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anti-systemic moventents, another $.02
by Thomas D. [tom] Hall
20 January 2002 22:20 UTC
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Judi [quoting Robbins], Steve, and Warren, [and Chris, via quotation by 
 all make good points.

I think, though we need another distinction, or preferably continuum or range 
of anti-ssytemic movements.  Counter-hegemonic may, or may not, be counter 
systemic or anti-systemic.  If the movement is to eliminate hegemony it would 
be anti-systemic, if however, its goal is either to replace a specific hegemon 
or speed up the cycle, then it is not anti-systemic, but "reformist."

As Warren argued, there are a number of movements that are, or end up being, 
reformist that do some good in the short run [greens, for example].

The distiction or dimension I would add is whether the anti-systemic component 
is is the central motivation, drive, or goal, or a side effect or implication.
 What I have in mind here is the sort of thing Jim Fenelon and I have been 
arguing for a few years about indigenous movements, that in advocating a right 
to maintain a different form of social life, and requiring "space" or "room" 
to do so, many indigenous movements are incidentally anti-systemic in that, as 
Warren argued, the capitalist world-system cannot undergo fundamental reform 
[=revolution?] and still be capitalist.  Thus, to "allow" or "be forced," to 
allow them "room" the system would have had to change fundamentally...other 
than sort of tokens that are too small to make an appreciable impact on the 
overall system [here we get into that old when does a quantitative change be 
qualitative conundrum].

For most indigenous movements, even those that are highly self-conscious and 
theoretically driven as the EZLN, their immediate goal is not to destroy or 
replace the system, but to carve out a space where they can continue to exist.
 Yet, this if fundamentally anti-systemic, and probably moreso than many --but 
far from all -- gree movements.

This is tricky to analyze to be sure.  It is a matter of motivation, and 
nuance of interpretation, with all sides "spinning" what all others are saying 
or trying to do.  Still, I think there is an important distinction here 
between movements that are overtly and clearly anti-systemic [as are many left 
movements], vs others, like indigenous movements, and many fundamentalisms, 
which have some other primary goal, but carry an important "secondary" quality 
of being anti-systemic.  To put it far too crudely, the distinction would be 
between those that want a fairer slice of the pie, or want to tinker with the 
recipe for the pie vs. those who don't want the pie in anyform, whether it is 
because they want something else, or they just don't like pie.

These kinds of differences make for the very messy politics of movements that 
sometime form alliances and sometimes are at each other's throats, such as the 
uneasy alliances and occasional hostilities between indigenist movements and 
green movements [Some of this is cataloged in Al Gedicks's Resource Rebels, 
South End 2001].

This is enough for a too long "brief comment"
[ps I use "" a lot to indicate terms are extremely problematic]
tom hall

Thomas D. [tom] Hall
Department of Sociology & Anthropology
c/o 420 Anderson Bldg #f
DePauw University
Greencastle, IN 46135
dept: 765-658-4519
off:  765-658-4519
web:  http://acad.depauw.edu/~thall/hp1.htm

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