Monday, May 07, 2012

The Occupy Movement and the Communism of Everyday Life — The American Magazine

Lee Harris of the American Enterprise Institute conclusion on Occupy’s David Graeber,
There is, however, an even deeper internal contradiction in Graeber’s thinking. Most of us would welcome the ideal of promoting everyday communism. Even if we are put off by Graeber’s terminology, we recognize the value of a community in which people are willing to help each other out. This is certainly a refreshing change from the communism of Marxist orthodoxy, which was to be imposed from the top down through the dictatorship of the proletariat. Yet the Marxists were at least consistent. Their praxis matched their theory. They knew that to achieve their goal, there had to be a revolution—violent revolution.

Unlike Marxist communism, however, the communism of everyday life cannot be imposed by force. People must spontaneously choose to practice it. They may do this automatically because of the religious or cultural traditions in which they were raised, but no political revolution can hope to instill the spirit of everyday communism where it does not already exist. On the contrary, revolutions, because they disrupt the traditional structures and fabric of ordinary life, are far more likely to poison this spirit. In short, if Graeber seriously wanted to promote the ideal of everyday communism, he would drop his romantic infatuation with world revolution.

There is a way out, both for Graeber and the Occupy movement. Graeber is virtually unique among radical thinkers for the favorable attitude he takes towards religion. Religions, after all, have managed to do what no political revolution ever has—they have encouraged and promoted the spirit of everyday communism, as Graeber himself notes in his book. How did religious movements succeed where merely political movements failed? For the most part, they relied on individuals who lived and embodied the spirit of everyday communism and who inspired others to do the same by their own shining example.

Of course, for some people this path is not as exciting as smashing windows and slashing tires, but it is far more likely to win converts.
The Occupy Movement and the Communism of Everyday Life — The American Magazine
I heard a guest Preacher (and a long time UU Minister) yesterday preach UUism’s in unmistakable crisis and decline.  The decline at the forefront of every UU Minister’s thinking. 

To my mind some of the decline is change and failure to adopt.  Some institutions adopt and survive, others don’t and  pass. 

But the UU reaction to Occupy showed me a failure of far too many UU clergy and religious leaders to judge and discern.  They came out full bore for Occupy and then went silent when the violence erupted. An obvious outcome to anyone who could remember the 60s and 70s, and spent a little time with the Occupy folks.

It’s a writer from the AEI who ferrets out the religious core within Occupy that UU’s should have been explaining and perhaps shaping the movement.  We surrendered with silence to the slashing tires crowd and that’s a sure sign of  our crisis.  Our leadership is failing our Churches big time; no converts indeed.  The AEI may end up with our mantle and they’ll deserve it.


JMP said...

I don't think what is described is the "Communism of Everyday Life." Sharing with your family and close friends is sharing within the tribe; it's not done from any lofty ideas of egalitarianism but from affection and duty towards those who are related or have commonality with you. Trust has been established from past experiences, or familial bonds. This can never be established with the mass of humanity, which is largely unknowable to the individual and divided into many beliefs and cultures; thus the failure of Marxist Communism. Early Christianity has been described as a form of communism, but their shared beliefs made them a family system. But of course, even that family broke up into competing churches. Primitive societies may have been a form of early communism, but I doubt they were as peaceful or equal as some sociologists think. There had to be a lot of conformity for that system to work, and I doubt that everyone stayed put. New tribes with new cultures could always be formed by errant members. Human nature overrules the Noble Savage myth. And does so today.

The Occupy Movement had also called for a general strike on May 1, not just protests. Since I didn't hear any reports of stores closing or factories shutting down, I am assuming that was a big flop. So much for the spirit of Communism among the American workers, or the revival of OWS.

Bill Baar said...

I'd prefer thinking of Communism of Everyday Life in notions more akin to John Luther Adam's Voluntary Associations.

Nary a UU Minister mentioned this. All swallowed up in the drama (and idoicy) of Occupy.

A connection between a powerful UU (and American) tradtion overlooked in favor or an irrational outburts that often went violent.

That's a damning comment on UU leadership considering how outfront Rev Morales was.

We're in a crisis and one need not look far to see why imo.

JMP said...

Voluntary Associations I can support. I don't think of it as being communist, though. That word carries too much negative baggage, thanks to Messrs. Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Mao.

As for Morales...I don't pay attention to what he says. I have no pope. I follow my own path.

Bill Baar said...

Agree Communism certainly a word with a lot of baggage.

I think family life is (or should be) from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs. Trying to enforce that concept on a whole society a different story.

Good for you on Morales.