Bourgeois anarchism and authoritarian democracies (First Monday, 07.2008)

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First Monday published my paper in its current edition. Below is the abstract, the full text is here

Digital communication is profoundly affecting the constitution of (civil) society by drastically lowering the costs to speak across time and space with individuals and groups of any size, and by producing abundant records of all activities conducted through these media. This is accelerating two contradictory trends. On the one hand, a new breed of social organizations based on principles of weak cooperation and peer production is sharply expanding the scope of what can be achieved by civil society. These are voluntary organizations, with flat hierarchies and trust-based principles. They are focused on producing commons-based resources rather than individual property. In general, they are transformative, not revolutionary, in character. This phenomenon is termed "bourgeois anarchism." On the other hand, the liberal state - in a crisis of legitimacy and under pressure from such new organizations, both peaceful (civil society) and violent (terrorism) - is reorganizing itself around an increasingly authoritarian core, expanding surveillance into the capillary system of society, overriding civil liberties and reducing democratic oversight in exchange for the promise of security. This phenomenon is termed "authoritarian democracy."

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This article was first published in Italian, in the journal Millepiani. An earlier version was delivered as a talk (view stream presentation at Ars Electronica, 2007, and published in their catalogue under the title "Our new public life".