In this series of essays, Murray Bookchin balances his ecological and anarchist vision with the promising opportunities of a “post-scarcity” era. Technological. Editorial Reviews. About the Author. Murray Bookchin is cofounder of the Institute for Social Post-Scarcity Anarchism – Kindle edition by Murray Bookchin. Post-Scarcity Anarchism [Murray Bookchin] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. Book.
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All the successful revolutions of the past have been particularistic revolutions of minority classes seeking to assert their specific interests over those of society as a whole.
The scarcoty bourgeois revolutions of modern times offered an ideology of sweeping political reconstitution, but in reality they merely certified the social dominance of the bourgeoisie, giving formal political expression to the economic ascendancy of capital. The lofty notions of the “nation,” the “free citizen,” of equality before the law,” concealed the mundane reality of the centralized state, the atomized isolated man, the dominance of bourgeois interest.
Despite their sweeping ideological claims, the particularistic revolutions replaced the rule of one class by scarcitt, one system of exploitation by another, one system of toil by another, and one system of psychological repression by another. What is unique about our era is that the particularistic revolution has bookvhin been subsumed by the possibility of the generalized revolution—complete and totalistic.
Bourgeois society, if it achieved nothing else, revolutionized the means of production on a scale unprecedented in history.
This technological revolution, culminating in cybernation, has created the objective, quantitative basis for a world without class rule, exploitation, toil or material want. The means now exist for the development of the rounded man, the total man, freed of guilt and the workings of authoritarian modes of training, and given over to desire and the sensuous vookchin of the marvelous. It is now possible to conceive of man’s future experience in terms of a coherent process in which the bifurcations of thought and activity, mind and sensuousness, discipline and spontaneity, individuality and community, man and nature, town and country, education and life, work and play are all resolved, harmonized, and organically wedded in a qualitatively new realm of freedom.
Just as the particularized revolution produced a particularized, bifurcated society, so the generalized revolution can produce an organically unified, many-sided community. The great wound opened by propertied society in the form of the “social question” can now be healed. That freedom must be conceived of in human terms, not in animal terms—in terms of life, not of survival—is clear enough.
Men do not remove their ties of bondage and become fully human merely by divesting themselves of social domination and obtaining freedom in its abstract form. Scxrcity must also be free concretely: To have seen these material preconditions for human freedom, to have emphasized that freedom presupposes free time and the material abundance for abolishing free time as a social privilege, is the great contribution of Karl Marx to modern revolutionary theory.
By the same token, the preconditions for freedom must not be mistaken for the conditionsof freedom. The possibility of liberation does not constitute its reality.
Along with its positive aspects, technological advance has a distinctly negative, socially regressive side. If it is true that technological progress enlarges the historical potentiality for freedom, it is also true that the bourgeois control of technology reinforces the established organization of society and everyday life. Technology and the resources of abundance furnish capitalism with the means for assimilating large sections of society to scarciity established system of hierarchy and authority.
They provide scarcify system with the weaponry, the detecting devices and the propaganda media for the threat as well as the reality of massive repression. By their centralistic nature, the resources of abundance reinforce the monopolistic, centralistic and bureaucratic tendencies in the political apparatus. In short, they furnish the state with historically unprecedented means for manipulating and mobilizing the entire environment of life—and for perpetuating hierarchy, exploitation and unfreedom.
It must be emphasized, however, that this manipulation and mobilization of the environment is extremely problematical and laden with crises. Far from leading to pacification one can hardly speak, here, of harmonizationthe attempt of bourgeois society to control and exploit its environment, natural as well as social, has devastating consequences.
Volumes have been written on the pollution of the atmosphere scarcith waterways, on the destruction of tree cover and soil, and on toxic materials in foods and liquids. Even more threatening in their final results are the pollution and destruction of the very ecology required for a complex organism like man. The concentration of radioactive wastes scaecity living things is a menace to the health and genetic endowment of nearly all species. Worldwide contamination by pesticides that inhibit oxygen production in plankton or by the near-toxic level of lead from gasoline exhaust are examples of an enduring pollution that threatens the biological integrity of all advanced lifeforms—including man.
No less alarming is the fact that we must drastically revise our traditional notions of what constitutes an environmental pollutant.
