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+1 vote
Is it because there is a disconnect between revolutionary theory/practice and the daily life of the student body? Do tuition hikes and program cuts actually suppress a desire to rebel,or is it the inability of the anarchist organizer to link the student struggle to the global struggle against the state & capitalism?
Essentially, the question is:
Why do North American anarchists have difficulty organizing students?


edited by dot to fix tag
by (350 points)
edited by
I think someone who works within the academy is far better situated to answer this than I would be, as mostly I would be speculating about a world I am not a part of. That said, one problem might be what exactly you are looking for, should anarchists be organizing students, or should anarchists who are students be organizing for themselves?
I've never met another American anarchist.  I am pretty darn boring myself though, and not particularly 'intellectual.'

3 Answers

+1 vote
well, as to the first part of your question, i would probably say that intellectuals are almost always totally banal, anarchist or otherwise (if by intellectual we mean tied up in the academy, and not just "writing theory").  I would probably say that there are a lot of answers to this question.  One of them is that there are a lot of anarchists who do not wish to organize people, whether students, workers, etc.  Personally i dont think the "student struggle" really has much to do with what i think of anarchy.  I dont really want schools to exist anymore, for there to be the category of someone as "student", and as such do not do things that reinforce these things -  and this i think is the sentiment of not too few anarchists.  That said, i dont think that there is any lack of organizing students on campus, but most of it takes the form of whatever liberal groups operate there.  I think that this is due to the fact that there arent actually very many anarchists in universities, and those that call themselves that are often just sympathetic (sort of) socialists.  After all, fighting for tuition decreases, petitioning for non-intervention in foreign affairs from the university, whatever sort of campaigns are run there, - these are not anarchist things.
by (2.3k points)
+2 votes
I know I said I would let someone involved in that world answer this, but I was thinking about the years I spent living near the University of Washington, and the time I spent working at a store that catered to the university students' needs, and those experiences triggered a thought about the character of students themselves.

In addition to what Jingles said, there is a certain transitory nature to being a student. Most that I knew and interacted with in that time didn't view the college experience or the place they lived as anything but a pit stop along the way to financial stability and being Productive Members of Society. As such, they didn't care about the daily struggles of the other people around them, and in fact viewed the other denizens of the neighborhood with disdain, if not outright contempt. While this was certainly not a universal mindset, it was hard to feel a sense of solidarity with a population which intentionally insulated itself from all else around them.
by (22.1k points)
Thank you for your follow up!
hey ingrate, what do you think the difference is between notoriously liberal/radical university spaces like berkeley and stanford and austin, and other university towns like the one you cite? (not that i think those towns are radical anymore, but) i just think that going to university used to be the time for people to get more involved, rather than less. so something changed. what do you think that was?
I'm not completely sure, Dot. In part, I think the 80's happened, I don't know that I can effectively elucidate what I mean by that (I was just a kid) other than to say that I think during the Regan era there was an overall cultural shift towards individual status climbing, upward mobility, and a rejection of everything that the 60's had been about (not that it started in the 1980's, but...)

As that related to university settings, my perception is suddenly lots more people were going to school to learn how to make money, and it was in the 80's that there really started to be a shift (which became far more apparent in the 1990's) to a college degree being required for economic stability (because of blue collar jobs shifting overseas, the, er, rusting of the rust belt, and so on).

Now we've come out the other side, and college degrees are neither a guarantee of economic stability, nor are they particularly economically feasible, but for most young people (and I work with teens), they still view college as the only way to go. WHile a part of me thinks that this would make University settings hotbeds of radical fomentation, what I actually mostly see is the opposite, that the radicalism extends to worrying about their debt forgiveness, and maybe (maybe) broadening that perspective to ideas about economic justice overall, but not anti-capitalist or anarchist ideas and action.

Obviously though I paint with a broad brush here, and I also think there is probably much more nuance to it than all this.

edited because typos make me crazy, but I have a natural talent at making them.
+1 vote
I am going to go ahead and say that that is a ridiculous generalization. I kind of doubt that you've met every American anarchist intellectual...

Every anarchist professor that I've met has been a really smart, interesting, sweet person with unusual cares. I would definitely be glad to meet more anarchist professors.

As for "organizing students," I completely don't see that as a good idea or a good reason to become a professor. I'd say that if there's a situation where it even makes sense for people to organize as students, they should definitely be doing it themselves and not allowing their teachers to set priorities for them.
by (8.0k points)
edited by
You might be right about Joshua Clover, I'm not sure because I've only really read his poems, but I'm convinced that Evan Williams is an anarchist of sorts as well as a communist -- he's made sympathetic references to primitivism, Italian anarchist black blocs, etc.

Plus, both of those people were heavily involved in some legitimately exciting student struggles from what I understand.
Critchley is a right-wing Libertarian.
where did you get that idea, lawrence?
A combination of sleep deprivation and dyslexia; I actually meant Crispin Sartwell. Sorry about that
I forgive you dude
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