Some Practical Anarchism (and, some theory)

My writing is in RED

Others’ writing is in BLACK

I have been making a move away from my interests in social-psychology, phenomenology, and post-structuralism for some time now, though it hasn’t been a very rapid shift. Reading again one of my favorite books, Colin Ward’s Anarchy in Action somewhat encouraged this but simply feeling that my social theory was becoming stale and focusing more on anarchist practice really kicked me into a different orientation. Consistently asking myself, “do what?” when it comes to my principals guided my focus more towards questions of infrastructure, lifestyle, and such than it has towards a focus on what in short I think of as “fighting tactics”. Not to say that I’ve neglected to learn more about strategic and tactical considerations when it comes to insurrections, actions, and such; but, as can been noted about many things I have written concerning social theory, the relationship of the individual to their environment and how this ties into anarchism is a predominant theme for me. So, the future of this blog will be a growing exploration of “The Housing Question,” Anarchist Planning, and Practicality (or, practical solutions for more social, lifestyle, and economic issues for anarchists). To begin, is a problem and solution exercise in two parts with three introductory pieces of information; first, for a general overview of the Housing Question is an article from Aufheben, second is the first part of finding some solutions -a video on ecological issues and “natural building,” the last is a link to The Anarchist Planner which I think is an interesting site even though it in no way encompasses all the directions I want to take this “practical” stuff.


An Overview of the (economic) Problems of Housing (at least for Britain but a lot can be generalized)

First, a cliff’s notes summary of the following:

an analysis of the reproduction of the working class and “middle class” in Britain since the Victorian era.
Housing is a major concern for the reproduction of the working class. Over the past few centuries, the nature of housing itself and the struggles around housing have partially shaped the course of struggle. The economics of housing are broken down in the relationships between land ownership, speculative home building, real estate bureaucracy, exchange value on the market, lending, wages, the needs of capitalists, and various housing schemes. Building homes is different from the production of many commodities because of the time it takes to build a home, the fluctuations of the market, the limits set on land, etc.: this leads to speculative building of small crops of houses on land that is assumed to return a profit. In Britain, this has lead to consistent shortages of housing and depraved conditions for the working class.

It is demonstrated how home ownership has become a staple of the so-called middle class above and beyond whether the worker is blue or white collar, has a higher income (though income security is important), etc. In turn, it is also shown how the political schemes to encourage home ownership instead of council housing and private rent shape the interests of the home owners: encouraging bourgeois individualism, concerns with profit (as homes become seen as an opportunity for speculative investments), and a ideal of life as the saving and investing in homes (from the ‘starter house’ to the bigger house for the married family with children, to the ‘nest-egg’ when the children leave).

The way that this affects the young and the working class is demonstrated and historically tied in with the fluctuations of the housing market, wages, and state intervention. The rent strike in Glasgow is briefly mentioned, squatting and its underlying motivations are analyzed, and the push for council housing (and its decline) is focused on. All of these factors are tied in with the question of how housing shapes participation in the class struggle and how aristocrats, capitalists, and their politicians have sought to control the class struggle through housing.

Though this was written prior to the burst of the housing bubble, it predicts some of its consequences but does not relate completely to the contemporary situation in the US. There are some insights that can be gleamed on land and housing policy, struggles concerning land and housing, how various classes/parties respond to growing discontent and action surrounding the housing question, the way wages and housing interact, how this ties into the creation of the middle-class and the propaganda of capitalism (encouraging home ownership as the prime ultimate form of housing), and how housing came to be what it is today. Taking some of these themes, some decent observations about housing in the US can be made with a bit of historical research and investigation into land prices (and who owns land) and the history of state interventions in the housing market. Most importantly imho, such an analysis can take some of the light of anarchist struggle and shine it on the housing question instead of maintaining a strict focus on work-place related questions. This seems completely relevant in a time when the US state is pinched for funds, the housing crises is completely fucking up the housing stock and increasing homelessness, and people are itching for a solution (which the ruling class knows already can’t be found in typical state intervention or market solutions). In focusing on the contemporary housing issues and how they are being slighted by the bourgeois propaganda to ‘create new jobs’ as a solution (while house prices are low, speculative building is at an extreme low, and wages aren’t doing much), we can recognize some similar patterns: the focus on encouraging home ownership (mortgage, mortgage, mortgage), the rent being too damn high, the lack of options for the working class (and our growing frustrations), the obvious fact that ‘creating new jobs’ isn’t really going to satisfy anything, and the need for direct action.

