He almost lost me at the very beginning by describing a “law” he invented as “Scott’s Law of Anarchist Calisthenics” (every day or so break some trivial law so that you’ll be ‘in shape’ to break a big law in the name of justice and rationality) but quickly made up ground by offering some solid thoughts. Describing himself as having an “anarchist squint” rather than identifying as a full-blown anarchist, he starts his argument with the belief that abolition of the state is not an option, we must work within its constraints to enact change. The success of the Depression protests in the 1930s, anti-Vietnam, and Civil-Rights moments was enjoyed “at their most disruptive, most confrontational, least organized, and least hierarchical.” Mass disruption and threats to public order play a vital role in the process of reform. The political elite was alarmed at what seemed to be revolutionary ferment, and ferment that was not institutionalized, which made it scarier, no one to negotiate with.
Beyond these, there’s a whole category of “infrapolitics,” like foot-dragging, pilfering, sabotage, desertion, squatting, and flight. The peasantry has resorted to those methods in lieu of raising voices to enact change for a long time. Desertion is exit rather than voice. “Quiet, unassuming, quotidian insubordination… flies below the archival radar… escapes notice. Historically, the goal of peasants has been to stay out of the archives.”
Great example of the fastest-moving assembly line in Lordsville, OH (General Motors) being sabotaged inconspicuously by workers, having it slowed to a humane pace. “What is crucial here is that the resistance by the workforce to its inhuman speed actually made the design inefficient. There is no such thing as labor efficiency in neoclassical economics that does not implicitly assume conditions that the workforce will accept and tolerate.”
Removing a traffic light at busy intersection reduces accidents because everyone is more alert, assessing the risk and danger and cooperating with each other to move ahead. “It shifts the emphasis away from the Government taking the risk, to the driver being responsible for their own risk.”
The implications of a life lived largely in subservience for the quality of citizenship in a democracy are also ominous. Is it reasonable to expect someone whose waking life is almost completely lived in subservience and who has acquired the habits of survival and self-preservation in such settings to suddenly become, in a town meeting, a courageous, independent-thinking, risk-taking model of individual sovereignty?
Interesting musings on the impact of history to whitewash away the radicalness of history, to make things seem like pre-ordained acts. An unfortunate sports-analogy follows:
What “history” does to our understanding of events is akin to what a TV broadcast does to our understanding of a basketball game. The camera is placed above and outside the plane of action, like a helicopter hovering above the action. The effect of this bird’s-eye view is to distance the viewer from the play and apparently slow it down… when, rarely, the camera is placed at floor level and close to the action in real time, one finally appreciates the blinding speed and complexity of the game as the players experience it.
The condensation of history, our desire for clean narratives, and the need for elites to project an image of control and purpose all conspire to convey a false image of historical causation. They blind us to the fact that most revolutions are not the work of revolutionary parties but the precipitate of spontaneous and improvised action… that the great emancipatory gains for human freedom have not been the result of orderly, institutional procedures but of disorderly, unpredictable, spontaneous action cracking open the social orders from below.
Skip the largely unreadable fantasy of section 5 wherein he imagines Condoleezza Rice as Yale president in 2020 shaking things up by making professors wear digital caps that show the number of citations their work has received.