breach.” “Honored in the breach” is Bookchin’s poor try at heading off the obvious, and decisive, objection that the Nazis didn’t have an anti-technological ideology. The Autobahn was as much a monument to technology as were its contemporaries the Moscow subway and the New York World’s Fair (which, I suspect, thrilled the 18 year old Murray Bookchin). So was the V-2. Almost openly erotic references to iron and steel recur with monotonous and pathological frequency in Nazi rhetoric. As John Zerzan remarked in a book the Dean claims to have read (39–42, 62 n. 19);
Behind the rhetoric of National Socialism, unfortunately, was only an acceleration of technique, even into the sphere of genocide as a problem of industrial production. For the Nazis and the gullible, it was, again a question of how technology is understood ideally, not as it really is. In 1940 the General Inspector for the German Road System put it this way: “Concrete and stone are material things. Man gives them form and spirit. National Socialist technology possesses in all material achievement ideal content” (Zerzan 1994: 140).
I’m not one of those who cries out in horror at the slightest whiff of anti-Semitism. But the Dean sees fit to insinuate that even the promiscuously pluralistic Hakim Bey is ideologically akin to Hitler (22), and that the primitivist quest to recover authenticity “has its roots in reactionary romanticism, most recently in the philosophy of Martin Heidegger, whose völkisch ‘spiritualism,’ latent in Being and Time, later emerged in his explicitly fascist works” (50). So let’s consider whether Bookchin-vetted classical anarchists are ideologically kosher. Proudhon was notoriously anti- Semitic (Silbener 1948), but since Bookchin dismisses him, however implausibly, as too much the individualist (4–5), let’s set Proudhon aside. Bakunin, the Russian aristocrat who “emphatically prioritized the social over the individual” (5) had a notion what was wrong with his authoritarian rival, Karl Marx. Bakunin considered Marx, “the German scholar, in his threefold capacity as an Hegelian, a Jew, and a German,” to be a “hopeless statist” (1995:142). A Hegelian, a Jew, a sort-of scholar, a Marxist, a hopeless (city-) statist — does this sound like anybody familiar?
The Dean approvingly quotes Lewis Mumford on “the esthetic excellence of the machine form” (32), a phrase which might have been turned by Marinetti or Mussolini or anyone else on the ill-defined frontier between Futurism and Fascism (cf. Moore 1996: 18). In War, the Worlds Only Hygiene, Marinetti elaborated on the Bookchin/Mumford aesthetic:
We are developing and proclaiming a great new idea that runs through modern life: the idea of mechanical beauty. We therefore exalt love for the machine, the love we notice flaming on the cheeks of mechanics scorched and smeared with coal. Have you never seen a mechanic lovingly at work on the great powerful body of his locomotive? His is the minute, loving tenderness of a lover caressing his adored woman (Flint 1972: 90).
The Germans conquered Europe with Panzers and Stukas not by blood-and-soil hocus-pocus. Nazi ideology is far tool incoherent to be characterized as either pro- or anti-technological. The Dean in bewailing our “decadent, bourgeoisified era” (1) and our “decadent personalism” (2) is himself echoing Nazi and Stalinist rhetoric, as he surely remembers, and it’s as empty as ever. The point is that the ideology didn’t have to make sense to matter. It was vague and inconsistent so as to appeal to as many people as possible who desperately needed something to believe in, something to free them from freedom, something to command their loyalty. It didn’t have to be the same come-on for everyone. The Nazis, fishers of Menschen, understood that you need different bait to hook different fish, that’s all.
And finally, individualist anarchists are terrorists — or rather, anarchist terrorists are individualists.
The inseparable association of anarchism with terrorism commenced for Americans with a specific event: the Haymarket tragedy in Chicago in 1886. As the police were breaking up a peaceable workers’ rally, someone threw a bomb into their midst, killing or wounding several of them. Eight prominent anarchists involved in the union movement, but indisputably innocent of the bombing, were convicted of murder and four of them hanged (one committed suicide) on the basis of their anarchist agitation and beliefs. If there is one fact about the history of anarchism known to everyone who knows at least one fact about the history of anarchism, it is this: “Thereafter, anarchism, in the public mind, was inseparably linked with terrorism and destruction” (Avrich 1984: 428; cf. Schuster 1932: 166; Woodcock 1962: 464). And the anarchism with which the link was forged was the collectivist anarchism of the Haymarket defendants. That they were, as individuals, innocent is irrelevant to the genesis of the mad-bomber legend. Innocent in act but not necessarily in intention: “One of them, [Louis] Lingg, had the best alibi: he wasn’t there... he was home, making bombs. He was thus convicted of a crime he would have liked to commit” (Black & Parfrey 1989: 67). In contrast, one historian refers to “the peaceful philosophy of Individualist Anarchism” (Schuster 1932: 159).
