This is part two of the transcript of my interview with James C. Scott. We talk aboutAnarchy, State Decreed Patronymic Naming, Vernacular Knowledge, Bottom-up Urban Planning, centralization vs. decentralization
Here's the link to the podcast and notes
Rob: And welcome to the Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show, WNJC 1360 AM
My guest tonight is James C. Scott. He's a professor of politics and anthropology at Yale University. He's the founder of Yale's Agrarian Studies program and he's been described as an anarchist and a 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, and his most recent I believe is Two Cheers for Anarchism: Six Easy Pieces on Autonomy, Dignity, and Meaningful Work and Play, published by Princeton University Press.
picking up a few minutes before the first part of the transcript ended...
Rob: So what aspects of anarchism do you believe in?
JS: Well, as you know, I start the book" I started with an anecdote which I could go back to if you like, but I try to make the point that almost all of the important changes, structural changes, of the 20th Century that you and I and most of your listeners would agree were emancipatory and progressive in the 20th Century, they all took place only because of disorder and rule breaking and law breaking outside the normal, if you like, halls of congress, normal politics and electoral politics.
The examples I use are first of all, the New Deal. It seems to me that it's impossible to understand the reforms of the New Deal without the riots, the wildcat strikes, the sieges of welfare offices and so on. At a point when Roosevelt thought that the only way to restore public order, I think he and other people thought we were on the lip of a potential revolution, was to enact a whole series of social legislations that would convince the working class that their interests were taken seriously and that their security, financial security, was an object of government legislation.
The second, I think it's also true in a somewhat milder way, but very important. If you think before that of the women's suffrage movement, although it's not a huge movement in terms of masses, the fact is that the women who were at the center of this all went to prison. They were all put in solitary confinement and they were all force fed. This became a sort of huge issue and persuaded Woodrow Wilson, I think, to finally decide that he ought to back an amendment supporting women's suffrage.
I don't think we would have gotten out of the Vietnam War without the demonstrations that we had. I don't we would have had the civil rights movement without the kind of disorder in the streets that Lyndon Johnson and others thought and Kennedy, for that matter, thought was likely to result in a kind of level of public disorder that they had not seen before. The only way, if you like, to put it back in the bag was to pass civil rights legislation that had been proposed a long time before, but just had languished until the public disorder made them go back to it again.
So the point is, my point is that I think if you look carefully at the 20th Century, we had a political system of elections and democratic contestation of peaceful" that's supposed to actually make possible huge changes in a peaceful, legislative way of electoral change. The fact is that the incumbents historically have such an advantage that influence of concentration of wealth and media and so on, actually make it unlikely in the 20th Century. One cannot point to really large scale changes that have come about simply in the ordinary working of the legislative process.
So my argument is that we have to take into account the fact that disorder and operation outside the normal institutional circuit of legislatures has been responsible for most of the large changes that we are likely to think were important and emancipatory.
Rob: I love it. So what does that say about protests, protest marches, planned protests in Washington, D.C.?