New book in the works: Power at Human Scale

What with one thing and another, I see that I’ve forgotten to mention that I’m currently working on my next book: an extended consideration of the theory, practice and future of libertarian municipalism, tentatively entitled Power at Human Scale. (As is always the case with these things, that title is subject to change, but it ought to give you an idea of my fundamental orientation toward the topic.)

Here’s how I summarized the book’s introduction, in the pitch I originally sent my publishers:

“The ecosphere is observably, demonstrably dying around us. Everyday life is increasingly ordered by technologies most of us do not understand — and in the case of artificial intelligence, cannot understand, even in principle. A vanishingly small number of plutocrats and oligarchs lay claim to virtually all of the wealth produced on Earth, as the rest of us are forced to accept the baleful truths of a life defined by precarity. The far (and in some places the extreme) right run rampant everywhere from Brazil to Hungary to the Philippines, deftly capitalizing on the sense of helplessness and powerlessness generated by these implacable circumstances.

“Amidst the gloom, though, a tenuous but real shard of hope has appeared. Generally percolating beneath the notice of the media, showing up solely when it can no longer be ignored, a novel, non-statist approach to the organization of complex societies has appeared. There is no getting around the fact that this way of doing things requires a great deal of effort and commitment, but it can restore to us a sense of agency over the circumstances of our lives, a feeling of competence in the management of difficult situations, and the knowledge that our voices matter. It might even function as a lifeboat capable of carrying us, our communities and the values we cherish safely through the perilous decades ahead. We know it by the rather dry name of ‘municipalism.’

“In this introduction, municipalism is presented to the reader as a cluster of related tactics and techniques that allow a community embracing them to ascend the rungs of Sherry Arnstein’s ‘ladder of citizen participation,’ from manipulation through consultation to citizen control. As Arnstein suggests, the point of increasing the intensity of involvement in decision-making is to grasp power, and the testimony of those who have experienced such power as a lived reality attests to the wide array of beneficial social, psychic and ecological effects that follow.

“This overview of the state of play establishes that over the past quarter century, movements of a frankly municipalist character have furnished the left with much of its ferment and hope for the future, culminating in the stunning appearance of a large-scale non-state governance framework in Rojava. The balance of the book will seek to summarize and consolidate the lessons learned by these movements, taking them not so much as literal blueprint, but as a vital repository of ideas to be taken up and reworked in practice by living communities the world over — and a jumping-off point for a non-statist politics native to the networked, imperiled twenty-first century.”

The book visits Porto Alegre, Chiapas, the ZAD of Notre-Dame-des-Landes, Athens, Brooklyn, Barcelona and Jackson, Mississippi to see what lessons each of them can teach us about the organization of autonomous communities; moves through an extended discussion of the Rojava achievement; and concludes by taking a stab at articulating what all of this might be leading up to.

I’m curious to know what you think ought to be included in a book of this nature, and especially what you think I might be missing. I have to say, though, that I can’t remember ever having been as excited about a book project. This is the one I’ve wanted to write for almost a decade now. I’ll keep you in the loop as to how I’m getting along with it.

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