Toys for Utopia

February 14, 2020 12:48 am

by Alexander Riccio

(art by Elliott – justseeds.org)

Utopia 101: Beginner’s Calisthenics

According to historian Betsy Hartmann, apocalyptic sensibilities are disproportionately popular in the United States as compared to the rest of the world. Such has constituted what Hartmann describes as the “America syndrome,” where puritanical culture and an economy based on militarism feed into the doomsday narrative embraced by this nation’s majority population—both historically and presently. (1) Small wonder utopian potentialities are routinely overlooked or dismissed in mainstream political discourse (unless they are the sort of veiled utopianism invoked by Trump’s “Make America Great Again” brand of politicking). But where prospects for another world, a better world, are expected to be derided within popular commentary, the abandonment of a utopia on the Left is a phenomenon that does much to constrain our movement energies.

Perhaps the scale of historical Left utopianism has created a sense of futility for such projects, or we’ve conflated any previous attempts at materializing utopia with a negative quality intrinsic to the conceptual DNA of utopia. Whatever the underlying reasons, confronted with the pervasive common sense that apocalypse is near (or now), the potential for any liberatory movements to succeed today seems to require a recommitment to not only calling for utopia, but to believing that utopia is attainable. If scale debilitates our movements from considering utopia, as so often is the case, my proposition is to begin building our muscles toward accomplishing utopia with a beginner’s regime of practice—akin to the exercise James Scott recommends when he writes about performing “anarchist calisthenics” (small scale rule-breaking) on a daily basis. (2)

In this spirit, I’ve begun to try to imagine how the anti-authoritarian Left might reach into new arenas for prefiguring a “good” utopia, and my imagination has landed on children’s toys. Partly this follows from the recognition that within utopian literature, typically so attentive to the socialization of youth, hardly a word is written over what toys a child in utopia would encounter. Sketches of a better society, then, have not sufficiently taken into account the everyday experiences of children. This is unfortunate, especially given the rough consensus of early utopians who believed that children possess tremendous revolutionary potential.

The next generation, it was commonly held, could propel the future closer to utopian horizons if they were socialized in a liberatory environment. As Murray Bookchin put it, “a social revolution cannot be achieved without the support of the youth, from which the ruling class recruits its armed forces,” (3) as well as its general labor supply. I share this optimism about youth, and it appears to me toys are fertile soil for exploring possible futures given that a child’s mediation of broader social reality tends to occur through the vehicle of toys, although it would be inaccurate to claim that children are only living lives of play all the time.

If the project of utopia is to “move to the pulse of the concrete,” as Ernst Bloch implores, (4) then locating material media through which imaginative capacities are channeled is among the primary tasks. And what better subject than the most imaginative among us; what better objects than the most malleable and interactive? 

Yet a strange vacuum exists in discourses surrounding toys—whether it be within social scientific research, feminist blogs, corporate PR, or activist circles—and it seems to me that the lack of a specific inquiry over the potential utopian molding of toys might contribute to larger limitations on political imaginative capacities. Where it is widely recognized that toys in the U.S. today are more gendered than in past decades, and acknowledgements are made over the shaping of children’s perceptions through their interactions with toys, still the vacuum exists. Why is no one asking what playthings will look like in utopia? 

2016 marked the five-hundred-year anniversary of Thomas More’s Utopia, and among other limitations of his text, a disappointing feature is More’s treatment of children. For More, youth only warrant enough thought to be regulated in numbers and given access to a thorough education. (5) Sad to note, a typical judgment amongst many an advocate is that the “right” education is a panacea for all questions youth-related. Clearly, education is deeply important, but children live beyond the confines of school. As such those passionate about social change need to take into account children’s multiple social realities, in particular the arena of play. Toys are simply one component of a child’s daily world (at least those fortunate enough to access toys) warranting more attention.  

