James C. Scott – Two Cheers for Anarchism

James C. Scott.jpgTwo Cheers for Anarchism is a book written by James C Scott a political scientist and anthropologist.. It’s a collection of examples of “anarchistic” behavior in daily life and other stories related to the movement. While writing this I almost finished the book and so far I can recommend it but don’t take my word for it.



The arguments found here have been gestating for a long time, as I wrote about peasants, class conflict, resistance, development projects, and marginal peoples in the hills of Southeast Asia. Again and again over three decades, I found myself having said something in a seminar discussion or having written

something and then catching myself thinking, “Now, that sounds like what an anarchist would argue.” In geometry, two points make a line; but when the third, fourth, and fifth points all fall on the same line, then the coincidence is hard to ignore. Struck by that coincidence, I decided it was time to read the anarchist classics and the histories of anarchist movements. To that end, I taught a large undergraduate lecture course on anarchism in an effort to educate myself and perhaps work out my relationship to anarchism. The result, having sat on the

back burner for the better part of twenty years after the course ended, is assembled here. My interest in the anarchist critique of the state was born of disillusionment and dashed hopes in revolutionary change. This was a common enough experience for those who came to political consciousness in the 1960s in North America. For me and many others, the 1960s were the high tide of what one might call a romance with peasant wars of national liberation. I was, for a time, fully swept up in this moment of utopian possibilities. I followed with some awe and, in retrospect, a great deal of naiveté the referendum for independence in Ahmed Sékou Touré’s Guinea, the panAfrican initiatives of Ghana’s president, Kwame Nkrumah, the early elections in Indonesia, the independence and first elections in Burma, where I had spent a year, and, of course, the land reforms in revolutionary China and nationwide elections in India. The disillusionment was propelled by two processes: his-torical inquiry and current events. It dawned on me, as it should have earlier, that virtually every major successful revolution ended by creating a state more powerful than the one it overthrew, a state that in turn was able to extract more resources from and exercise more control over the very populations it was designed to serve. Here, the anarchist critique of Marx and, especially, of Lenin seemed prescient. The French Revolution led to the Thermadorian Reaction, and then to

the precocious and belligerent Napoleonic state. The October Revolution in Russia led to Lenin’s dictatorship of the vanguard party and then to the repression of striking seamen and workers (the proletariat!) at Kronstadt, collectivization, and the gulag. If the ancien régime had presided over feudal

inequality with brutality, the record of the revolutions made for similarly melancholy reading. The popular aspirations that provided the energy and courage for the revolutionary victory were, in any long view, almost inevitably betrayed. Current events were no less disquieting when it came to what contemporary revolutions meant for the largest class in world history, the peasantry. The Viet Minh, rulers in the northern half of Vietnam following the Geneva Accords of 1954, had ruthlessly suppressed a popular rebellion of small

holders and petty landlords in the very areas that were the historical hotbeds of peasant radicalism. In China, it had become clear that the Great Leap Forward, during which Mao, his critics silenced, forced millions of peasants into large agrarian communes and dining halls, was having catastrophic results. Scholars and statisticians still argue about the human toll between 1958 and 1962, but it is unlikely to be less than 35 million people. While the human toll of the Great Leap Forward was being recognized, ominous news of starvation and executions in Kampuchea under the Khmer Rouge completed the picture of peasant revolutions gone lethally awry.

You can read the rest here at google books or here at Princton.edu

The back covers:

James Scott taught us what’s wrong with seeing like a state. Now, in his most accessible and personal book to date, the acclaimed social scientist makes the case for seeing like an anarchist. Inspired by the core anarchist faith in the possibilities of voluntary cooperation without hierarchy, Two Cheers for Anarchism is an engaging, high-spirited, and often very funny defense of an anarchist way of seeing–one that provides a unique and powerful perspective on everything from everyday social and political interactions to mass protests and revolutions. Through a wide-ranging series of memorable anecdotes and examples, the book describes an anarchist sensibility that celebrates the local knowledge, common sense, and creativity of ordinary people. The result is a kind of handbook on constructive anarchism that challenges us to radically reconsider the value of hierarchy in public and private life, from schools and workplaces to retirement homes and government itself.

Beginning with what Scott calls “the law of anarchist calisthenics,” an argument for law-breaking inspired by an East German pedestrian crossing, each chapter opens with a story that captures an essential anarchist truth. In the course of telling these stories, Scott touches on a wide variety of subjects: public disorder and riots, desertion, poaching, vernacular knowledge, assembly-line production, globalization, the petty bourgeoisie, school testing, playgrounds, and the practice of historical explanation.

Far from a dogmatic manifesto, Two Cheers for Anarchism celebrates the anarchist confidence in the inventiveness and judgment of people who are free to exercise their creative and moral capacities.

James C. Scott (born December 2, 1936) is a political scientist and anthropologist. He is a comparative scholar of agrarian and non-state societies, subaltern politics, and anarchism. His primary research has centered on peasants of Southeast Asia and their strategies of resistance to various forms of domination. The New York Times described his research as “highly influential and idiosyncratic”. Scott received his bachelor’s degree from Williams College and his MA and PhD in political science from Yale. He taught at the University of Wisconsin–Madison until 1976 and has remained at Yale for the duration of his career. At Yale he is Sterling Professor of Political Science and has directed the Program in Agrarian Studies since 1991. He lives in Durham, Connecticut, where he once raised sheep.

Scott was born in Mount Holly, New Jersey in 1936. He attended the Moorestown Friends School, a Quaker Day School, and in 1953, matriculated at Williams College in Massachusetts. On the advice of Indonesia scholar William Hollinger, he wrote an honors thesis on the economic development of Burma.

On graduation, Scott received a Rotary International Fellowship to study in Burma, where he was recruited by an American student activist who had become an anti-communist organizer for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Scott agreed to do reporting for the agency and at the end of his fellowship a post in the Paris office of the National Student Association, which accepted CIA money and direction in working against communist-controlled global student movements over the next few years. Scott began graduate study in political science at Yale in 1961. His dissertation on political ideology in Malaysia, which was supervised by Robert E. Lane, analyzed interviews with Malaysian civil servants. In 1967, he took a position as an assistant professor in political science at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. As a Southeast Asianist teaching during the Vietnam War, he offered popular courses on the war and peasant revolutions. In 1976, having earned tenure at Madison, Scott returned to Yale and settled on a farm in Durham, Connecticut with his wife. They started with a small farm, then purchased a larger one nearby in the early 1980s and began raising sheep for their wool. Since 2011, the pastures on the farm have been grazed by two Highland cattle, named Fife and Dundee.

Scott’s first books were based on archival research, and he is unusual for conducting his primary ethnographic fieldwork only after receiving tenure. To research his third book, Weapons of the Weak, Scott spent fourteen months in a village in Kedah, Malaysia between 1978 and 1980. When he had finished a draft, he returned for two months to solicit villagers’ impressions of his depiction, and significantly revised the book based on their criticisms and insight.

From Wikipedia, read the rest here

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