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Journal of Balkan and Near Eastern Studies Vol. 14, No. 4, December 2012, pp. 120

Democracy as a Verb: New Meditations on the Yugoslav Praxis Philosophy

iga Vodovnik Z




The paper discusses the intellectual legacy of praxis philosophy which, with its new reading of Marx, spread its range beyond the narrow parameters established in the fourth chapter of the History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks). The paper addresses the question of the state and the perspective of democracy through the categories and concepts of praxis philosophy and concludes that understanding democracy in terms of praxisas a free and creative activity in everyday lifeand not as a prefabricated institutional design, leads to the negation of the present thesis on the crisis of democracy. Je ne suis pas Marxiste! (Karl Marx, 1882) The second half of the 20th century was a turbulent era for Yugoslavia not only in a political but also in an ideational sense. Even before the fallout with Cominform in 1948, a promising strain of humanist thought emerging from the University of Zagreb and the University of Belgrade, as Laura Sector described the Praxis group, started to cause cracks in the ideological edice erected after the Yugoslav Revolution (194145).1 A group of young Yugoslav philosophers and sociologists had started with a new reading of Marx that led them to reject the dogmas of dialectical materialism and to discover the humanist dimension of Marxs thought, thereby spreading it beyond the narrow parameters established in the fourth chapter of the History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks). The battle against the sediments of Stalinism was therefore not only fought in the political arena but also, and in fact primarily, in the realm of philosophy where these young Yugoslav intellectuals tried to show that Marxs (meta)philosophy is, above all, denoted by , a universal, free, creative and self-creative praxis or, according to Gajo Petrovic 2 activity. The radical reinterpretation of Marx on the basis of his early work, mostly the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, resulted in a movement beyond the historical determinism and economic reductionism which still marked the hegemonic position of Diamat Marxism in the form elaborated by Soviet
ISSN 1944-8953 (print)/ISSN 1944-8961 (online)/12/040001-20 q 2012 Taylor & Francis






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philosophers. This in turn reduced Marxs thought to an ossied system of absolute truths or ideology in Engels understanding of the termthat is, as false consciousness ( falsches Bewusstsein). Due to the hegemonic position of the Engelsian understanding of Marx, a conviction has predominated in orthodox Marxism that the two main currents within Marxs thought are: the theory of historical materialism and the theory of surplus value. Unfortunately, the Engelsian reading of Marx completely overlooks the humanistic element of Marxs (meta)philosophy and/or philosophical dimension of his economic and political theories. Gerson Sher hence ascertains in his study of the Praxis group that the redenition of Marxism, as rst and foremost a philosophy of man, put forward by the mentioned young Yugoslav theorists and, above all, their identication of praxis as the central category of Marxs (meta)philosophy, returned philosophy back to Marx and Marx back to philosophy.3 Yet we should emphasize that their new reading of Marx should not be understood as a total break from all previous (re)interpretations of Marxism. As Oskar Gruenwald points out, praxis-philosophy was part of a larger context seeking to bridge ideological gaps . . . to build a safer and more humane word.4 When articulating a new theory of human existence in society, restoring man as the subject of revolutionary action, and revealing the myopia of both Bolshevik and cs, rgy Luka Social Democratic orthodoxy, their analyses closely resemble ideas of Gyo 5 Ernst Bloch, Karl Korsch and also Antonio Gramsci. Bearing in mind also campaigns of defamation that their theoriesunifying critical theory with revolutionary praxistriggered, the parallelism between praksikovci and the culprits of the Second International is almost uncanny. However, it would be a gross oversimplication, prout Sher, to characterize Praxis Marxism as a whole as a mere imitation or a direct cs, Bloch or indeed any single school of thought.6 It development of the idea of Luka is worth noting that the Praxis school has been the only group in the region allowed to reach maturity and become the predominant cultural orientation in the social sciences.7 New reading that they offered is therefore as much a thing of the past as it is of the future, as much a thing of continuity as it is of discontinuity. With the philosophy of praxis, man was once again treated as a historical subject and a moral ethical dimension of the political as an important determinant of political action. Praxis was not understood in the narrow sense of economic or political functioning but as an ideal, specically human activity, whereby man realizes the optimal potentialities of his being, which is therefore an end in itself.8 However, praxis-philosophy is not merely a radical ontological, epistemological and not least methodological deviation from dogmatist Marxism, but its reinterpretation of Marx also denes the vital repositioning of philosophy in relation towards society and the centres of political power. This new reference point, which has been exposed by the philosophy of praxis as the only constant within its uid and eclectic research, can be found in a letter from Marx to Arnold Ruge: We do not anticipate the world dogmatically, but rather wish to nd the new world through criticism of the old. [ . . . ] Even though the construction of the future and its completion for all times is not our

