Seeing like an anarchist

What I aim to show is that if you put on anarchist glasses and look at the history of popular movements, revolutions, ordinary politics, and the state from that angle, certain insights will appear that are obscured from almost any other angle.

…One thing that heaves into view, I believe, is what Jean-Pierre Proudhon had in mind when he first used the term “anarchism,” namely, mutuality, or cooperation without hierarchy or state rule. Another is the anarchist tolerance for confusion and improvisation that accompanies social learning, and confidence in spontaneous cooperation and reciprocity.


…To what extent has the hegemony of the state and of formal, hierarchical organizations undermined the capacity for and the practice of mutuality and cooperation that have historically created order without the state?

That is Jim Scott in his new book, Two Cheers for Anarchism. Loved it. But I can’t decide if it’s a perfect introduction to his work or a perfect capstone, unpersuasive unless you had time to mull over his earlier tomes: Seeing Like a State and The Art of not Being Governed. Read all, seriously.

Probably the biggest problem in international development is that it is not anarchist enough. The impulse of virtually every UN, World Bank, and NGO project or manager I’ve seen is to plan and order. But growing wealth and freedom is inherently messy, and the small NGOs and the bureaucrats that recognize this are the more successful (or, at least, the least disenchanted).

For the most part, the RCT movement suffers from the same failings. It sees like a state, not an anarchist.

This is where my libertarian instincts on my far right meet my anarchist instincts on the far left. Yet somehow my opinions tend to be centrist. I think it’s fair to say I don’t understand myself.

Sympathetic readers, I am curious: What would be on your anarchist development reading list?