A few decades ago it would have been absurd to describe carbon dioxide and heat as pollutants in the customary sense of the term. Yet both may well rank among the most serious sources of future ecological imbalance and may pose major threats to the viability of the planet.
As a result of industrial and domestic combustion activities, the quantity of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased by roughly twenty-five percent in the past one hundred years, and may well double by the end of the century.
The famous “greenhouse effect” which the increasing quantity of the gas is expected to produce has been widely discussed in the media; eventually, it is supposed, the gas will inhibit the dissipation of the world’s heat into space, causing a rise in overall temperatures which will melt the polar ice caps and result in the inundation of vast coastal areas.
Thermal pollution, the result mainly of warm water discharged by nuclear and conventional power plants, has had disastrous effects on obokchin ecology of lakes, rivers and estuaries. Increases in water temperature not only damage the physiological and reproductive aanarchism of the fish, they also promote the great blooms of algae that have become such formidable problems in waterways.
Ecologically, bourgeois exploitation and manipulation are undermining the very capacity of the earth to sustain advanced forms of life. The crisis is being heightened by massive increases in air and water pollution; by a mounting accumulation of nondegradable wastes, boolchin residues, pesticide residues and toxic additives in food; by the expansion of cities into vast urban belts; by increasing stresses due to congestion, noise and mass living; and by the wanton scarring of the earth as a result of mining operations, lumbering, and real estate speculation.
As a result, the earth has been despoiled in a few decades on a scale that is unprecedented in the entire history of human habitation of the planet. Socially, bourgeois exploitation and manipulation have brought everyday life to the most scarfity point of vacuity and boredom.
As society has been converted bookchhin a factory and a marketplace, the very rationale of life has been reduced to production for its own sake—and consumption for its own sake. Is there a redemptive dialectic that can guide the social development in the direction of an anarchic society where people will attain scarxity control over their daily lives?
Or does the social dialectic come to an end with capitalism, its possibilities sealed off by the use of a highly advanced technology for repressive and co-optative purposes?
Post-Scarcity Anarchism | The Anarchist Library
We must learn here from the limits of Marxism, a project which, understandably in a period of material scarcity, anchored the social dialectic and the contradictions of capitalism in the economic realm. Marx, it has been emphasized, examined the preconditions for liberation, not the conditions of liberation. The Marxian critique is rooted in the past, in the era of material want and relatively limited technological development.
Even its humanistic theory of alienation turns primarily on the issue of work and man’s alienation from the product of his labor. Today, however, capitalism is a parasite on the future, a vampire that survives on the technology and resources of freedom. The industrial capitalism of Marx’s time organized its commodity relations around a prevailing system of material scarcity; the state capitalism of our time organizes its commodity relations around a prevailing system of material abundance.
A century ago, scarcity had to be endured; today, it has to be enforced—hence the importance of the state in the present era. It is not that modern capitalism has resolved its contradictions  and annulled the social dialectic, but rather that the social dialectic and the contradictions of capitalism have expanded from the economic to the hierarchical realms of society, from the abstract “historic” domain to the concrete minutiae of everday experience, from the arena of survival to the arena of life.
The dialectic of bureaucratic state capitalism originates in the contradiction between the repressive character of commodity society and the enormous potential freedom opened by technological advance. This contradiction also opposes the exploitative organization of society to the natural world—a world that includes not only the natural environment, but also man’s “nature”—his Eros-derived impulses.
The contradiction between the exploitative organization of society and the natural environment is beyond co-optation: There is no technology that can reproduce atmospheric oxygen in sufficient quantities to sustain life on this planet. There is no substitute for the hydrological systems of the earth. There is no technique for removing massive environmental pollution by radioactive isotopes, pesticides, lead and petroleum wastes.
Nor is there the faintest evidence that bourgeois society will relent at any time in the foreseeable future in its disruption of vital ecological processes, in its exploitation of natural resources, in its use of the atmosphere and waterways as dumping areas for wastes, or in its cancerous mode of urbanization and land abuse. Even more immediate is the contradiction between the exploitative organization of society and man’s Eros-derived impulses—a contradiction that manifests itself as the banalization and impoverishment of experience in a bureaucratically manipulated, impersonal mass society.
The Eros-derived impulses in man can be repressed and sublimated, but they can never be eliminated. They are renewed with every birth of a human being and with every generation of youth. It is not surprising today that the young, more than any economic class or stratum, articulate the life-impulses in humanity’s nature—the urgings of desire, sensuousness, and the lure of the marvelous.
