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The Operating System: An Anarchist Theory of…
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The Operating System: An Anarchist Theory of the Modern State (edició 2021)

de Eric Laursen (Autor)

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"By what cunning perversion of logic and history has the modern capitalist State persuaded us that it is the only possible form of polity? Why do we passively accept its claim to inevitability and its lame excuses for the increasingly invasive surveillance of our private lives? How do the already powerful hide short-cuts to even greater influence and wealth across a ruined environment and vast stretches of poverty? In thoughtful, provocative, and engaging reflections on the modern State, Eric Laursen seeks deliberate withdrawal from the self-fulfilling mechanism he so appropriately calls 'the operating system.'" --Michael Herzfeld, Harvard University "We hear from many quarters that social justice requires a strong and competent State to redress wrongs and advance the interests of oppressed minorities. We also hear it said that the State is dead or nearly so, that it is being drowned in the bathtub of neoliberal capitalism. Eric Laursen presents a sobering argument that the modern State has not said its last word, nor have we heard the final word about the oppressive character of the State and the urgent necessity of its abolition.The Operating System is a much-needed patch to the software of anti-authoritarian critique, particularly in its attention to the way that the State and identity-based forms of oppression work together." --Jesse Cohn, author ofUnderground Passages "Eric weaves together a rich history of the State, reminding us it is not inevitable and that it is not reformable. Learning to live together without the State is our best chance for the survival of humanity and the planet herself." --Lisa Fithian, author ofShut It Down "Anarchists have foughtthe State since its inception, but along the paths of liberation in the twenty-first century it's been missing from the conversation. Laursen's engaging exploration revisits ideas of the State, its apparatus of controls, and why we should openly oppose it." --scott crow, author ofBlack Flags and Windmills One of the most unique aspects of anarchism as a political philosophy is that it seeks to abolish the state. But what exactly is "the state"? The State is like a vast operating system for ordering and controlling relations among human society, the economy, and the natural world, analogous to a digital operating system like Windows or MacOS. Like a state, an operating system "governs" the programs and applications under it and networked with it, as well as, to some extent, the individuals who avail themselves of these tools and resources. No matter how different states seem on the surface they share core similarities, namely: The State is a relatively new thing in world history The State is European in origin and outlook States are "individuals" in the eyes of the law The State claims the right to determine who is a person The State is an instrument of violence and war The State is above the law The State is first and foremost an economic endeavor Anyone concerned with entrenched power, income inequality, lack of digital privacy, climate change, the amateurish response to COVID-19, or military-style policing will find eye-opening insights into how states operate and build more power for themselves--at our expense. The state won't solve our most pressing problems, so why do we obey? It's time to think outside the state.… (més)
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Títol:The Operating System: An Anarchist Theory of the Modern State
Autors:Eric Laursen (Autor)
Informació:AK Press (2021), 258 pages
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The Operating System: An Anarchist Theory of the Modern State de Eric Laursen

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The State must go. But how? It’s rather entrenched. Eric Laursen tries to answer this question by focusing on the why instead of the how. In The Operating System, he tries to compare the State to a Microsoft Windows or an Apple iOS framework. Unfortunately, this does not help much, and the vast bulk of the book has nothing whatever to do with OSs, because no decisions can be made from their similarities that would affect the State. Nothing about an OS foretells what might befall a State.

Nonetheless, The Operating System, as an exhaustive argument for the value of anarchy, is a powerfully written and always challenging read. It is well organized, thoroughly annotated, peppered with pop cultural references and even the some mild shots of humor.

Getting rid of the State means anarchy, ie. no structure. It’s what defunding the police, eliminating the military and ditching the two party system would look like. “Anarchism is the only theoretical approach that fully recognizes the connection between capitalism and the State and completely denies the assertion that there is no alternative to either,” he says. So readers should be looking for the details of that alternative.

He says there are three reasons for the State. It provides a degree of personal security, a shared identity, including a sense that one’s voice us heard, and a path to material well being. In other words, membership has its privileges, and the State amounts to a collection of leaders and lawmakers who share a vision of how to implement that for their fellow citizens. At least some of them.