As far as critical analysis that actually touches on the subject of toys, the only people willing to tackle the subject seem to be liberal feminists. This has generated a host of excellent critiques over the gender dynamics of toys, pointing to the sometimes subtle and oftentimes overt manner in which gender conformity is inscribed within children’s playthings. Such analysis, however, has often been short on ambitious proposals for change, with typical solutions being either short-sighted “fixes” where girls and boys simply mix their toys together, or ones which view the past as a benchmark for better toy alternatives. In this way, go the arguments, boys will be comfortable playing with dolls, and girls will be comfortable playing with action figures, as was supposedly more common at a hopeful moment in the 1970s. In effect, such solutions are calls at the very least to go back to the way toys once looked, and we’ll all be happier, or else to get to a point where every parent is comfortable teaching their boys it’s acceptable to be a bit more feminine. Consider this Atlantic Monthly article’s concluding paragraph to an otherwise stellar examination on the gendered aspect of toys: 

Many who embrace the new status quo in toys claim that gender-neutrality would be synonymous with taking away choice, in essence forcing children to become androgynous automatons who can only play with boring tan objects.  However, as the bright palette and diverse themes found among toys from the ‘70s demonstrates, decoupling them from gender actually widens the range of options available. It opens up the possibility that children can explore and develop their diverse interests and skills, unconstrained by the dictates of gender stereotypes. And ultimately, isn’t that what we want for them? (6)

Clearly, opening up the imaginative possibilities for children is desirable, and I share the opinion that toys should be decoupled from gender, but what did toys look like in the 1970s which made them so wonderful? Well, you had wild-haired androgynous Troll dolls (described as “so ugly they’re cute”), Easy-Bake Ovens, Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots, “Flower Power” and “Disco” Barbie, and, of course, the Six Million Dollar Man action figure. Maybe looking to the past for more gender-neutral toy options is not necessarily the best plan of action for toy interventions (although I will allow that Etch-A-Sketch is a good child’s toy).

On the other side of this debate, which the above author criticizes in her closing remarks, is a commitment to the quasi-liberal notion that ‘if we just leave children alone to play as they like they’ll do fine and discover they might like playing with opposite gender toys on their own’ (or you have the more reactionary response that toys should be gendered, at the very least so grandparents can know what to buy their grandchildren without getting lost in the labyrinthine halls of Target). 

The work done (again primarily by liberal feminists) on toys is extremely valuable, and I do not wish to give the impression that it is anything less; but this work hasn’t gone far enough. Nearly all of it centers solely upon the gendered element of toys whereby “fixes” to this issue stray quickly into liberal frameworks of tolerance and inclusivity, without even a fleeting mention of the broader transformative power latent within a child’s imagination and potentially stimulated by toys. 

Lack of creative solutions, I suspect, follows from the narrowed scope of discourse. It’s as if we’ve all but abandoned the idea of ever attempting to visualize real alternatives, and this is particularly bizarre in relation to toys by the very obvious fact that toys are manufactured—we could have direct control over the creation of toys, but we appear to be completely oblivious to this. 

Why is the social imagination so constrained within the United States? Could toys perhaps lie at the root of the problem? I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest toys are the sole determinant of limited visions, but I do find it fruitful to entertain serious consideration over the role they play within larger reproductive processes. To begin, toys are embedded with a certain capacity to prefigure society. As Roland Barthes wrote, “toys are essentially an adult microcosm; all are miniature reproductions of human objects, as if to the public eye the child were…nothing but a littler [person]…who must be furnished with objects [their] own size.” (7) In this respect, I understand the dangers of specifying toys as exclusively manufactured products, not just because this employs a definition of productivity which aligns nicely with capitalist definitional logic but also owing to the clear fact that a child possesses the remarkable ability to pick up a stick and transform it into an elaborate vehicle for play. My intention, however, is to not drift too far from the territory of manufactured and normative notions of toys because it is here that the intervention of human hands is most immediately impactful and therefore appropriate to analyze.

Yet, toys do more than simply representing the adult world infrastructure on a micro level; they do the work of reproducing adult relationships as well. Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer remarked that the thrashing of Donald Duck in popular cartoons allows “spectators [to] accustom themselves to [their own beatings],” (8) which they experience in everyday life under capitalism. Social roles inscribed within toys act in an analogous manner, as they prepare children for familiar environments and items they’ll encounter as adults. Feminists have been keen in pointing this out for quite some time now, noting the prevalence of toys meant to teach girls how to nurture and care for others while boys simply learn how to punch something as hard as they can—presumably so that the little girl will have some object or another on which to practice her care work. 