Here is the original article:
Libcom.org – published by Aufheben

Aufheben’s incredibly detailed and comprehensive history and analysis of housing and the working class in UK.

Introduction

For the vast majority of people living in a capitalist society housing is an ever-present concern. Finding somewhere to live, finding the money to pay the rent or to keep up the mortgage repayments, negotiating contractual obligations with landlords or mortgage lenders, solicitors and estate agents, are all familiar and recurrent problems. Yet housing is not merely a basic necessity, it also provides an important reference point through which we come to exist in capitalist society. Where we live, what type of housing we have, what type of tenure we hold, all condition who we are, what we are seen to be and the environment in which we are able to live our lives. As such housing is a major material determinant of our social being

However, the very ubiquity of housing in our everyday lives has often meant that the political and social importance of housing is overlooked by those interested in the social question. Yet, as one of the central elements in the reproduction of labour power, housing is above all a class issue. Not only that, with the ending of the housing bubble, that threatens the stability of the economy, and the looming shortage of housing, the issue of housing is rising on the political agenda in Britain for the first time for twenty years.

Whereas the US and much of Europe experienced a prolonged economic slow down following the dot.com crash three years ago, the UK has been able to sustain its economic growth. Indeed, having effectively skipped the last recession, Gordon Brown has been able to claim that the UK economy has experienced the longest period of uninterrupted growth since the industrial revolution! Britain now has levels of inflation and unemployment not seen since the end of the long post war boom of the 1960s.

An important factor that has allowed the UK to ride out the dot.com crash was the rather fortuitously timed expansion of public expenditure. But perhaps more important than this inadvertent Keysianism was the housing bubble. In the last five years the house prices have doubled. Borrowing against the rising value of their homes, house owners have fuelled an unprecedented consumer boom. As a result of this debt fuelled boom, personal debt has risen to over £1 trillion – that is nearly the value of the entire annual GDP of the United Kingdom.

What has become obvious is that house prices cannot continue to rise several times faster than wages. At the time of writing there is mounting evidence that the downturn in the housing market has begun. Whether the housing bubble is going to burst with a sharp fall in house prices or whether it will slowly deflate producing a long period of stagnation it is too early to say. Of course, housing bubbles are nothing new. As we shall see, ever since the deregulation of the financial system in 1970 there have been sharp rises in the price of houses followed by long periods in which prices stagnated. However, previous bubbles were short, lasting between eighteen months to three years. This housing bubble has gone on for almost five years.

Of course, it can be argued that previous bubbles were cut short by either rising unemployment or by a sharp rise in interest rates, neither of which has so far occurred to puncture the current bubble. However, there are reasons to believe that the current housing bubble marks the end of an era of housing provision that began in the 1970s.

Firstly, as the government has already recognised, it is becoming apparent that we are heading for a serious housing crisis. On the demand side, social and demographic changes are increasing the demand for housing. An aging population and increased divorce rates mean that there are a growing number of single households requiring their own accommodation. At the same time, the growing dominance of London is drawing the population South. Hence the housing stock is not only insufficient to meet demand but also much of it is in the wrong place. On the supply side, the building industry has failed to make up for the dramatic fall in the public construction of houses since the late 1960s. Over the past 30 years the building of new houses has barely kept pace with the growth in demand for housing let alone been able to provide replacements for the old housing stock. As a result Britain has aging, and increasingly decrepit, housing stock1.

The current prolonged housing bubble can be therefore seen as an early symptom of the housing crisis. As the chronic failure to build enough houses over the last few decades comes up against the increasing demand for housing, house prices are being forced up.

Secondly, there seems to be a wider economic transition that has an important bearing on the housing market. Since the 1970s we have been in a period of high inflation and, as a consequence, high nominal interest rates. Now, with the growing competition from low wage economies such as China, it seems likely that we have entered a period of low inflation and consequently low nominal interest rates. Lower interest rates mean that house buyers can afford to borrow more to buy a house. As a result lower interest rates mean higher house prices. Thus the housing bubble can be seen to have been prolonged by the adjustment to the new low interest rate regime.

If it is the case that we are in a transition to a new era in housing this is likely to have wider political and economic implications. However, it is perhaps too early to make predictions on how the working class will react to the new housing regime.

