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Vaccaro's social criticism is primarily directed at financial capitalism, which earns one percent at the expense of the other 99. 


Salvo Vaccaro
Anarchist studies: Una critica degli assiomi culturali
Elèuthera, 2016

Salvo Vaccaro (ed.)
Agire altrimenti: Anarchismo e movimenti radicali nel XXI secolo
Elèuthera, 2014

"Is Anarchism a Philosophy?" Salvo Vaccaro asks in his little book of the year, Anarchist studies. And answer that anarchism (in the majority) cannot be reduced to the form of thinking called philosophy. But we understand that he is asking. Vaccaro is very philosophical in his approach to anarchism.

Perhaps not so surprising when you know that he specializes in Michael Foucault, Jacques Derrida and Gilles Deleuze. He describes these philosophers as "post-structuralists," and we can therefore safely place Vaccaro's own thinking in the booth of "post-anarchism," the form of (theoretical) anarchism that incorporates post-structuralist philosophy as premise and analytical toolkit. Vaccaro himself uses the term "post anarchism", as well as "new anarchism".

Occupy Wall Street protesters on California Street in San Francisco in September 2012. PHOTO: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images / AFP
Occupy Wall Street protesters on California Street in San Francisco in September 2012. PHOTO: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images / AFP

The question of theory and practice comes up quickly. "With the exception of Godwin and Stirner [...], there is no theoretician thought in anarchist thinking that has not also been an active protagonist in the history of the political anarchism movement," Vaccaro writes. But what about him? It is obvious that he, with his previous release Acting on foods (Act Different) – an anthology from 2014 that gathered texts and interviews with, among others, David Graeber, Noam Chomsky and John Holloway – trying to make his mark as an "activist". But in this year's release, it all remains very theoretical.

Diversity. The subtitle of Anarchist studies, which suggests that we are dealing with a critique of "cultural axioms", should be understood in the philosophical meaning of "axiom" – here is the understanding of basic principles of the type arkhe, which is ignored in the word "anarchism", it is about. Being metaphysics and various forms of essentialist ontology are also criticized. Vaccaro wants to emphasize diversity over unity, to be rather than to be.

Vaccaro sees Deleuze's difference ontology, with an emphasis on immanence, multiplicity, heterogeneity and oneness, as particularly compatible with anarchism. Foucault and Derrida also characterize the book – their critique of categories such as "subject", "history", "power" and "time", as well as of the traditional understanding of signs, is the basis for Vaccaro's rethinking of the basic premises of political thinking. But it is far from the critique of any static thinking and to the possible political implications.

Regimentation. At least perhaps this distance is when we come to Foucault. Key words are biopolitics og dispositive. Vaccaro has much in common here with Giorgio Agamben (one of the few Italian philosophers he mentions), where he analyzes the transition from a Hobbesian territorial state to a state that controls its own population – from social contract to security pact, as Vaccaro says.

The use Vaccaro makes of the biopolitical Foucalt is at all typical of a number of thinkers today. The purpose is not least to show how power or dominance is woven into a number of complex social relations. Central to Vaccaro, as for so many other modern theorists, is Foucault's lecture series at the Collège de France in 1978, "Security, Territory, Population" (Security, territory, population). Here Foucault develops the concept governance to refer to the extended "form of government / rule / exercise of power" that characterizes modern society, where it is not just traditional forms of military or police power that are operational, but where complex connections have emerged between the school system, the health service, prison and surveillance – of not only control over, but also discipline of citizens.

Powerlessness the norm. In the anthology from 2014, Salvo Vaccaro has an introduction where he tries to be even more explicitly political. Here he announces that the goal of a new anarchism must be to imagine political upheavals for the 21st century, which can replace – or "follow up" – the liberal revolutions of the 1700th and 1800th centuries, and those – as Vaccaro writes – "(More or less) authoritarian" socialist revolutions of the 1900th century.

Vaccaro does not rule out the possibility of a more traditional class struggle, but believes that in that case it must take place based on the factory workers in East Asia. The possibility of such a class struggle is mentioned only this one time. Vaccaro's thinking is clearly within what he calls "post-politics" – "if by politics we banally mean the access to political power in its institutionalized version". The main protest movements from the last 20 years, Vaccaro writes, just as well represent a counter-policy, an anti-policy, an impolitic policy.

"Post-democratic" Vaccaro calls today's system. He sees anarchism as the equivalent of "democratic fiction", where the powerlessness of the people is not exceptional, but has become the norm. The economic-administrative elites trump through consensus in choices built on marketing techniques. They relate to the general will as something that can be controlled like the retail trade in general.