Roles and norms are ascribed through toys, and this is quite blatant—from army figurines, beauty-standard Barbies, Tonka Trucks, tea sets, and even miniature cash registers where children can practice building their service-sector skills—but less obvious is the slow imaginative conditioning performed upon children through interactions with such toys. As Barthes suggests, “toys literally prefigure the universe of adult functions” in order to “prepare the child to accept them all.” (9) 

If one were to visit any Toys ‘R’ Us they would quickly recognize Barthes claim as self-evident. Take, just as one example, the toy set “Paw Patrol,” intended for preschool children with their anthropomorphized dog cops, helicopter pilots, fire marshals and other rescue-job characters. The gendering of these toys is immediately obvious as Skye, the female toy, predictably wears pink clothes. Perhaps less obviously important are the depictions of jobs (all of which are working-class occupations). Such toys place within the child’s imagination a normative view of available forms of work—hence these jobs become more palatable and less disagreeable to the child who has become “accustomed” to them all. Certainly, the representation of working-class toys (albeit even in dog form) has its own merit, but little wonder that it becomes all the more difficult (or even desirable) to imagine a world without cops when as preschoolers we are playing with toys like Snuggle Up Pup Chase, the lovable and soft dog cop.  

We should also consider the implications of the pervasiveness of toy cars and trucks. Just think about this hypothetical, and probable, scenario: a child owns a small Tonka Truck. They take their truck on an imaginary trip through the universe they’ve created in the confines of their own bedroom—one where they drive to the Barbie Mansion, pick up GI Joe, and turn the truck temporarily into a spaceship for a launch to Mars, where they end their play with a fight against aliens with GI Joe at the helm (this is possibly lifted from my own childhood memories). A subtle technique of indoctrination is operating in this instance, quite invisible even to keen observers who would quickly point out the masculinist dynamic of this particular scene. We witness within it a sly familiarization of the child with trucks, and to a certain degree, adult infrastructure as well. Here the child is mapping out a terrain which will become all too recognizable (and unremarkable) upon reaching adulthood, where the notion of mobility accomplished through cars (instead of, say, bicycles) is already deeply implanted within the person’s consciousness. It’s no secret that Hot Wheels are much more iconic than Finger Bikes, and I feel confident in suggesting that part of the reason we don’t put up such a fuss about the lack of public transit or high-speed trains in the U.S. has some basis in our expectations being constrained from the very earliest age. 

A child’s mind is endlessly creative, but this creation interacts with material objects which have most often been uncritically produced by adults to represent real life. Techniques of normalization narrow a child’s imaginative capacities, so that a child who wishes to play house has ready access to all the familiar items which constitute a ‘home’—Easy-Bake Oven, tiny couch, imitation cell phone, and plastic vanity piece (typically all pink). These creative moments are subtly inscribed as real-world objects that the child begins to accept as facts of life—and this is precisely where a utopian imagination could intervene. What I am arguing then is that political horizons are shortened by a lack of seriously imagining different societal structures, which has a clear consequence in the deluge of boring and constricting toys we find today. Therefore, current toys are in part products of sterile theoretical imaginations.

Opening the Utopian Imagination

Utopia, dream, vision!

So much poetry, so much progress, so much beauty,

yet how much they disdain you! – Ricardo Flores Magon

Why should utopia be seen as an important concept for liberation? The term is dubious and contestable, so much so that Immanuel Wallerstein prefers his own invented term “utopistics” to specify an intention of examining the real “zones open to human creativity” instead of the problematic “utopias” which in his estimation act as “breeders of illusions, and…inevitably, disillusions.” (10) Desiring to break from inherited traditions is understandable, but considering the long history of mobilizations in the spirit of utopia as well as utopia’s ability to cull the radical imagination, I embrace the challenge of fostering an emancipatory usage of the term instead of some sleek modification of it. Editors of the collection Keywords for Radicals point out that “radicals are left in the difficult position of having to complete or resolve the words inherited from injustice rather than simply disavowing them in favor of emancipatory neologisms.” (11) As such, before running away with the idea of toys for utopia it is necessary to wrestle with the question of what “utopia” means. 