In this article we shall confine ourselves to placing the current housing situation in its historical context. In doing so it will be necessary to employ the rather controversial category of the ‘middle classes’. The notion of the ‘middle class’ is often criticised as a sociological category, which too often escapes an adequate and well-founded definition. This is undoubtedly true. However, this does not mean that the notion of a middle class is merely an illusion or merely an ideological construct made up by sociologists. The notion of the ‘middle class’ is drawn and systemised by bourgeois sociologists from the real perceptions and experiences of people living in contemporary capitalist society. For us the middle class is a category of real appearance that emerges at a more concrete level of analysis than the more essential relations of production, which give rise to the categories of capitalist and proletarian. As such, middle class, and its opposition to the category working class, is constituted by a complex of historically contingent factors, many of which lie outside the immediate process of capitalist production. As a consequence, the definition of middle class varies across time and place. As we shall argue, in Britain during the twentieth century housing tenure became an important, but far from exhaustive material factor in the constitution of a distinct middle class, which had important political and ideological effects.

However, before examining the history of housing in Britain we shall first consider some general issues regarding housing under capitalism.

Please visit the link to the original article to read it in full (link is up there ^)


Solutions

Frist Earth – a documentary that focuses on ecological issues and natural building solutions such as cob adobes/etc.

 

this site has some things I agree with, others I don’t but a good links section

“…This website is meant as a conduit to postulate new urban planning theory from contemporary anarchist perspectives and further the dialogues in such realms. The content of this site includes articles, zines and comics about the field of urban planning and generally revisioning and planning how our lives and cities will be in the coming anarchist world. The site also includes a blog. All to aid professional urban planners, architects, other environmental designers — and everyone else — to help dismantle the system of zoning and public regulations so prevalent today.

Our dreams are becoming real. Anarchy is on the way.”

Attractive Inconsistencies: Sex, Gender, Sexuality, and Relationships

The following analysis may be considered in the light of Gender or Queer Theory, but it does not support many of the common assumptions present in theories of Sex, Gender, Sexuality, and Relationships. The first assumption doubted is not controversial: human beings come in two sexes – male and female.  The second assumption, that there is a practically quantifiable series of genders is also only somewhat controversial. While the challenging and ultimate disproving of these two assumptions has lead to numerous theories of the relationship between Sex and Gender, the most commonly accepted of them (even by the LGBT community) is still inadequate: that there are more than two sexes and a variety of genders. It is here that I think I must begin to put forth my challenges, because the others are only more controversial.

That humans are not simply sexed male and female is undoubted: there are a whole host of circumstances in which human beings are neither (or both). There are various forms of hermaphroditic sexes and this itself destroys the myth of the reduction of sex to a mere two types. When it comes to some of the more popular notions of human gender, it is demonstratively true that there are not simply two genders either. Some believe that gender can be conceptualized as a spectrum with masculine traits at one end, and feminine traits at the other: that every individual is something of a mix of both. And some don’t even get that far. What I posit is that gender doesn’t really exist as anything but a quantification of character traits and that the specific character traits that fall into the realm of gendered traits is not only narrow, but that these traits aren’t even consistent.

It is funny that the solution to this problem has been to claim that some traits are simply “gender neutral” and therefor have no relevance to the dichotomy of masculine and feminine (and the spectrum such a dichotomy implies). What is the point of understanding character traits as gender-specific or gender-neutral at all when gender itself is already such a broken category? It is more accurate (and less convenient) to note that human beings seem to demonstrate an enormous quantity of identifiable traits than it is to go about splitting them up into categories of masculine and feminine, which are then theorized to be spectral anyways and inconsistent with ones sex. If genders are conceptions rooted in the specificity of whether a character trait is masculine or feminine, and in what relative alchemical mix an individual character possesses them then it would logically follow that those traits which are not captured by this spectrum must be done away with somehow. What this reduces to is a classification of character that is already inconsistent with sex, but also inconsistent in its own ability to posit the existence of consistent genders! It is much more consistent to abolish the category of gender and simply identify the traits themselves, therefor making it possible to understand the individual without such an inconsistent category mediating what gender is intended to help conceptualize: sexual attraction.