The anarchists’ terrorist reputation was not, however, entirely fabricated by their enemies (Black 1994: 50–55). In the 1880s, left-wing European anarchists had already begun to preach, and practice, “propaganda by the deed,” such as bombings — “chemistry,” as they sometimes put it — and assassinations. Even the beatific Kropotkin was originally a supporter of “the new tactic” (Bookchin 1977: 115). Some thought it the most effective way to dramatize anarchism and disseminate it to the masses. According to what the Dean calls “the best account of Spanish Anarchism from 1931 to 1936” (Bookchin 1977: 325), “the last decade of the [nineteenth] century was one in which the anarchists really were engaged in the bomb-throwing which is popularly thought to exhaust their range of activities” (Brademas 1953: 9).
These anarchist terrorists were, to apply Bookchin’s terminology anachronistically, usually social anarchists, rarely individualist anarchists. August Vaillant, who bombed the French Chamber of Deputies, was a leftist (Tuchman 1966: 91) and a member of an anarchist group (Bookchin 1977: 114). Of the French bombers of the 1890s, Ravachol alone, so far as anybody knows, was “almost but not quite” a Stirnerist (Tuchman 1964: 79).
The Spanish anarchists whom the Dean esteems above all others (1977, 1994) had perhaps the longest terrorist tradition of all. The index reference to “Terrorism, anarchist” in his history of Spanish anarchism covers dozens of pages (1977: 342). There were sporadic bombings in the 1880s which became chronic, at least in the anarchist stronghold of Barcelona, in the 1890s (Bookchin 1977: ch. 6). 1918–1923, period of violent class struggle in Spain, was the time of the pistoleros — gunmen — a term which applies to both employer-hired goons and anarcho-leftist militants. Among hundreds of others, “a premier, two former civil governors, an Arch-bishop, nearly 300 employers, factory directors, foremen, and police, and many workers and their leaders in the sindicato libre [a company union], fell before the bullets and bombs of Anarchist action groups” (Bookchin 1977: 191).
The pistolero phase subsided as the anarchists, who were getting the worst of the violence anyway, were driven underground by the Primo de Rivera dictatorship at the same time that a measure of prosperity took the edge off the class struggle. But anarcho-terrorism never ceased. During the ‘2Os and ‘3Os, “the FAI’s most well-known militants — Durruti, the Ascaso brothers, Garcia Oliver — included terrorism in their repertory of direct action: ‘Gunplay, especially in “expropriations” and in dealing with recalcitrant employers, police agents, and blacklegs, was not frowned upon’” (Bookchin 1994: 23). Their heists “sustained Ferrer-type schools, Anarchist printing presses, and a large publishing enterprise in Paris which produced the Anarchist Encyclopedia, as well as many books, pamphlets, and periodicals” (Bookchin 1977: 199).
I adduce these facts — and reference most of them, deliberately, to Bookchin — not to condemn or condone what “social anarchists” have sometimes done but to show up the Dean’s duplicity. Terrorism has been, for better or for worse, a recurrent anarchist tactic for more than a century. And the anarcho-terrorists have almost always been “social,” not individualist, anarchists. I’ve had occasion to rebut leftist falsifications to the contrary (Black 1994: 50–55). Bookchin justifies Spanish anarcho-pistolero terrorism as legitimate self-defense (1977: 201–202), an opinion I share, but the fact remains that it was terrorism — in Bookchinese, “social anarchist” terrorism — not the activity of individualist anarchists.
Chapter 3: Lifestyle Anarchism
As fast-and-loose as the Dean plays with the word “individualism,” extrapolating it to something he calls “lifestyle anarchism” is, to borrow a phrase from Jeremy Bentham not just nonsense, it is nonsense on stilts. Here is how he does the stretch:
In the traditionally individualist-liberal United States and Britain, the 1990s are awash in self-styled [that word again!] anarchists who — their flamboyant radical rhetoric aside — are cultivating a latter-day anarcho-individualism that I will call lifestyle anarchism.... Ad hoc adventurism, personal bravura, an aversion to theory oddly akin to the antirational biases of postmodernism, celebrations of theoretical incoherence (pluralism), a basically apolitical and anti-organizational commitment to imagination, desire, and ecstasy, and an intensely self-oriented enchantment of [sic] everyday life, reflect the toll that social reaction has taken on Euro-American anarchism over the past two decades (9).