A major current within utopian thought, which in my view has generated much present-day discomfort with adopting utopia into radical movements and social analysis, has been “prescriptive” or “blueprint” utopias. Surveying this utopian thread reveals a history where designs for a future society, and the way to transition toward it, tended toward the worship of meta-narratives and linear progress. Refusals to submit oneself to some universal truth (such as that all society rotates upon the class struggle between owners and non-owners) and the blueprint for a better society was perceived as treason (largely amongst orthodox Marxists). Such ideological orthodoxy partially explains the position of philosopher Karl Popper, who argued that the promise of utopia was nothing more than a demand to “dominate or prostrate yourself” (12) for a program which would allow history to develop along the correct path.  

Utopia’s genealogical trajectory exposes the germ of blueprint attitudes as early as Plato’s Republic, widely accepted as a proto-utopian document. In it, the ancient Greek philosopher set about articulating an ideal concept of “justice,” which for Plato represented an ideal state of harmony within the human condition and the surrounding political environment. It’s not much of a surprise that Plato believed the perfect society could only come into existence once philosophers became “kings,” or supreme rulers, and he also made some unique comments on the need to properly socialize children so that they could become the subsequent generation of philosopher kings. (13) However, scant remarks are discovered in Plato’s text on the need for play within education. Not only was utopia presented as a blueprint, but it was one that demonstrated how prescriptive tendencies slide quickly into totalitarianism. (14) 

Leaping ahead many centuries to 1515 CE, Thomas More published Utopia–already mentioned briefly–effectively coining the term. However, as Ursula Le Guin remarked, More’s “Good Place was explicitly No Place. Only in the head. A blueprint without a building site.” (15) For the next three centuries following More, popular figures were not shy to postulate their own views of a ‘perfect’ society, but they remained guilty of inking societies without any attempt to think of how such a place might materialize. The list of utopian thinkers is long and illustrated, from Francis Bacon to Henri de Saint-Simon (sometimes noted as a founder of sociology), Robert Owen and Charles Fourier. These last three thinkers, incidentally, were targets of Marx and Engels, who charged these men with developing socialist ideas absent the scientific rigor necessary to bring their ideas into reality. Thus, Marx and Engels lumped Fourier, Saint-Simon, and Owen into a derogatory category of “utopian socialism.” A representative passage from The Communist Manifesto reads:

Historical action is to yield to their [the utopian socialists’] personal inventive action, historically created conditions of emancipation to fantastic ones, and the gradual, spontaneous class-organization of the proletariat to the organization of society specially contrived by these inventors. Future history resolves itself, in their eyes, into the propaganda and the practical carrying out of their social plans. (16)

The general critique was that the socialism conceived by these thinkers did not consider how the material development of society would generate the revolutionary agents who would bring utopia to earth, nor did they take into account existing technologies which could be used as instruments for revolutionary action. According to Marx and Engels, these writers were really just writing down what they personally wished the world would be. They thought they could will such hopes into existence without grounding their ideas in present material conditions, thus dooming utopia to mere wishful thinking. It’s important to understand that Marx and Engels believed that once there was enough material infrastructure and production that everyone could realistically have enough goods for their own comfort plus more to go around, then a socialist society would be possible. By this point people (or I should say the proletariat) would be capable of thinking up more practicable ways of getting to such an ideal state, while also being equipped with the tools to do so. The Communist Manifesto was in part an attempt to contextualize history and provide a potential roadmap toward a communist utopia. The ten-point platform the authors proposed within the document could lead us in the right direction, as they argued that the accomplishment of these tasks was imminently possible. The tenth provision they laid out called for the end of child labor and establishment of universal education—again, an admirable step in the right direction but limited by its failure to see children as anything more than empty vessels needing incubation. Needless to say, this platform never mentioned toys; perhaps it would have if children had been regarded as active creative agents in the constitution of a new society. 