Before going further, and into my criticisms about the way we often think of sexual attraction; there is a further inconsistency about character traits themselves – people’s characters change. So not only are gendered traits inconsistent with sex, inconsistent in themselves (needing to posit gender-neutral traits to delineate the domain of gender), but they are also inconsistent with personal development. This developmental inconsistency of one’s characteristics (both gendered and gender-neutral, by the way) is a further defiance of the quantitative logic of gender. So to follow gendered logic to one of its conclusions: if one wants to accept the gender spectrum, they must admit that their gender changes throughout their life and is an inconsistent quality of their character. In short, admitting that their gender is a superfluous conception of themselves (and others).

Now if we accept the above arguments about the uselessness of gender as a category because of its inconsistencies, this also modifies our notions of sexuality. After accepting such an argument, one can not be Straight, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transsexual, etc. If gender is removed from the notion of human sexuality, the categories for sexualities burst open and unleash a rather vast series of potential sexualities that can no longer be practically quantifiable. Since they are not practically quantifiable, this means that human sexuality is much more specific to the individual than it is to a preconceived notion of gender (or what gender they are attracted to). The question is whether or not this is better or worse.

At this point, one can not call themselves Straight (or Gay, or Bi, etc.) because they cease to recognize gender, and thus cease to understand what they are attracted to through the specific categorization of traits that gender presumes. What becomes of this is that sexual attraction becomes much more nuanced and specific to the individual: they aren’t attracted to masculine-males, effeminate-males, etc. – they are attracted to specific character traits (physical, emotive, gestural, cultural, etc.). In the case of what was once thought of as Bisexuality, it may turn out to be a sexuality rooted more in the emotive, gestural, cultural, or gender-neutral physical traits of those one is attracted to than having anything at all to do with gender-categorized traits or physical sex. In the case of what was once thought of as Straight, it may turn out that the physicality of the opposite sex isn’t the sole root of their sexuality or just a more specific series of physical traits than those that tend to be sex-specific. As an example of what this means practically: an individual once thought to be a  Cis-Gendered Straight Male is no longer gendered at all, nor straight… and this particular one isn’t just attracted to Women …they are attracted to female-bodied individuals who are shorter than them with submissive character traits and foreign accents.

Even this wouldn’t be entirely accurate because of the developmental inconsistencies of character traits (both of the individual themselves and those whom that individual is attracted to sexually). The individual would lose their ability to statically define their sexuality. What they would gain is a conception of their sexual attractions at a given point in their life that doesn’t define them permanently, but does provide more insight into what they really are attracted to. In the big picture, this would mean that we all have a dynamic sexuality that can only define us momentarily as it is consistent with our attractions. As we grow, change, learn, develop, and mature (perhaps interchangeable terms), we would be able to recognize how our sexuality is also growing, changing, learning, developing, and maturing. What we found attractive yesterday, we would better understand why we no longer find attractive today …Because, we wouldn’t be peering through the fabricated quantitative categories of Gender – but peering into ourselves and into each other more deeply.

This may hurt capitalism (boo-hoo) because it defies the quantitative logic that makes it easy to segregate us as groups… instead needing to appeal to us individually and qualitatively. But, this would be a boon to our relationships with each other. We wouldn’t only understand our sexual attractions more (because we would grasp better the qualities of what we are attracted to and perhaps why), but we would understand our platonic attractions to each other more as well. What is ironic is that we seem to actually realize this with our platonic attractions already (friendships, coworkers, etc.). We usually know what qualities we look for in a friend outside the prisons of Gender and Sex. Also, because of this we tend to understand how our friendships (or other relationships) change as we change, grow apart or together as we grow, mature or fizzle out, come into conflict or find strong resonance. We are comfortable with the inconsistencies because we realize that these inconsistencies in our character are not a flaw, but a product of self-realization.

Perhaps there is quite a similar dynamic of reciprocal development that truly lies behind our sexual attractions as well…

Capitalism from the Perspective of an Artist

There are many ways to critique the capitalist mode of production, the consumer society, its spectacles, and the stultification of the spirit one suffers under its logic. While I have found most of these critiques intellectually sound, my heart is not touched by them. Not by Marx, Debord, or Kropotkin… Maybe by Goldman, for sure by Fromm. The most touching critiques, I find, are those which speak to my condition and all of our conditions as creative beings. My soft spot for Chomsky and Zinn even arise from this. And without these people who have been able to reach inside me and comprehend the nature of my hearts disposition under the rule of Capital, I would feel no passion for Anarchy.

