James C. Scott, Two Cheers for Anarchism: Six Easy Pieces on Autonomy, Dignity, and Meaningful Work and Play.

Author:Duarte, Diogo
Position:Book review

James C. Scott, Two Cheers for Anarchism: Six Easy Pieces on Autonomy, Dignity, and Meaningful Work and Play

Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2012, 200pp; ISBN: 978-0-691155-29-6.

In James C. Scott's late works, anarchism, or at least some of its principles, acquired a highlighted position. Anarchist ideas were present in Scott's previous books, but, especially since Seeing Like a State (1998), what could be regarded as a mere coincidence between those ideas and some of his arguments started to be openly assumed as a dialogue with direct relation to his work. In Two Cheers for Anarchism Scott explores what he calls his 'anarchist squint', aiming to show that if we put on 'anarchist glasses', and look with them at all kinds of aspects of social reality (either in our daily lives or in our academic research), 'certain insights will appear that are obscured from almost any other angle' (p xii)--namely factors that are often neglected in historical and social analysis, such as unpredictability, contingency, spontaneity or disobedience and insubordination.

The six chapters of the book are subdivided into twenty-nine short parts called 'fragments', in order to show that there isn't any intention to offer a systematic and coherent theory or analysis. As such, it's less ambitious than any other work from Scott's bibliography, without being less stimulating or lacking any of his usual originality.

In a few words, we find in the book a set of thoughts on how, on the one hand, formal institutions are usually affected, conditioned or changed by informal processes and practices that are beyond their logics and mechanisms; and, on the other hand, on how people are conditioned, transformed or shaped by all kinds of institutions (whether a State, a factory or a university). The defence of the historical and political importance of disobedience (expressed in 'Scott's law of Anarchist Calisthenics') or the proposal to devise a qualitative measure (a 'Gross Human Product', instead of a quantitative one like the economists' GDP) that can help us ask 'what kind of people a given activity or institution fostered' are just two great examples of how engaging Scott's...

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