Nevertheless, the Manifesto was an important intervention and improvement over the existing uses of utopian thought, but unfortunately Marx and Engels’ corrective did not dislodge the blueprint tendency within the utopian imaginary. Indeed, one can find the prescriptive inflection of historical determinism within the Manifesto (17) partly contributing to the situation described by Ursula Le Guin where “it seems that the utopian imagination is trapped…in a one-way future consisting only of growth.” (18)

Jumping forward again to the twentieth century, the world witnessed the failures of Soviet-style communism, the rise of U.S. empire, the dawn of neoliberal globalization, and the entrenchment of the Thatcherite belief that “There is No Alternative” to capitalist society. Amidst this climate, utopia seemed a long dead and ossified relic of past social dreaming. Partially to blame, in my view (shared somewhat by Popper), is how often utopia took the form of a blueprint during the socialist experiments of the twentieth century. 

It is interesting how few “respected” thinkers continued ruminating on utopia after Marx and Engels, often preferring instead to write about utopia’s antonymous twin: the dreaded dystopian future. Just consider the number of popular dystopian classics that have been written in the twentieth century—1984Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, The Handmaid’s Tale, etc.—and contrast this with all the popular utopian classics you can think of written during the same century (meaning ones that your parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins can name, not just you and your friends who are deep into the subject). Does Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed count?

Today we’re inundated with dystopian themes. Actually, the most popular movies and some of the most celebrated books are dystopias, such as The Hunger Games and The Road (Harry Potter feels pretty dystopian to me as well). Within social theory, utopian possibilities are largely not being discussed outside of small circles. Instead, people seem more content attempting to locate any small degree of individual agency they can, no matter how oppressive the scenario. Fredric Jameson remarked that it’s been said to be easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine workable alternatives to capitalism. (19) Why is it easy to envision the destruction of society but difficult to dream up the perfecting of it? This seems to me to be precisely the current quagmire: to resort so frequently to doom narratives is to guarantee social paralysis, while to hint that a better world is possible is to be cast aside as another fringe idealist who doesn’t understand human nature, how the world really works, or pragmatic methods of improving society. All of this is not to claim that social theory should be centered solely around thinking up utopias, but to highlight that the impulse to think it appropriate even to consider utopia has been firmly quashed. 

However, another thread of utopianism offers a possible way out of the blueprint tendency, which could perhaps bring utopia back into major dialogues. This is what I refer to as the prefigurative utopian impulse, where the notion of living the change one wishes to see in the world grounds general principles maintained by proponents. Utopia in this vein becomes a living experiment encouraging changes in practices and interpersonal relationships. In order to accomplish these changes, proponents of prefiguration have insisted upon creating institutional models which can rehearse a desired utopia. Examples include communes, cooperatives and intentional communities, as well as various democratic practices within organizations, such as consensus decision-making. By extension, the concern is less how to control the forces of history to usher in a desired utopia, than to figure out how to inject more democracy into every sphere of social life from the neighborhood to the workplace; and, as I am seeking to persuade readers here, to the toys children dream up and play with.

To be sure, prefigurative utopia has its own set of limitations. Adherents typically shy away from formal political power, as existing political forms are seen as inherently corruptible and a coopting force. This almost ensures that utopian experiments remain small in scale and remote from other revolutionary efforts, as more emphasis is placed on creating community instead of mapping out long-term strategies, including the classical Marxist lines of generating a party, seizing power, and fostering mass consciousness. Although this refusal can often strengthen organizational analysis and practice, nevertheless the failure to extend beyond small-scale autonomous zones and local cooperatives harbors a whole host of roadblocks preventing anything touching a wider social shift. Energies become so invested in creating community and re-socializing practices that an eventual slide into insularity is almost inevitable. Additionally, the prefigurative tendency runs the risk of fetishizing subcultures to the extent that, rather than posing a challenge to dominant culture, participants in these isolated utopias create their own forms of internal hierarchy and status undermining their ability to recruit newcomers. (20) The result has been an inability to translate utopian practices into sustained revolutionary momentum, leading to mass burnout in which individuals may entirely withdraw from organizations and general prefigurative practices. Transitional theories toward utopia clearly need more work to resolve these limitations. (21)

Notwithstanding all of the above, dislodging utopia from its prescriptive variant offers possibilities for advancing a version of utopia more malleable for conditions on the ground today, as well as opening up the imaginative spaces necessary for transforming the mundane into the spectacular. Actively prefiguring utopia now to the greatest degree possible, can help bring No Place closer to some place. Instead of creating a blueprint of what this utopia must be, a more constructive approach in my view is proposing an outline of general principles that strive for a world where coercion, oppression, and hierarchy are minimized, and mutual aid and egalitarianism are encouraged. This approach is also one that understands these are always works in progress, and that is prepared to adapt constantly to new circumstances since societies are never in the habit of remaining static. As well, when utopia becomes closer aligned to a practice-based notion of hope instead of a purely theory-laden one, it opens our sights to the transformative implications latent within everyday items—including children’s toys.