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task, what we have to accomplish at this time is all the more clear: relentless criticism of all existing conditions, relentless in the sense that the criticism is not afraid of its ndings and just as little afraid of the conict with the powers that be.9





Praksisovci understood that the task of the intellectual should not be the total construction of the future and the invention of new phantasms which paralyse human creativity and freedom, but should instead be the unyielding criticism of all existing reality and at the same time a pregurative experimentation with new political practices and institutions which are open to modication and change. From this perspective, praxis-philosophy follows an anarchist idea which states that the seed of a future society must be sown within the already existing system. In response to the question Why Praxis? appearing in the editorial of the very rst openly stated that the issue of the Praxis journal in September 1964, Gajo Petrovic goal of the new journal would be the relentless critique of all existing conditions and hence a radical examination of the current problems facing Yugoslav socialism, the contemporary world and man. The aim of the new project was to become a philosophical journal in the sense in which philosophy is the thought of revolution: the merciless critique of all existing conditions, the humanist vision of a truly human , the world, and the force that inspires revolutionary action. According to Petrovic contemporary world was still a world of economic exploitation, national inequalities, political non-freedom, spiritual emptiness, a world of misery, hunger, hatred, war and fear. Even more, the old problems were being joined by new ones and, besides, it should also not be overlooked that also in those countries where there are efforts to realize a genuinely human society, the inherited forms of inhumanity arent defeated and deformations emerge that didnt exist earlier. That is why, in s view, Petrovic (t)he philosopher cannot observe all these occurrences indifferently, not because in hard times everybody should help, and among others the philosopher too, but because in the roots of all that hardship lie problems whose solution is impossible without the participation of philosophy.10 , who in explaining the role and purpose of the journal posed the Unlike Petrovic question using the capital P, we will ask a much broader question using praxis with a small p. Hence, what follows is an attempt to address the question of the state and perspective of democracy through the categories and concepts of praxis-philosophy. Yet we should emphasize that praxis-philosophy cannot be understood and discussed as a monolithic and homogeneous school since it consists of individuals who not only differed in their research foci but also profoundly differed in their understandings of certain basic conceptions with which they operated. Warnings about these discrepancies are included in the works of practically all the protagonists of praxis (2007), Kangrga (2001), Markovic (1975), Petrovic ic philosophyfor example, Jaks (1989), Popov (2003)who argue that they are bound more by the collective renunciation of the Stalinist version of Marxism than by any theoretical doctrine.





