Freedom, De-Alienation, and Revolution
University of Amsterdam, Netherlands, The
This paper examines the theory of alienation and its implications for thinking about social revolution to unmake capitalism. After briefly discussing the importance of the theory of alienation to different forms of contemporary anarchist and Marxist theory and practice, I reconstruct Marx’s theory of alienation as a diagnosis of how capitalism thwarts human freedom. This in turn raises important questions about the requirements of successful de-alienation – a question rarely given the attention it deserves. A politics of de-alienation requires, I argue, not only rejecting capitalism and the state, but also a commitment to prefigurative politics. Prefigurative politics is necessary for developing revolutionary subjects with the powers and capacities, motivations, and consciousness required for replacing unfree, alienated social relations and institutions with free and unalienated ones. Finally, I compare and assess three contemporary models of de-alienation: the autonomist Marxist model of John Holloway; the more state-involved model of 21st Century Socialism; and the anti-statist model of anarcho-syndicalism. All three provide models of de-alienation that stress the importance of prefigurative politics in some sense, but each suffers from distinct shortcomings. Holloway’s autonomist model fails to provide an adequately social conception prefigurative politics; 21st Century Socialism faces concerns about the long-term viability of combining prefigurative economic and political microcosms with retaining hierarchical state structures; and anarcho-syndicalism confronts questions about lacking emphases on institutions of transition – rather than just struggle – and inadequate recognition of community organising. Nevertheless, I argue that an updated anarcho-syndicalist model offers the most plausible vision of anti-capitalist struggles of de-alienation.
Dr. Paul A. Raekstad is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Amsterdam, who previously completed a PhD and lectured at the University of Cambridge. Current research focuses on realism, democracy, the legitimacy of economic institutions, and radical political theory more broadly. Works can be found at https://amsterdam.academia.edu/PaulRaekstad.
Raekstad, P. Accepted. Revolutionary Practice and Prefigurative Politics: A Clarification and Defence. Constellations.
Raekstad, P. Forthcoming. Realism, Utopianism, and Radical Values. European Journal of Philosophy. Available online with Early Access: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ejop.12193/abstract.
Raekstad, P. Forthcoming. Democracy Against Representation: A Radical Realist View. Abolition: A Journal of Insurgent Politics.
Raekstad, P. Forthcoming. Human Development and Alienation in the Thought of Karl Marx. European Journal of Political Theory. Available with Early Access:http://ept.sagepub.com/content/early/2015/12/03/1474885115613735.full.pdf+html
Raekstad, P. Forthcoming. The Democratic Theory of the Early Marx. Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie
Embodying the Critique to Capitalism in Gloomy Times. Theoretical Perspectives and Potential Research Horizons on Emerging 'Real Utopias'
Scuola Normale Superiore, Italy
In recent years, terms like ‘sharing economy’, 'industry 4.0', 'collaborative economy' have become the buzzwords in academic research and public debate – gaining prominence in tandem with the growth of digital capitalism. While much has been said about the ways in which digital technology is transforming entire swathes of the economy and constructing new forms of exchange, the predominant tendency has been the reification and expansion of modern capitalism, aimed at maximizing profits and reproducing exploitative mechanisms towards workers, natural resources and the environment. Within this critical juncture in the development of capitalism cooperatives, political consumerism and alternative lifestyles are being adopted and advocated by a growing number of social groups.
Moreover, recent contributions like Erik Olin Wright’s ‘Envisioning Real Utopias’ (2010), Hartmut Rosa’s reflections on acceleration and de-synchronisation in contemporary capitalism (2010), Klaus Dörre and colleagues’ ‘Sociology, Capitalism and Critique’ (2015) and D’Alisa et al. ‘Degrowth. A Vocabulary for a New Era’ (2015), among others, are giving a new momentum to concepts like ‘resilience’, ‘real utopias’, ‘re-politicisation’ of everyday life, ‘de-colonisation of the imaginary’ and ‘transition’. These emerging themes are influencing the academic discourse and research agenda in fields like political economy, sociology and social movements studies. In light of this, the paper attempts to provide with an original theoretical framework focusing on collective and community-based practices that aim at ‘embodying’ the critique to consumerist and capitalist societies. These include co-housing, eco-villages, intentional communities and transition towns which are increasingly widespread and inter-connected examples of how people are trying to concretize, not without effort, ‘real utopias’ (Wright 2010).
Dr Lara Monticelli is currently an independent research fellow, awarded by the FBML Foundation (Italy), working on her project titled ‘Laboratories of Change’ in collaboration with researchers at the Dutch Research Institute for Transitions in Rotterdam. The project focuses on the (re)emergence of community-based social movements (e.g. intentional communities, eco-villages, transition towns) as living laboratories experimenting with practices of resilience and resistance to environmental, economic and societal challenges. She is especially interested in how these movements politicize and re-configure everyday life, thus representing radical attempts to embody the critique to contemporary capitalism. She has also co-founded and co-chaired two international conferences, creating a vibrant forum for the discussion of this emerging research agenda at the annual SASE meetings (Berkeley 2016, Lyon 2017). Prior to this, she worked as a post-doctoral research fellow at the Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences at Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa (Italy). Her other research has been centered on the study of non-conventional political participation, and combines perspectives from the sociology of work, social movement and political participation studies.