Some Rough Propositions for Beginning

Only in imaginary experience…which neutralizes the sense of social realities, does the social world take the form of a universe of possibles equally possible for any possible subject. –Pierre Bourdieu

What will children play with in utopia? I am not so arrogant as to believe that I alone can conceive of a toy for utopia here in these pages. Instead, I’m proposing that collectively conceptualizing these toys is possible, and hopefully this article can be the modest beginning of such an endeavor. Anarchists seem to me a group that would be receptive to this idea, as testified by the documented histories of anarchist experiments with radical pedagogies through Freedom Schools and communes. (22) It’s not easy to locate any other projects more embedded in prefigurative possibilities than this one. Toys inherently prefigure society; attempting to shape toys through means of prefiguration seems likely to instigate a positive feedback loop of further prefiguration. 

My first proposition for sparking this cycle is to encourage the practice of horizontal learning and respect between researchers and subjects, or between teachers or caregivers and children. This, in effect, requires both acknowledging children as the primary generators of ideas, since their collective creativity will undoubtedly guide and shape any and all inquiry into utopian toys, and accepting that work must be shared so that no single person can be expected to produce a toy for utopia alone.  

It’s a bit strange that this even has to be proposed in the first place, since most people who have engaged in intellectual labor quickly discover there’s not much chance of producing a uniquely original idea that hasn’t already been discussed somewhere in social theory or scholarship. It’s clear that research of every kind is based in the cumulative work of previous generations. As eloquently expressed by Peter Kropotkin, “there is not even a thought, or an invention, which is not common property, born of the past and the present.”  (23) Those working within the academy will find these comments particularly true; yet potential and current scholars based in these arenas are still frequently in a position of conducting research or putting forth theses on an individual basis and in private. The thorough neoliberalization of U.S. colleges has instilled capitalism’s attitude of competition for its own sake amongst students and scholars alike. For these reasons, we can no longer perceive universities today as potential spaces for democratizing society, but rather as zones of class antagonism. Which brings me to my second proposition: work on toys for utopia must be a project based not in the academy but in community and amongst the children in our own neighborhoods. 

As a final proposal, it appears to me that in conducting any study of utopian toys we would be wise to produce the toys we develop in embryo through mutual learning with children. A large portion of the distastefulness of toys today resides squarely in the fact that toys are manufactured within a monopolized industry. I think it’s fair to conclude that only in such an anti-democratic space could someone have decided to generate the “Girls Only,” My Cleaning Trolley toy (colored pink, yet again). Yes, toy manufacturers actually designed a pink mini janitor’s trolley with mop, broom, and small cleaning supplies, branded with the large words “Girls Only” on the package. At this point I think the reader will agree that if we want to see better toys in the world, we need to commit to making them ourselves, through a modest display of direct action and assertion of labor power. As well, understanding that capitalism denies many children access to toys (let alone toys in which they can see themselves), any production of utopian toys should be distributed in an egalitarian way. 

Here I hope is the rough beginning of a modest proposal to start working toward prefigurative utopian toys. I hope that readers will advance their own set of ideas for how to engage in this effort. Crucial for this project is a belief that since the reproduction of normative values can be inscribed in toys, then the inverse of this must also be true. Fostering notions that a world without racism, sexism, homophobia or poverty is possible can’t be that far-fetched an idea. Why can’t toys help promote this view? Lastly, this project of utopian toys cannot be content solely with generating gender-neutral or gender-inversed ones, or decoupling gender entirely from play, not because these aren’t worthwhile efforts in themselves, but because they do not go far enough. We need toys that can prefigure a better society than this—we want toys for utopia.   