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We will nevertheless attempt to cast the basic contours of their democratic vision and and Mihailo Markovic , perhaps modes of existence through works of Gajo Petrovic the two most prominent authors to emerge out of praksisovci. The paper has two key purposes. First, it attempts to contribute to our perceptions and conceptions of democracy a radically new understanding of democracyas praxis or as a free and creative activity in everyday life. In this paper, we suggest that praxis-philosophy does not solely equate democracy with a particular constitutional system, nor with a particular constellation of centres of power within a society, but instead that it understands democracy only as praxis. Or, in Westian terms, it denes democracy as a verb, and never as a noun.11 Moreover, the understanding of democracy as a verb is not just limited to the sphere of politics (an achievement of the 18th century), but logically includes all social and economic life. Accordingly, this paper tries to democratize democracy (Santos) and, while doing so, also refutes the myriad theses on the crisis of democracy. Second, the paper seeks to overcome the limitations of mainstream theories and analyses which equate democracy with a legal concept that can only be achieved and maintained with adequate institutional architecture. We therefore strive to refute theories and analyses that havedespite the rise and strengthening of (participative) democracy that we have witnessed in the last few decadesmistakenly dened the crisis of the current economic project as a crisis of democracy itself. Finally, we try to highlight the myopia of our (mis)understanding of the essence of democracy and why we still search for it in places where the possibility of nding it is negligible. What is Praxis? Although the word praxis is commonly used in everyday language and appears to be relatively clear and understandableit is primarily used as a synonym for activity, creation, work, habit, experience, training, etc., its meaning within philosophy, especially praxis-philosophy, is considerably more profound and specic. Marx developed the concept of praxis in his early works, mostly in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, which were only discovered by modern philosophy in the 1930s through the work of David Rjazanov. In the Manuscripts Marx divides his ideas of man as a free and creative being in a positive sense as well as and chiey in a negative sense through a denition and criticism of human selfalienation.12 The chapter Alienated Work states that a free, conscious human activity is a generic characteristic, as it differs from other animal species which only fend for themselves and their own physical needs, whereas man also provides in the absence of such physical needs and only by doing so is actually freed from physical need itself: (The animal( fends only for itself, whilst Man reproduces the whole of nature; its product belongs only to its physical body, whilst Man, by his own volition, resists his product. An animal only creates what is typical for the species it belongs to, while Man is capable of producing things typical for any species and is capable of attributing an inherent dimension to any





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object; it is by these means that Man also creates within the rules of beauty.13 Marx equates praxis only with free, universal and creative activity with which man creates and transforms his world and consequently himself. Such an understanding of praxis differs considerably from the epistemological category of practice which can, however, mean the changing of an object, whereas this activity still remains entirely alienated. The key characteristic of praxis as a normative concept therefore lies in the fact that this activity represents a goal and purpose in itself. It is an activity that is supposed to be unique to mankind and through which man obtains his main distinctiveness from other living beings. Of course, freedom in this case should not be understood in a negative sense as an absence of external obstacles and limitations, but rather in its positive sense whereby the creative moment of this action is emphasized. In the Manuscripts Marx also demarcates praxis from labour since praxis as a free and creative activity differs fundamentally from labour (die Arbeit) as an act of the alienation of a human activity.14 If praxis is a product of an individuals wish, selfrealization and the kingdom of freedom, then labour is a matter of urgency, alienation and the kingdom of necessity. Perhaps the most elaborated taxonomy of individual activities can be found in s bookalthough this is not the place to consider his subsequent Mihailo Markovic inglorious political transformationentitled From Afuence to Praxis, where he divides human activity into: (a) estranged labour; (b) labour; and (c) praxis.15 If estranged labour is an activity which does not allow the individual to realize his potential and meets his demands, it is then that labour is a neutral concept which correlates with instrumental activities that are essential for mans survival and , labour can turn into praxismeaning an development. According to Markovic ideal activity which allows the individual to realize his optimal potential and is therefore a goal in itselfyet this is only true in cases where it is chosen freely and offers the individual self-realization and the maximization of his creative potential.16 On the Development of Praxis-Philosophy









A Copernican revolution of Marxism, as Oskar Gruenwald described reinterpretation of Marxism by praxis-philosophy, led to the recuperation of his humanistic philosophy which had been ignored or dismissed as an unimportant (Hegelian) deviation of the immature Marx, that is, as abstract humanism. Namely, it was seen as a deviation before he arrived at his real conclusionssuch as the theory of surplus stressed that it is impossible to accept value and historical materialism. Here Petrovic an articial division of Marxs corpus into the young and the old Marx since it is necessary to interpret his thought only as a whole because it is very difcult to understand Marxs later works without knowing his early works.17 That prevents a proper understanding of Marx since humanism is not only the central theme of his early texts, but also of all his later works, albeit implicitly. Further, the thesis that the , a badly formulated young Marx is the only right one is, according to Petrovic

