1. A new vocabulary for the 21st Century: "working anarchy" and "peer mutualism" →

    The latest issue of Politics & Society carries a new paper by Prof. Benkler entitled “Practical Anarchism : Peer Mutualism, Market Power, and the Fallible State”. The paper considers “several working anarchies in the networked environment, and whether they offer a model for improving on the persistent imperfections of markets and states”. In particular, Prof. Benkler tries to capture and analyze our growing experience with what he calls “peer mutualism: voluntaristic cooperation that does not depend on exclusive proprietary control or command relations as among the cooperators, and in many instances not even as common defense for the cooperators against nonparticipants.” - Stefaan Verhulst   

  2. Beyond Markets and States: Polycentric Governance of Complex Economic Systems

    "Contemporary research on the outcomes of diverse institutional arrangements for governing common-pool resources (CPRs) and public goods at multiple scales builds on classical economic theory while developing new theory to explain phenomena that do not fit in a dichotomous world of "the market" and "the state". Scholars are slowly shifting from positioning simple systems to using more complex frameworks, theories, and models to understand the diversity of puzzles and problems facing humans interacting in contemporary societies. The humans we study have complex motivational structures and establish diverse private-for-profit, governmental, and community institutional arrangements that operate at multiple scales to generate productive and innovative as well as destructive and perverse outcomes (Douglass C. North 1990, 2005). In this lecture, I will describe the intellectual journey that I have taken the last half century from when I began graduate studies in the late 1950s."

    - Elinor Ostrom

  3. Essay of the Day: Peer Mutualism, Market Power, and the Fallible State →

    Based on several examples of working anarchies in the networked environment Benkler argued that peer mutualism works in certain contexts. Even though it is not perfect, it provides people with a new degree of freedom.

    As individuals inhabiting a world of interlocked imperfect systems, we are susceptible to power shaping our perceptions, preferences, policies and principles as well as our actions, outcomes and configurations. Peer mutualism offers us a new way to bob and weave between those systems.

    The core questions are how much of what people care about can be done in non-market, non-proprietary, non-governmental models? Do peer mutualism models offer enough of a solution space? And how corruptible are these non-hierarchical and non-coercive models?”

    - Yochai Benkler, Practical Anarchism: Peer Mutualism, Market Power, and the Fallible State

  4. You show me anything that depicts institutional progress in America – school test scores, crime stats, arrest stats – anything that a politician can run on [or] anything that somebody can get a promotion on, and as soon as you invent that statistical category 50 people in that institution will be at work trying to figure out a way to make it look as if progress is actually occurring when actually no progress is… The same game is played everywhere – nobody’s actually in the business of doing what the institution is supposed to do… If there’s an institution that is supposed to serve you or that you are supposed to serve, and it’s supposed to care for you and be a societal positive, it will betray you.

    — David Simon, director of The Wire, in an interview with Bill Moyers

  5. The Historical Origins of Inequality →

    Given such fierce preference for equality, how did it happen that humans allowed inequality to develop? Small-scale societies of hunter-gatherers were integrated by faceto- face sociality. Such a diffuse, non-centralized social organization was well-suited to maintaining egalitarian ethos. However, the invention of agriculture c.10,000 years ago enabled evolution of large-scale societies. Once the size of cooperating group increased beyond 100–200 people, even gigantic human brains were overwhelmed by the computational demands of face-to-face sociality (Dunbar and Shultz 2007). The solution that social evolution found was hierarchical organization, with large human groups integrated by chains of command. A member of a hierarchically organized group needs to have face-to-face interactions with only a few individuals: a superior and several subordinates. The group size grows by adding additional hierarchical levels; a process that has no physical limit. The great downside of hierarchical organization, however, is that it inevitably leads to inequality. Thus, the side-effect of selection for greater societal size was the U-turn in the evolution of egalitarianism (Turchin 2011).

    -Peter Turchin, discussing Robert Bellah’s book Reglion in Human Evolution

  6. RT: FBI releases documents that confirm they spy on anarchists →

    On Thursday, legal documents intended to be cloaked indefinitely were accidently unsealed in US District Court in Seattle for a moment, finally offering a small bit of insight as to why the FBI has been targeting adherents to a specific ideology and intensifying what some have equated to a politically-motivated witch-hunt aimed at anarchists.

  7. Romney and Obama are both extraordinarily talented and smart. That’s what it takes to pull off the world’s biggest hoax. In their public debates, they must shamelessly play along with the expectation that they are masterminds of history’s largest and most expansive government with thousands of departments, millions and millions of regulations, astonishingly complex networks of graft and corruption, and legacy content dating back more then a century, and, further, claim — with a straight face — that their personal “vision” can encompass and control the whole apparatus, and, by extension, the nation and the world. They must pull off this ostentatious and wildly implausible display of the pretense of knowledge with the look and feel of genuine conviction. Anyone who can do this has to be pathological, if he believes what he is saying, or duplicitous to an extent that vastly exceeds the human norm. It’s all mightily impressive, so much so that the entire show could and should be moved to Broadway as a profitable venture. In that way, it could become consumer-pleasing entertainment rather persist in what it actually is: the biggest threat to peace, prosperity, and freedom in the world today.

    —  Jeffrey Tucker

  8. A conversation with anarchist anthropologist David Graeber and Charlie Rose: Debt, Greece and Occupy Wall Street

  9. Anarchistic and self-trained, are street medics the future of first aid? →

    Anarchistic, high-energy, and self- organized, street medics have been part of activist counterculture since the 1960s, with major presences at civil-rights protests, anti–Vietnam War actions, the American Indian Movement’s occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973, anti-globalization protests in the 1990s and early aughts, and most recently, at Occupy encampments internationally. Street medics also take their skills to disaster areas: there were medics in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and in Haiti after the earthquake.

  10. Thank You Anarchists →

    At its core, anarchism isn’t simply a negative political philosophy, or an excuse for window-breaking, as most people tend to assume it is. Even while calling for an end to the rule of coercive states backed by military bases, prison industries and subjugation, anarchists and other autonomists try to build a culture in which people can take care of themselves and each other through healthy, sustainable communities. Many are resolutely nonviolent. Drawing on modes of organizing as radical as they are ancient, they insist on using forms of participatory direct democracy that naturally resist corruption by money, status and privilege. Everyone’s basic needs should take precedence over anyone’s greed. 

    Through the Occupy movement, these assemblies have helped open tremendous space in American political discourse. They’ve started new conversations about what people really want for their communities, conversations that amazingly still haven’t been hijacked, as they might otherwise might be, by charismatic celebrities or special interests. But these assemblies also pose a problem.