The Operating System An Anarchist Theory of the Modern State

Eric Laursen (Author); Maia Ramnath (Foreword)


Publisher: AK Press
Format: Book
Binding: pb
Pages: 170
Released: May 4, 2021
ISBN-13: 9781849353878

One of the most unique aspects of anarchism as a political philosophy is that it seeks to abolish the state. But what exactly is “the state”? The State is like a vast operating system for ordering and controlling relations among human society, the economy, and the natural world, analogous to a digital operating system like Windows or MacOS. Like a state, an operating system “governs” the programs and applications under it and networked with it, as well as, to some extent, the individuals who avail themselves of these tools and resources. No matter how different states seem on the surface they share core similarities, namely:

  • The State is a relatively new thing in world history
  • The State is European in origin and outlook
  • States are “individuals” in the eyes of the law
  • The State claims the right to determine who is a person
  • The State is an instrument of violence and war
  • The State is above the law
  • The State is first and foremost an economic endeavor

Anyone concerned with entrenched power, income inequality, lack of digital privacy, climate change, the amateurish response to COVID-19, or military-style policing will find eye-opening insights into how states operate and build more power for themselves—at our expense. The state won’t solve our most pressing problems, so why do we obey? It’s time to think outside the state.

Eric Laursen is an independent journalist, historian, and activist. He is the author of The People’s Pension and The Duty to Stand Aside. His work has appeared in a wide variety of publications, including In These Times, The Nation, The Village Voice, Counterpunch, The Arkansas Review, and Z Magazine. He lives in Buckland, Massachusetts.

Maia Ramnath is a historian and author of Decolonizing Anarchism and Haj to Utopia.

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