Laursen offers a very decent description of the way people think: “The State is our bulwark against chaos, poverty, autocracy and mob rule. We have no rights without the State, can never get justice without the State, and no abuse can ever delegitimize the State to the point of justifying forcible defiance or overthrow.”

But Laursen spends most of his time criticizing the State and not supposing what life would be like without it. It’s a fat target, constantly attacked from numerous angles, not just by anarchists. And one way or another, despite revolutions, economic collapses and various black swans, it always comes back, usually worse than before. The State is clearly and obviously imperfect, prejudiced, nationalistic, racist and selfish. But can anarchy, which should by definition avoid all those conditions, last long enough to establish itself before someone rises up to take it over? That is my question, and it goes unanswered.

It always reminds of the biblical entreaty that the meek shall inherit the Earth. How long do you think that will last before someone sees a golden opportunity to be king of his own kingdom?

At the center of every State is the Core Identity Group. That’s who builds the State and that’s who get the privileges of membership. Then there is the Other, discriminated against simply for not being in the core group. It’s the same story all over the world and throughout history. It is inequality, slavery and other such niceties, present in essentially every State to different degrees at different times. It makes the Core feel superior, and acknowledged as such by the State.

But if you get rid of the State, will you also be able to get rid of the discrimination? The book is not firm on this question at all. What it does make obvious is my claim that racism is not an American problem, as so very many seem to think. Racism in America cannot be fixed simply or easily, because it is a very basic, tribal defense mechanism, innate and evident all over the world and throughout history. I don’t see how getting rid of the State will solve anything at all concerning racism, and this book doesn’t make the case, either. Enforcing racial equality laws might be spotty under the rule of the State, but there is nothing to promise that anarchy would do it better.

Then there is capitalism. Would capitalism disappear without the State? Or is it true that capitalists appear throughout history, everywhere, filling a void, getting in the middle, exploiting a differential, making a buck at the expense of the Other. Laursen says to get rid of capitalism means getting rid of the State. But again, he doesn’t show that is true. What is true is that capitalism and its insipid little offspring neoliberalism, always find their way in States, whether they’re monarchies, autarchies, democracies, ochlocracies or kleptocracies. Getting ahead is just something someone in the Core Identity Group will realize they can exploit, and so they do. Removing the State from the equation does not automatically mean the selfish pursuit of filthy lucre suddenly vanishes. Far from it.

Most people consider social democracies, notably in the Baltic area, as beneficent examples of the State and what they should aspire to be. Laursen attacks the social democracies not for their support of most if not all their citizens, but for not being rabid successes. He says “The social democratic state was never able to devise a substitute for the strong emotional appeal that the national state supplied.” This is an odd basis for criticism, but The Operating System is nothing if not food for thought. It constantly challenges readers’ comfort levels with their own knowledge of world affairs, history, and economics. That is by far its biggest value.

It is easy to read The Operating System as if the State were always evil, that everything it stands for is evil and that its every motion or movement is evil. But it doesn’t have to read that way. With a little work, readers can make the book say no matter how hard it tries, what the State does exploits evil. Everything it does can be interpreted as evil, and everything it considers an accomplishment can be considered evil somehow. It’s just the nature of the beast and can’t be helped. But that still doesn’t promote or justify anarchy, or connect to computer operating systems.

Laursen has one writing tic that becomes very annoying as the book goes on. In an effort to be politically correct (I am guessing here), he puts (sic) after the initial reference to males in every passage he quotes from other writers. So the words man, men, he, him, his and so on are all followed by (sic), as if there were something wrong with the spelling or syntax, context or grammar. But after wasting a few moments trying to find why he has done this (repeatedly), it becomes clear there is nothing wrong with the sentences. It’s just the way they wrote a hundred, two hundred, four hundred years ago. It’s a very old convention in a language that has no neuter sex and a lot of male supremacy. It’s also odd that he only does this in the first instance. If it happens a second time in the paragraph, he does not call it out. He even (sic)s the word statesman. But not, for some reason, human. It is altogether a pointless distraction that adds absolutely nothing to his thesis, which gets lost in the (sic)s.

