Politics at a Distance from the State: Radical and African Perspectives

Regular price $ 19.95

Edited by Kirk Helliker and Lucien van der Walt

PM Press

8/23/2022, paperback

SKU: 9781629639437


For decades, most anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist movements identified radical change with capturing state power. The collapse of statist projects from the 1970s fostered both neo-liberalism and a global crisis of left and working-class politics. But it also opened space for rediscovering democratic, society-centered, and anti-capitalist modes of bottom-up change, operating at a distance from the state. This resurgent alternative has influenced the Zapatistas in Mexico, Rojava in Syria, Occupy, and independent unions and struggles worldwide around austerity, land, and the city. Its lineages include anarchism, syndicalism, autonomist Marxism, philosophers like Alain Badiou, and popular praxis.

This pathbreaking volume helps recover this once sidelined politics, with a focus on South Africa and Zimbabwe. It includes a dossier of texts from a century of anarchists, syndicalists, radical unionists, and anti-apartheid activists in South Africa. Originating in an African summit of scholars, social movements, and anti-apartheid veterans, this book also features a preface from John Holloway.

“Capturing state power is regarded as the dominant means to achieving social transformation. This excellent collection challenges this prevailing perspective through examining societal and social movements in South Africa and Zimbabwe that have advocated and achieved tangible change from below without seizing state power. Kirk Helliker and Lucien van der Walt offer a compelling counternarrative that is indispensable to the literature on social movements.” —Immanuel Ness, City University of New York, author of Organizing Insurgency: Workers’ Movements in the Global South

“Moving beyond the disillusion and cynicism engendered by liberation movements of the global South which ‘triumphed’ and then betrayed everything they professed to hold dear, the contributors to this volume explore what could happen when and if ‘bottom-up’ labor, gender, and livelihood social movements stop lusting after the capture of state power. Mainly based in South African and Zimbabwean studies, the authors construct an exciting dialogue with the ideas of Mexico-based sociologist and philosopher John Holloway. Can there really be independent survival strategies against the twin malignancies of late capitalism and state turgidity? This is a must-read about the scope and health of 21st-century social formations, trying to walk new paths of equitable human flourishing.” —Teresa Ann Barnes, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, author of Uprooting University Apartheid in South Africa: From Liberalism to Decolonization

“In the 1980s and ’90s, people who sought a world of equality, liberty, and socialism looked to Zimbabwe. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, after the fall of apartheid, even more looked towards South Africa. Tragically, the ruling parties in both countries—and which had led the liberation struggles in each—have proven epic failures and profound disappointments. Hence, it is high time to revisit historical social movements and more fully analyze recent ones that never placed their hopes in state power. This collection brings together fascinating research on the history of anarchist, community, rural, and worker movements from the early 20th century into the 21st that believe another world is possible.” —Peter Cole, author of Ben Fletcher and Dockworker Power: Race and Activism in Durban and the San Francisco Bay Area

About the Contributors:

Kirk Helliker is research professor in sociology at Rhodes University, South Africa, and director of its Unit of Zimbabwean Studies. His books include the edited Everyday Crisis: Living in Contemporary Zimbabwe (2021) and the authored Fast Track Land Occupations in Zimbabwe in the Context of the Zvimurenga (2021), both in collaboration with Sandra Bhatasara and Manase Kudzai Chiweshe. He was deported by the apartheid regime. 

Lucien van der Walt is a South African sociologist and labour educator, involved in the working-class movement. His research includes anarchism/syndicalism, working-class and left history, and neo-liberalism. He has been active in workers’ education since the 1990s, including for DITSELA, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA, the Vuyisile Mini Workers School, the Unemployed Peoples’ Movement, and the Red & Black Forums. 

John Holloway is a professor of sociology at the Instituto de Ciencias Sociales y Humanidades in the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, Mexico. He has published widely on Marxist theory, on the Zapatista movement, and on the new forms of anti-capitalist struggle. His book Change the World Without Taking Power has been translated into eleven languages and has stirred an international debate. His other books include Crack CapitalismWe Are the Crisis of Capital: A John Holloway Reader; and In, Against, and Beyond Capitalism: The San Francisco Lectures.