Bodies. Referring to John Holloways Change the World Without Taking Power: The Meaning of Revolution Today (2002) Vaccaro emphasizes that a modern attempt at revolution must not at all costs be about "taking power", but rather making sure to towards political power, avoiding centralization, solidifies in an elite's oversight of technocratic structures.

The goal of a post-anarchism is a society in which politics does not manifest itself as a unified, exalted Power, but spreads out in the various parts of the body of society. In this sense, anarchism does not need the traditional communist idea of ​​the One Great Revolution, but can win small victories simply by breaking up institutionalized power structures.

Vaccaro emphasizes that bodily by the movements he marks support for: In the era that is otherwise known for new media and online activism, it is just as often "the bodies in the public squares and in the streets, which physically occupy a space" that manage to resist. Opposition not least to private and public expropriation of public space.

New movements. Will this also be theoretical? Well, Salvo Vaccaro is clear that there are a number of actual insurgency movements that exemplify the form of anarchist insurgency he envisions: he refers to the zapatis and the opposition to the WTO, to the uprisings in Cochabamba, Bolivia in 2005, in Oaxaca, Mexico in 2006. .

The texts in the anthology from 2014 are largely about the Occupy movement and about los Indignados in Spain. For those who are used to the Norwegian news picture, with its fierce attention to everything North American, it is perhaps the texts translated from Spanish that are of greatest interest here. Among other things, an open letter dated 2011, from "some Spanish anarchists and anti-authoritarian", about precisely los Indignados. Here, too, the point is made that people have actually physically taken public seats: “Many of us do not support any of the 15M movements, Democracia real yá, Indignados, et cetera, but if we had to imagine what a revolution would be like, we would imagine us it exactly like this: with people in the streets attending rallies, organizing and discussing their problems without having politicians there to do it for them. "

After this book was published, the Nuit debut in France has also emerged as a similar spontaneous protest movement.

Idealized heterogeneity. How should we summarize Salvo Vaccaro's post-anarchist thinking? Much of Vaccaro's critique of society boils down to the over time widespread rejection of "financial capitalism" which earns one percent at the expense of the other 99. By "anarchism" is meant here special emphasis on the grassroots foundation in political movements, flat structure in decision-making processes, "dispersed and mobile leadership". More specifically, the right of withdrawal for political representatives is mentioned. In short, we are dealing with political measures and goals that are associated with an expression such as "direct democracy".

Much of the traditional and much talked about sectarianism of the left becomes less problematic as long as we keep a clear enemy image in mind: capitalism.

So far so good. The danger with this form of theory is that a word like "heterogeneous" becomes the only criterion for assessing how successful a political movement is: there is still a revolt marked by carnival celebration and richness of color – "heterogeneity" – which is idealized. There is undoubtedly an opposition to the traditional, organized socialist struggle of the Italian Communist Party that appears here, as so often in recent left-wing radical Italian literature.

Well and good with colorful riots, that's not it! But the content of the struggles is at times in danger of being diluted in this constant ideal of heterogeneity.

Undoubtedly, there is now much to be gained from letting the rebel movement find its form independently of permanent political institutions. It may be more difficult to defeat groups that maintain their autonomy, and it may therefore be desirable to ensure that the movement retains independence and thus unpredictability. In short: Autonomy is fully comprehensible as a political-organizational ideal. The question is rather whether such an autonomous uprising really need especially a lot of theory: It is as if the theory itself becomes either 1) dogmatic and thus non-autonomous, or 2) autonomous and thus rather empty of content.

Anticapitalism. As long as anarchist theory is only an embrace of rebellion for the rebellion's own sake, of the "festival-like" of more or less spontaneous mass rallies and the colorful community that arises when people from different backgrounds gather, one is in danger of cultivating the defiant expression of powerlessness. The road then becomes short to a cult of defeat – to one in the name of a political movement that in reality has a fear of contact with practical politics, and is more like a religious movement characterized by a desire for purity.

To understand that there is nevertheless an important progressive and revolutionary potential in post-anarchism, it is important to also understand it as a form of anti-capitalism. On the whole, much of the traditional and much-discussed sectarianism of the left becomes less problematic as long as we keep a clear enemy image in mind: capitalism. When it is said that "another world is possible", fortunately the subtitle is clear enough: It means one anti-capitalist world.

We must radicalize the very critique of capitalist society. As long as we keep our attention on what needs to change, it is only a good thing that there are a number of diverse groups that are eager for change. When it comes to a theorist like Salvo Vaccaro, it is to be hoped that at the next crossroads he is clearer on the critique of capitalism itself.

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