Alexander Riccio is a labor organizer based in Corvallis, Oregon. He cut his teeth in grassroots university-based organizing for increasing the minimum wage. His writing has been featured in the journal antae and by The Democracy Collaborative in their essay competition “What’s the Next System?” Among other projects, Alexander is currently collaborating on a project to revive the commons in the Willamette Valley along with a group of co-conspirators that make up the Common Space Collective.

This essay is from Perspectives on Anarchist Theory‘s “Beyond the Crisis” issue, available here from AK Press: https://www.akpress.org/perspectivesonanarchisttheorymagazine.html

NOTES

1. Betsy Hartmann, The America Syndrome: Apocalypse, War, and Our Call to Greatness (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2017).

2. James C. Scott, Two Cheers for Anarchism: Six Easy Pieces on Autonomy, Dignity, and Meaningful Work and Play (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012).

3. Murray Bookchin, “Listen, Marxist!” in Post-Scarcity Anarchism (San Francisco: Ramparts Press, 1971), 191.

4. David McNally, “Utopia,” in Keywords for Radicals: The Contested Vocabulary of Late-Capitalist Struggle (Chico: AK Press, 2016), 431-437.

5. Thomas More, Utopia (London: Verso, 2016).

6. Elizabeth Sweet, “Toys are More Divided by Gender Now Than There Were 50 Years Ago,” Atlantic Monthly, December 2, 2015, available at http://theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/12/toys-are-more-divided-by-gender-now-than-they-were-50-years-ago/383556/ (accessed Dec 2, 2015).

7. Roland Barthes, “Toys,” in Mythologies: The Complete Edition in a New Translation (New York: Hill and Wang, 2012), 59-61.

8. Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, “The Culture Industry,” in Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments (United States: Leland Stanford Junior University), 94-136.

9. Barthes, 59.

10. Immanuel Wallerstein, Utopistics (New York, New Press, 1998).

11. Kelly Fritsch and Clare O’Connor and AK Thompson, “Introduction,” in Keywords for Radicals: The Contested Vocabulary of Late-Capitalist Struggle (Chico: AK Press, 2016), 1-22.

12. Karl Popper, “Utopia and Violence,” World Affairs, vol. 149 no. 1 (Summer 1986).

13.  Plato also felt that governance by philosophers was gender-neutral, meaning women could become philosopher kings as well.

14. Plato, The Republic (New York: Dover Publications, 2000).

15. Ursula K. Le Guin, “Utopiyin, Utopiyang,” in Thomas More, Utopia (London: Verso, 2016), 195-198.

16. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, “Manifesto of the Communist Party,” in Marx-Engels Reader, ed. Robert C. Tucker (New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 1978), 497-499.

17. Whether one chooses to interpret the text this way or not, which I personally do not, does not preclude others from viewing the passages subscribing to notions of linear evolutionary stages of society which are deterministic in their presumptions.

18. Ursula K. Le Guin, “A Non-Euclidean View of California as a Cold Place to Be,” in Thomas More, Utopia (London: Verso, 2016), 172-173.

19. Fredric Jameson, “Future City,” New Left Review 21 (May-June 2003), available at https://newleftreview.org/II/21/fredric-jameson-future-city (accessed December 31, 2016).

20. For a thorough examination of how counter-cultures develop their own forms of hierarchies, see Nazima Kadir, The Autonomous Life? Paradoxes of Hierarchy and Authority in the Squatters Movement in Amsterdam (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2016).

21. For an excellent overview of prefigurative politics and its limitations, see Wini Breines, The Great Refusal: Community and Organization in the New Left: 1962-1968 (New York: J.F. Bergin Publishers, Inc., 1982) and Carl Boggs, “Revolutionary Process, Political Strategy, and the Dilemma of Power,” Theory and Society, vol. 4 no. 3 (Autumn 1977), 359-393.

22. See Paul Avrich, The Modern School Movement: Anarchism and Education in the United States (Oakland: AK Press, 2005) and Andrew Cornell, Unruly Equality (Berkley: University of California Press, 2016).

23. Peter Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread (New York: Dover Publications, 2011).