I have never considered art, art-making, or identifying as an artist to be of any sort of professional or specialist nature. I don’t even think that there are any qualifications for occupying the role of artist other than the choice to do so. All of the trades to me are as beautiful as all of the fine arts. The capacity to impress ones sentiments and thoughts into the materials that one works with, that is art to me. And therein an understanding of Art in this manner lies an unquenchable intolerance for capitalism… because this can not be valued.

Art, when it is taken up as a profession, is always relatively valued according to a logic of Capital that is so profoundly inadequate in relation to the intention of Art that to market ones artwork is blatantly absurd. When I create artwork, or appreciate the artwork of someone else (and to appreciate is to value), it is not a quantifiable appreciation. To buy artwork, and to sell artwork, is to attempt the impossible and ultimately… it is to falsify its beauty. Artwork is sold for what one thinks someone will pay for it, and artwork is bought for how much one thinks its value according to rarity and popular taste will appreciate over time – or, for the immediate hype which surrounds it. Those who can not pay for artwork, and those who will not sell their artwork for a profit beyond their needs to continue creating, are those who truly understand the value of art: those who have been touched and can not quantify the way a work expresses a deep part of themselves.

Capitalism turns the artist into a liar and the art collector into a cold, calculating moron. If I was secure in my means and could choose whether to sell my artwork to the highest bidder, or to simply give it to someone who feels a true connection with it… I would always go with the latter decision. And this decision is the only honest decision I could make. Even in these times, when I am not secure in my means, I donate my artwork… and I have never been willing to sell it for anything more than the costs of its production. A market can not value me in my artistic capacities, and it can not value artwork itself in its significance. To even ask what the use-value of a piece of artwork is, to even begin to economize such an invaluable thing, is already to systematically bleed Art of its meaning.

And what is one to do? By which I mean, what are any of us to do – those who want have a deep connection with their work and not an abstract connection with it, mediated by the capitalist logic of value? Well, we know what we do whether we think that we are artists or not: we pour our most precious labor into jobs, professions, or scams that can not foul that which we truly value and hold most dear. We secure our means through work that is absolutely worthless to us personally, which can be quantified by Capital, and strain our existences after work to carry on our true work… whatever it is we have a passion for (our Art), even if it is a passion for something that has no material visibility: like loving someone, or providing mutual aid, or consoling those in our personal lives who are grateful for our consolations (which when refined, are all worth of the title of an art). If life could be more backwards, I am not so sure how.

It isn’t that one can not provide for themselves through selling their artwork, their craft, their trade, their empathy, their love, their passionate undertakings… they certainly can, and they pay a great spiritual debt in doing so. Those Artists who take up their work as a profession not only must live this lie on a daily basis, but consequentially undermine their own passion for what they do the more the logic of Capital dominates their motivation to create. To live in a society that denies one the capacity to live passionately, to be denied the life of living according to the healthy labor of creating from the heart, is to be oppressed. And this oppression itself is unquantifiable, incalculable, and resistant to a logic of systematic solutions. It is an oppression that has a stultifying effect on the emotions, on the mind, on ones sense of humor, and on ones character – surely, it retards many capacities we are endowed with or have developed through wonder and interest. But it is a great oppression that can be felt so deeply and can motivate one with such permanence, since it is inescapable as much as it is intolerable.

While Debord may not have had the words to capture this sort of oppression for me, Raoul Vaneigem does. While Marx may have buried this in the depths of his analysis, it is there. Max Stirner admits of it. Oscar Wilde was afflicted by it. And I suspect there isn’t a revolutionary who is not. What this ultimately says to me is that the notion of quantifiable Value and the logic of Capital praising this notion is rotten to the core and ultimately demonstrates the retardation of capitalist thought. It is insightful for me to understand this about capitalist thought, because it helps me to understand how the Capitalist can be so heartless in their exploitations and privatizations, colonizations, cultural ruination, competition, wars, and systems of status. That perhaps it is this critique of Capitalism that reveals the most infested and morbid aspects of its apologists and practitioners’ spirit.

In conclusion, it is this critique which makes it obvious to me why Capitalism is always-already barbarism. Why Capitalism is such a monstrous force… so cold, stupid, and vain. Ultimately, why capitalism must be ruthlessly abolished.