Thus, the biological matrix, from which hierarchical society emerged ages ago, reappears at a new level with the era that marks the end of hierarchy, only now this matrix is saturated with social phenomena. Short of manipulating humanity’s germplasm, the life-impulses can be annulled only with the annihilation of man himself. The contradictions within bureaucratic state capitalism permeate all the hierarchical forms developed and overdeveloped by bourgeois society.
The hierarchical forms which nurtured propertied society for ages and promoted its development—the state, city, centralized economy, bureaucracy, patriarchal family, and marketplace—have reached their historic limits.
They have exhausted their social functions as modes of stabilization. It is not a question of whether these hierarchical forms were ever “progressive” in the Marxian sense of the term. As Raoul Vaneigem has observed: With the development of anacrhism forms into a threat to the very existence of humanity, the social dialectic, far from being annulled, acquires a new dimension.
It poses the “social question” in an entirely new way. If man had to acquire the conditions of survival in order to live as Marx emphasizednow he must acquire the conditions boockhin life in order to survive. By this inversion of the relationship between survival and life, revolution acquires a new sense of urgency. No longer are we faced with Marx’s famous choice of socialism or barbarism; we are confronted with the more drastic alternatives of anarchism or annihilation.
The problems scarcigy necessity and survival have become congruent with the problems of freedom and life. They cease to require any theoretical mediation, “transitional” stages, or centralized organizations to bridge the gap between the existing and the possible. The possible, in fact, is all that can exist. Hence, the problems of “transition,” which occupied the Marxists for nearly a century, are eliminated not only by the advance of technology, but by the social dialectic itself.
The problems of social reconstruction have been reduced to practical tasks that can be solved spontaneously by self-liberatory acts of society. Revolution, in fact, acquires not only a new sense of urgency, but a new sense of promise.
In the hippies’ tribalism, in the drop-out lifestyles and free sexuality of millions of youth, in the spontaneous affinity groups of the anarchists, we find forms of affirmation that follow from acts of negation. With the inversion of the “social question” there is also an inversion of the social dialectic; a “yea” emerges automatically and simultaneously with a “nay.
The solutions take their point of departure from the problems. When the time has arrived in history that the state, the city, bureaucracy, the centralized economy, the patriarchal family and the marketplace have reached their historic limits, what is posed is no longer a change in form but the absolute negation of all hierarchical forms as such.
Anzrchism absolute negation of the state is anarchism—a situation in which men liberate not only “history,” but all the immediate circumstances of their everyday lives. The absolute negation of the city is community— a community in which the social environment is decentralized into rounded, ecologically balanced communes.
The absolute negation of bureaucracy is immediate as distinguished from mediated relations—a situation in which representation is replaced by face-to-face relations in a general assembly of free individuals.
The absolute negation of the centralized economy is regional ecotechnology— a situation in which the instruments of production are molded to the resources of an ecosystem.
The absolute negation of the patriarchal family is liberated sexuality—in which all scarciyt of sexual regulation are transcended by the spontaneous, untrammeled expression of eroticism among equals.
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The absolute negation of the marketplace is communism—in which collective abundance and cooperation transform labor into play and need into desire. It is not accidental that at a point in history when hierarchical power and manipulation have reached their most threatening proportions, the very concepts of hierarchy, power and manipulation are being brought into question. The challenge to these concepts comes from a rediscovery of the importance of spontaneity—a rediscovery nourished by ecology, by a heightened conception of self-development, and by a new understanding of the revolutionary process in society.
What ecology has shown is that balance in nature is achieved by organic variation and complexity, not by homogeneity and simplification. For example, the more varied the flora and fauna of an ecosystem, the more stable the population of a potential pest. The more environmental diversity is diminished, the greater will the population of a potential pest fluctuate, with the probability that it will get out of control.
Left to itself, an ecosystem tends spontaneously toward organic differentiation, greater variety of flora and fauna, and diversity in the number of prey and predators. This does not mean that interference by man must be avoided. The need for a productive agriculture—itself a form of interference with nature—must always remain in the foreground of an ecological approach to food cultivation and forest management.
No less important is the fact that man can often produce changes in an ecosystem that would vastly improve its ecological quality.