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Edward J. Martin, "Call's <I>Postmodern Anarchism</I>"

"Call's Postmodern Anarchism"

Edward J. Martin

Reviewing Lewis Call, Postmodern Anarchism

Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, 159 pp., $60.00, ISBN 0-7391-0522-1, Publication Date: February 2003

Postmodern Anarchism, by Lewis Call, draws on the
works of several theorists in an attempt to connect
anarchism with postmodernism. Call uses anarchism to
critique liberal notions of language, consciousness,
and rationality, which are inherent in economic and
political power within the capitalist state
organization. Call uses postmodern methods rooted in
anarchist tradition to deconstruct hegemonies of all
sorts, predominantly Marxist and capitalist in nature.
Yet his sharpest attack is leveled against bourgeois
liberalism manifested in "late capitalism," or as
Veblen describes it, "conspicuous consumption."Call constructs what he describes as a "postmodern
matrix" to understand how postmodernism converges with
anarchism. The matrix consists of horizontal strands,
featuring theorists such as Nietzsche, Freud,
Durkheim, Foucault, and Baudrillard, and vertical
strands, featuring theorists such as Bakunin,
Kropotkin, Levi-Strauss, and Chomsky. The combined
postmodern matrix reveals a "metastrand," or as Call
describes it, "the strand of science fiction
literature known as cyberpunk" (11). Hence
postmodernism and anarchism meet.

Then, incorporating his postmodern matrix, Call
discusses modern novelists' (Robinson, Gibson,
Sterling, and so on) use of cyberpunk themes in their
writings. Admittedly, Call argues that although some
might dismiss these novels as popular literature, they
actually serve a vital translation function, as they
provide "inaccessible ideas of radical postmodernism
and make them available to a much wider audience"
(12). Call views cyberpunk as a link between radical
postmodernism and the "concerns of ordinary citizens"
(13), but he never explains why this link is important
for ordinary citizens.

Call constantly reminds readers that classical
anarchism is fundamentally opposed to the hierarchical
(paternalistic) social relations inherent in
capitalist modes of production and state socialist
strategies. He finally reveals his postmodern
anarchist self when he argues that postmodern
anarchism is opposed to "coercive politics implicit in
all state systems. Such anarchism envisions strictly
voluntary (and typically small-scale) forms of
organization" (14).

Call believes that although "liberalism represents an
impressive and historically important body of work . .
. [it] imposes a disturbing silence upon radical
thinking" (61-62). In rejecting Rorty's liberal
principles (and those of other great liberals such as
Rawls, Nozick, Dworkin, and so on) of avoiding harm
and cruelty to others, Call argues that the liberal
mindset, in which one person's right to swing her fist
ends where the next person's nose begins, "functions
to defend existing institutions and to prevent radical
change" (37). This statement proves perplexing since
it appears to contradict what most liberal
institutional values seek to uphold: freedom to do as
you will without harming others. But what becomes
increasingly clear is that Call attempts to focus on
some of the aberrations to liberal institutions and

Indeed, Call quotes Bakunin as describing himself as
an "enemy of all power," and that for Foucault it is
power that makes resistance possible, and "the more
power there is, the more resistance there must be"
(73). No doubt that resistance movements are important
in democratic societies since the state can be
co-opted by a "power-elite." And, on the point of
"street-level anarchy," Call initiates an important
discussion regarding the role of political agitation

It is unfortunate that he did not capitalize on
this dimension of postmodern anarchy as it relates to
power-elite structures and modern resistance
movements. Nevertheless, one could argue that liberal
democracies can become oppressive hegemonies
controlled by a power-elite or majority "to prevent
radical change." In this sense, a dose of postmodern
anarchy now and then might not be a bad thing.

[From Perspectives on Political Science, 10457097,
Summer2003, Vol. 32, Issue 3.]