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negation of Stalinism which, paradoxically, simultaneously generously attributes the old Marx to Stalinism.18 The protagonists of Diamat had renounced these attempts to reinterpret Marx as a form of abstract humanism since they, instead of focusing their efforts on the key problems of the modern world and humanity, engage in obscure topics such as alienation, practice and self-realization. However, the reinterpretation made by the mentioned young Yugoslav theorists did not end with Marx, nor even with the classics of Marxism. The new political climate in the 1960s and the countrys direction only strengthened this trend of philosophical revisionism and gave a guarantee for the more successful completion of the process of abolishing ideological monism. Therefore, space for the elaboration of Marxism had been opened on the one hand and Markovic and for the denunciation of Diamat on the other.19 Petrovic ascertained that the fall of the fourth classic (Stalin) could not occur without effects on the preceding three as their works and ideas were no longer perceived as eternal truths which could only be interpreted, commentated on or reconrmed with new evidence, but which had instead merely become more or less convenient guides for new research and creating.20 We could state that the opening of political space has led to a nal acceptance of the upgraded version of Marxs eleventh thesis on Feuerbach which, according to Maurice Brinton, states that philosophers have only interpreted Marx, in various ways; the point, however, is to change him.21 It was the different readings of Marx on the basis and through the necessities of his humanistic philosophy that helped unravel all the deciencies and unclear sides of his (meta)philosophy along with the orthodox Marxism per se. With the reinterpretation of Marx, praxis-philosophy once again warned that it is impossible to reduce Marxs thoughts to a single dimension for, apart from its main constancies, it is full of internal contradictions, self-criticism and consequently redenitions of standpoints. , Marxs legacy is not a coherent and conclusive system but According to Petrovic simply a mass of ideas which pose important questions, yet keeps a lot of them open, thereby being merely a collection of inquiries and researches without nal results.22 If we add Erich Fromms cynical remark here, with similar reinterpretations Marx ceases to be a long dead saint and becomes a still living thinker.23 This is also understandable as the revolutionary theory should not act as a method for freezing thought and conceptions in new moulds, but should rst construct the future on the basis of extrapolating the past and thereby contribute its share to the construction of a free and humane world. The Conceptions and Perceptions of Democracy within the Philosophy of Praxis


During the time leading up to the famous and what many would say was the pivotal conference Problems of Object and Subject, Practice and the Theory of Reection, organized by the Yugoslav Association for Philosophy and Sociology at Bled in 1960 and which marked a nal victory of the humanist orientation, many important transformations and breakthroughs contributed to developing the theoretical basis for the new philosophical current.24 After the ideational victory of the new