In a classic tale of cerebral fantasy, Jorge Luis Borges related that in Tlön, “the dominant notion is that everything is the work of one single author”: “Criticism is prone to invent authors. A critic will choose two dissimilar works — the Tao Te Ching and the 1001 Nights, let us say — and attribute them to the same writer, and then with all probity explore the psychology of this interesting homme de lettres....” (Monegal & Reid 1981: 118).
That is exactly the Dean’s modus operandi, except that Borges was joking in a very sophisticated way whereas Bookchin is serious in a very dumb, dull way. Those he has designated “lifestyle anarchists” are essentially alike because, well, he has designated them as lifestyle anarchists. The label is self-verifying. He’s cobbled together all his self-selected enemies who are also “self-styled” anarchists as “lifestyle anarchists.” In an essay only recently published, but written In 1980, the Dean cogently observed that
...anarchism [has] acquired some bad habits of its own, notably an ahistorical and entrenched commitment to its own past. The decline of the New Left and the transformation of the sixties counter-culture into more institutionalized cultural forms compatible with the status quo created among many committed anarchists a longing for the ideological security and pedigree that also afflicts the dwindling Marxist sects of our day (1996: 23).
In the Middle Ages, what the Dean’s doing — but they did it better back then, and in good faith — was known as Realism. There cannot be a name (goes the argument) unless there is something real which that name designates. St. Anselm’s ontological argument for the existence of God, for instance, by defining God as that which nothing could be greater than, implies that God is the greatest possible being, and since something must be the greatest possible being, God must exist. The reflective reader will probably spot at least some of the flaws in this line of argument which almost all philosophers have long since recognized.
I am amazed to learn that the present epoch is “awash in self-styled anarchists.” Maybe I should awash more often. I hadn’t thought any place has been awash in self-styled anarchists since certain parts of Spain were in the 1930s. Maybe Burlington is awash in Bookchinists — a veritable Yankee Barcelona — but this conjecture is as yet unconfirmed.
“Lifestyle” wasn’t always a dirty word for the Dean. Recalling what was wrong with the Stalinist ‘30s, he’s written:
“Life-style?” — the word was simply unknown. If we were asked by some crazy anarchists how we could hope to change society without changing ourselves, our relations to each other, and our organizational structure, we had one ritualistic answer: “After the revolution....” (Bookchin 1970: 57).
Back then the Dean was calling for “communist life-styles” as integral to the revolutionary project (ibid.: 54). Today, the Dean alleges that lifestyle anarchism is “concerned with a ‘style’ rather than a society” (34), but the “crazy anarchists” he formerly identified with, but now maligns, agree with Bookchin the Younger that social revolution is lifestyle revolution, the revolution of everyday life: “It is plain that the goal of revolution today must be the liberation of daily life” (Bookchin 1971: 44).
Most of this gibberish is pejorative and content-free. If the dizzy Dean is saying anything substantive, he is claiming that those he has lumped (lumpened?) together as lifestyle anarchists are (1) anti-theoretical, (2) apolitical, (3) hedonistic and (4) anti-organizational. The question of organization is so large as to require a chapter in itself (Chapter 5). I’ll take up the other charges here.
Anti-Theoretical. As to this the Dean is nothing less than grotesque. When is a theorist not a theorist? When his theory is not the theory of Dean Bookchin. That disqualifies Guy Debord, Michel Foucault, Jacques Camatte, Jean Baudrillard and, to all intents and purposes, everybody published by Autonomedia. Bookchinism is not just the only true theory, it is the only theory. (Marxism, of course, is not theory, it is bourgeois ideology [Bookchin 1979].) Like Hegel and Marx before him, Bookchin likes to think that he is not only the finest but the final theorist. As they were wrong, so is he.
Apolitical. This is, if anything, even zanier. How can a political philosophy like anarchism — any variety of anarchism — be apolitical? There is, to be sure, a difference between Bookchinism and all anarchisms. Anarchism is anti-political by definition. Bookchinism is political (specifically, it is city-statist, as shall shortly be shown). It follows as a matter of course that Bookchinism is incompatible with anarchism, but it doesn’t follow that lifestyle anarchism is apolitical, only that lifestyle anarchism is, at worst, anarchism, and at best, contrary to Bookchinism.
Hedonistic. Sure, why not?
The Dean is right about one thing: it’s the truth (if no longer the whole truth) that anarchism continues the Enlightenment tradition. As such, it stands for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in a much more radical way than liberalism ever did. Godwin, for instance, argued that anarchism was the logical implication of utilitarianism. Kropotkin was convinced that “’the greatest happiness of the greatest number’ is no longer a dream, a mere Utopia. It is possible” (1924: 4). His adoption of the utilitarian maxim was neither ironic nor critical.