James C. Scott is professor of politics and anthropology, founder of Yale's agrarian Studies program and he's been described as an anarchist and marxist.
Some of his books include:
- The art of not being governed
- Weapons of the Weak; Everyday forms of Resistance
- Domination and the Arts of Resistance; Hidden Transcripts
- Seeing Like A State; How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed
- Two Cheers for Anarchism; Six easy pieces on Autonomy, Dignity and meaningful work and play.
How would you describe the collection of your work?
Summarize your work
To try to understand the world from the point of view of the underdog
Wikipedia says your work focuses on the ways that subaltern people resist dominance. What doe you mean by subaltern?
Antonio Gramsci wrote book Prison Notebooks
Would you consider the American middle class to be subaltern?
Hallmarks of subaltern people live in a world not of their own making over which they have little influence.
Your work has been in Asia, but does it cast a light on what people can do in the US?
Book Domination and the arts of resistance
Rob: One of the things I got out of that book is that some of the most successful responses to power has been anonymous
Rob: You also talk about evasion, subterfuge and undermining
James: This all came to me in the process of living in a Malaysian village for two years. Large combine harvesters were coming in to harvest rice. Land owners found they could harvest the grain themselves and take the land from the tenants.
Peasants response by sabotaging machines, theft from wealthy, social boycotts-- a display of politics by other means.
Rob: I recently interviewed Keith Farnish, who wrote a book, Undermining, about how to do this in western culture.
Polish promenades with hats on backwards, during government official broadcasts
Govt put curfew so people couldn't do it. Then people put TVs to windows.
Gene Sharp lists
You talk about the Work to rule strike. Can you talk about it and the french cab driver strike?
strike at Caterpillar-- workers decided to follow all the codes that regulated safe operation of machines, safe use of forklifts, etc. By following the rules, work came to a grinding halt.
Rob: Reading quote on acts of disobedience--
Rob: In a New York Times interview, you said, ""Unlike the anarchists, I don't believe the state will ever be abolished," "It's a matter of taming it""How does that gibe with your ideas on anarchism.
the trick is to domesticate or train the state.
Rob: What aspects of anarchism DO you believe in?
all the changes that were emancipatory took place with rule breaking, outside the rules of electoral politics.
Women's suffrage movement-- women were imprisoned and force-fed.
I don't we would have had the civil rights movement without the disorder in the streets.
One cannot point to large scale changes that have come about in the ordinary working of the legislative process. Disorder" has been.
What does that say about protest marches, planned protests in Washington D.C.
chapter for schools and exams in Two Cheers for Anarchism
Students have walked out of standardized exams-- violating a whole series of school routines that they find demeaning and disrespectful of their individual creativity.
Rob: Top Down / bottom up thoughts?
historically action from the bottom up has come from people who are feeling pinched or cornered"
Rob: Talk about the Arab Spring in light of your comment in your book Two Cheers for Anarchism
Rob-- you talk about, in several of your books, about how centralized, top down, straight-line view from ten thousand feet planning is problematic, how diversity and a bit of controlled chaos is desirable.
one of my heroines is Jane Jacobs-- first person to think about how the city is lived and experienced on the ground by ordinary people-- how life looks from the bottom.
Watching basketball game-- it seems easier when we view from a high up view.
Rob: In your book, Two Cheers for Anarchism, you say the use of Patronymic naming-- giving names based on the father-- was invented as a means of supervision and control" that they centralize knowledge and power. Can you explain that?
Mac in scottish, O in Irish names and Bin/ben in middle eastern names mean son of.
And you use this as an intro to the ideas of Vernacular and artisanal ways.
Durham rd. Guilford Rd-- Road names based on where the road goes, vs. state numbered names.
In your book, Seeing Like a State, you show how this kind of approach doesn't work-- and it affects the way people think.
german approach to scientific forestry
there are certain things you can never learn from reading a book, like riding a bicycle.
artisanal model-- became a master craftsman
Centralized manufacturing vs artisanal and vernacular manufacturing. You give the construction of a Big Mac as an example of centralized
order at the center supported by non-conforming, unacknowledged practices at the periphery
You talk about how the top-down, centralized approaches really don't work-- that they depend on subordinates who live outside the system, break the rules, like Chomsky says, they leave out many of the costs that subordinates bear.
Rob: What you're really saying is to design a city, take a bottom-up approach.
Rob: You've talked about how elites and the people who design these top-down, simplified approaches like miniaturization, like pilot programs and theme parks. Can you talk about that?
It's extremely common for dictators to create zones of perfect order-- Czars, Stalin and Tennessee valley did this. It's the mark of an elite that has thrown up its hands at the idea of creating a larger order" so they create model cities, villages, economic development zones in which they can control all the variables because it's contained.
How does miniaturization gibe with Schumacher's small is beautiful.
planners should, if possible to small steps and favor reversibility.
In a number of your books you take on Top-Down, centralized planning we've been discussing. How do Libertarians respond to that?
Their model of order without hierarchy is the market. They refuse to understand the fact that market outcomes can result in disparities of income and power that create inequalities and oppression that are intolerable. Most libertarians are comfortable with the 1% taking everything.
Reminds me of Jonathan Swift's article-- A Modest Proposal-- which proposes that children be sold for food.
You are working new book on the "deep history" of plant and animal domestication. How's that going and what's that about?
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