Anarchist Cybernetics


The shortest path to anarchism – in particular, classical left anarchism – as a transformational political model can no longer regularly be found in Anarchism in all its myriad contemporary forms; new approaches are needed. New models are emerging from the work of left-oriented market anarchists; in addition, I propose a model based on a compassionate cybernetics in combination with post-structuralist theory.

Consider: the systemic union of organized crime and government IS organization – it is the means by which both are attracted to each other, in terms of economic viability. The oppositional tension between both systems provides an engine that fuels the economic power dynamics of both, symbiotically. This relationship demonstrates how both speak the same language, sometimes via polarization or mirroring, at times literally – and as such, contain the potential to understand each other.

From a purely cybernetic standpoint, this dynamic is not necessarily bad or good, it just exists. Both are systems to be analyzed and understood, not to be critiqued, especially since the loudest of critics are ensconced in one or both systems. The synergy between both systems could be construed as structurally robust – elections are won and lost over the war on drugs, the global economy was briefly kept afloat by drug money in an early phase of the collapse of 2008-09, and so on.

This dispassionate review of the nature of both institutions provides a framework not unlike what can be found in the anarchist critique of the state; prisons in the U.S. (largely fueled by the war on drugs) in turn create criminals out of whole cloth, which in turn fuels a sector of the drug market (in the form of the buying and selling of drugs within prisons), prisons (the construction of which drives both capitalism and political campaigning), service providers (in the form of overpriced phone calls, black market commissaries, etc.) and global branding (in the form of cheap labor). As Kropotkin noted, prisons are a university for crime; more crime means more options for illegal commerce, as well as more criminals. I would add that this also means “more prisons” and “more campaigns based on locking up said criminals”; not so much a vicious cycle as a systemic girding of institutionalized crime, and in turn, institutionalized punishment.

This analysis clearly borrows from Foucault; it also borrows from systems theory, in its ability to look at an entire system, including the people pointing fingers within said system, such as criminologists, theoreticians, pundits and politicians. What it lacks is the basis for an ethical analysis that operates alongside the systemic one; the notions of solidarity and mutual aid that can be found in classical anarchism, as well as pockets of the left overall, are needed in order to raise such analysis from a blank slate for myriad ideologies across the political spectrum, to a model for global justice and systemic change.

As such, I’m proposing that all parties who want to build a better, more just world look carefully not only at the notions to be found in such corners, but in the works of cyberneticians – in particular, second wave cyberneticians such as Bateson, systems theorists such as Kenneth Boulding – whose work in popular collectivization of nationalized trucking extended the work of Salvador Allende, and post-marxist academics such as Foucault, Hardt and Negri, and Illich. The works of such individuals provide a variety of roadmaps to the changes that started in the post-WWII era (especially in the U.S. and Western Europe); in turn, it is my view that they can provide a basis of rebuilding systems of change and resistance that were lost in the aftermath of both world wars during the 20th century.