The closest Laursen comes to examining life in an anarchy is defining it as a stateless co-operative economy. Everyone works, contributes and cooperates, globally. Inequality melts away. Nobody profits off others, tries to get ahead or becomes too acquisitive. There are of course, no examples to reference, unlike States, which still come in every flavor ever attempted, from medieval kingdoms to populist disasters to gridlocked democracies. Anarchies never seem to take hold. Ten years after the Arab Spring, every single Arabic participant has either returned to its dictatorship or collapsed into lawlessness featuring terrorism. All the ideals expressed at the time never came to fruition. So is anarchy impossible per se? Laursen provides no analysis. All he can say is Somalia is no one’s idea of a successful anarchy.

Computer operating systems seek to provide a walled garden. Within it, the user can accomplish or achieve anything that programs written to conform to the system permit. So with nation-states. As long as you play the game, you can survive and often thrive. Go your own way and make your own rules and the state will seek you out and crush you. It has a monopoly on violence and controls the justice system.

Operating systems are enablers, but with limits. And if you try to break them, they stop working for you. So yes, there are correlations between the State and operating systems. But so what? That information tells you nothing about the rise of the State, its decline, its replacement or how to get to blissful anarchy. The book would have been precisely as interesting and valuable without any reference to a computer operating system.

David Wineberg ( )
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"By what cunning perversion of logic and history has the modern capitalist State persuaded us that it is the only possible form of polity? Why do we passively accept its claim to inevitability and its lame excuses for the increasingly invasive surveillance of our private lives? How do the already powerful hide short-cuts to even greater influence and wealth across a ruined environment and vast stretches of poverty? In thoughtful, provocative, and engaging reflections on the modern State, Eric Laursen seeks deliberate withdrawal from the self-fulfilling mechanism he so appropriately calls 'the operating system.'" --Michael Herzfeld, Harvard University "We hear from many quarters that social justice requires a strong and competent State to redress wrongs and advance the interests of oppressed minorities. We also hear it said that the State is dead or nearly so, that it is being drowned in the bathtub of neoliberal capitalism. Eric Laursen presents a sobering argument that the modern State has not said its last word, nor have we heard the final word about the oppressive character of the State and the urgent necessity of its abolition.The Operating System is a much-needed patch to the software of anti-authoritarian critique, particularly in its attention to the way that the State and identity-based forms of oppression work together." --Jesse Cohn, author ofUnderground Passages "Eric weaves together a rich history of the State, reminding us it is not inevitable and that it is not reformable. Learning to live together without the State is our best chance for the survival of humanity and the planet herself." --Lisa Fithian, author ofShut It Down "Anarchists have foughtthe State since its inception, but along the paths of liberation in the twenty-first century it's been missing from the conversation. Laursen's engaging exploration revisits ideas of the State, its apparatus of controls, and why we should openly oppose it." --scott crow, author ofBlack Flags and Windmills One of the most unique aspects of anarchism as a political philosophy is that it seeks to abolish the state. But what exactly is "the state"? The State is like a vast operating system for ordering and controlling relations among human society, the economy, and the natural world, analogous to a digital operating system like Windows or MacOS. Like a state, an operating system "governs" the programs and applications under it and networked with it, as well as, to some extent, the individuals who avail themselves of these tools and resources. No matter how different states seem on the surface they share core similarities, namely: The State is a relatively new thing in world history The State is European in origin and outlook States are "individuals" in the eyes of the law The State claims the right to determine who is a person The State is an instrument of violence and war The State is above the law The State is first and foremost an economic endeavor Anyone concerned with entrenched power, income inequality, lack of digital privacy, climate change, the amateurish response to COVID-19, or military-style policing will find eye-opening insights into how states operate and build more power for themselves--at our expense. The state won't solve our most pressing problems, so why do we obey? It's time to think outside the state.

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