Politics as an alienated sphere of life

A short article on politics as an alienated separation of social life, and the need for constructing collective practices that challenge the divisions and relationships that constitute political activity in favor of libertarian alternatives.

Politics is not merely a concept or a way of talking, but a sphere of life. Politics constitutes an activity and associated spaces for particular people, behavior, culture, and specialties. Whatever definition for politics we may construct (for example something like the things involving the governance of society or some other definition) it would not capture the actual functioning of the political world within today's society. We live in a society in which the social relationships that reproduce the state pervade all and not merely the walls of government institutions or the range of fire of the police and military.

Politics represents the artificial separation of aspects of social life from daily existence of the population; an alienated sphere. The consolidation of power represented by the state is a main factor in this, however as with everything else it's existence takes on a life of its own and non-state forces emerge with and coevole alongside their own alienated political activity. That separation creates its own world that produces bureaucracies, specialists, organizations, etc., but also cults, sects, idols, fanatics, and churches. By separating a portion of the organization of social life from our existence, it shapes our relationship to those aspects of our lives and gives entrance to varying responses to it religious, entrepeneurial, military, or otherwise.

Anarchism traditionally has had proponents that it should be an anti-political movement, positioned against that separation at least in word. Still, some anarchists have oriented towards political people, circles, institutions, and aimed towards waging struggle within the established or alternative political domains. Merely adopting the term does not determine whether one falls in the political sphere or not. It depends on the orientation and practices of the movement whether it reproduces or traverses alienated political separations.

It's significant that anarchosyndicalism, the strongest and most influential current in anarchism throughout its history, had as its tacit core an anti-political orientation. In fact other syndicalist formations shared that as well such as the well known hostility of the US IWW to political struggle. Writers of the Argentinian anarchist workers organization FORA frequently clarified that they are a union of workers for anarchism, not a union of anarchists for workers. That distinction has proved profound and not merely semantic. In opposition to political movements, these social movements seek to build movement for socialism within the situations arising out of daily life: both its strengths and struggles. The strength of syndicalism comes from this challenging power directly through the world we all inhabit, our daily social existence, and creating our power directly there in our streets, workplaces, and localities. This is reflected in the wealth of experiences building revolutionary culture through cultural and educational associations, unions, and womens groups.

Anarchism as a social movement necessitates a break from the political world. The first step comes from building anarchist practices that create forms of collective power and plant seeds of anti-systemic opposition that demonstrate our values and objectives. Mere semantics or demagoguery will not provide a silver bullet against the incidious social relationships of the State and Capitalism in our lives, but instead must be combatted through the construction of collective practices and ideas which manifest our trajectory and vision.

Posted By

May 29 2014 12:28


Attached files


May 30 2014 07:30

Well said and I agree. I really like " Writers of the Argentinian anarchist workers organization FORA frequently clarified that they are a union of workers for anarchism, not a union of anarchists for workers."

Question: What do you think of the role of propaganda in the struggle for anarchism? Like books, videos. To what degree, if any, is this alienated? To what degree does it have the potential to breakdown alienation and inspire engagement?

Jun 6 2014 12:31

Anything has the potential to reinforce the divisions and alienation of society definitely. I think it depends on how people use those tools and how it relates to their activity. Education plays a crucial role for sure, but we need to get creative to break away from the burden of society trying to push us towards bad habits of viewing that stuff as doing the heavy lifting of social change, when in reality its all part of a bigger package.

Jun 6 2014 15:54

I agree with your sentiment however I feel you have, (and theoretically this is something I often do myself ), you have neglected the quintessential element of 'quality of life'. Before politics there were 3 basic requirements---
1) food
Otherwise, one may wish to live a primitivist existence observing these basic requirements, alas, 7 billion are going to need a helluva lot of hierarchical management and division of labor to just get a meal and shelter on their family agenda. Let's be real comrade, anarchists are not going to attain their own 'political agenda' without wiping out 2 thirds of the worlds population, thus their lingering yet sniping admiration towards Zerzan and their hatred for Bookchin, who had them worked out way back in the 90's.
Let me just finish my tirade with a gentle suggestion that you should regard alienation as a form of inverted narcissism wink