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orientation and its theoretical consolidation, the rst steps were made towards concrete activism which would reect the realization that the role of the revolutionary philosophy must not simply be the elucidation of the world, but rather its changing through the abolition of its limits (Aufhebung) on the further propagation of praxis. , this would only be possible by replacing the abstract According to Markovic critical theory with concrete, practically oriented social criticism that would thus not be limited solely to capitalist society.25 Namely, many other forms of alienation can also be found in post-revolutionary societyfor example, commodity fetishism, nationalism, appropriation of surplus value, division of labour which amplies the division between the creative activity of the minority and the monotonous and degrading labour of the majority. Therefore, the criticism of praxis-philosophy does not lead to abstract negation whose goal is the absolute cancellation of the object of critique but to a concrete negation as it anticipates the Aufhebung of only those characteristics and elements of the object that represent its essential internal limitations.26 Accordingly, the criticism of all that exists on which praxis-philosophy is based also cannot be understood as mere nihilism and the destruction of everything that exists, but instead and only as its transcendence through social revolution which, for , cannot be equated with the use of force, the overthrowing of a government Petrovic or the economic collapse of a system, since a revolution is not merely the passage from one form of Being to another, higher one, it is not only a peculiar break, jump, hole in Being, it is the highest form of Being, the Being itself in its fullness. Revolution is the most developed form of creativity and the most authentic form of freedom, a eld of open possibilities and the realm of the truly new. It is the very essence of Being, the Being in its essence.27 When discussing the value of praxis-philosophy its critics often objected that its ontological perspective is entirely unrealistic. At best, it is normative or prescriptive for it has been servitude and non-creativity and not freedom and creative activity ergo labour, not practicewhich has throughout history characterized man and his stated that these kinds of objections were unjustied because activity.28 Petrovic dening man as a being of practice, and practice as a free and creative activity, does not mean a descriptive nor a merely normative treatment, but rather an expressive and potential one in the sense that they expose mans potentialsomething distinguished from what it is, as well as from something it should be.29 Of course, the ontological position of praxis-philosophy is impossible to understand as a naive and simplied apotheosis of human nature, which only treats an individuals potential for good and creative. Alongside the descriptive concept of human nature, which can be afrmed by historical evidence, praxis-philosophy also introduces the normative concept which is based on contemplating the possibilities beyond the present existence. The ontological position of praxis-philosophy means a further digression from the reductionism of orthodox Marxism in which the question of mans freedom in the here and now is not relevant as man is only a tabula rasa or




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modelling clay, which is freely determined by the socio-economic formation of society and its internal limitations. The theory of human nature and philosophical anthropology, which can be found in the philosophy of praxis, is in this sense fundamentally more complex. In contrast to orthodox Marxism, it detects and addresses the complex question of a suitable form of a social, economic and political system which would enable man with certain intrinsic potential to reach the highest level of self-realization and maximization of his (internal) creative potential. Alternatively, if we pose the same question after applying the categorical apparatus of praxis-philosophy: In which social conditions, in what kind of social organization can human activity become an objectication of the individuals most creative capacities and a means of satisfying genuine individual and common needs?30 The answer to this question can only be guessed. The political anthropology of praxis-philosophy only helps with this guesswork by simply constantly reminding us of the inuence of external circumstances, which can channel mans potential in one direction or another. That is because human nature is structured out of clashing dispositions that develop in time and can, given the right historical conditions, strengthen, be suppressed or modied in a series of different ways. In order to institutionalize and strengthen the open and free discussion of Marxist humanism and the problems of the contemporary world and man, a summer school ula in 1963 whereas the philosophical journal was organized on the island of Korc Praxis, published in a Yugoslav and an international edition, was founded a year later. Both were truly remarkable projects that soon gained an international reputation and attracted the participation of internationally renowned gures such as, inter alia, Zygmunt Baumann, Ernst Bloch, Thomas Bottomore, Robert S. Cohen, Erich Gorz, Ju rgen Habermas, Leszek Kolakowski, Henri Fromm, Lucien Goldmann, Andre cs, Ernest Mandel, Herbert Marcuse and Howard Zinn. rgy Luka Lefebvre, Gyo ula Summer School, an annual gathering on the Together with the journal, the Korc ula, represented one of the rare physical and ideational forums Adriatic island of Korc that enabled thinkers on both sides of the Iron Curtain to exchange opinions and experiences.31 Both projects soon became an important forum for particularly fruitful and tumultuous philosophical debates. At that time, Yugoslav philosophy had become a true social phenomenon as the once hermetically sealed and boring academic lectures were being replaced with public debates attracting the widest public outside the narrow academic community. All social strata were now reading philosophical books. Some issues of Praxis and other philosophical journals as well as some philosophical debates became rst-rate cultural and political events.32 The school and the journal integrated academics and students from the region into the then topical intellectual currents and political debates. It was also by virtue of these experiences that members of the Praxis group were able to offer lucid analyses that conrmed the previously mentioned hypothesized problems of post-revolutionary societies. In the research on individual aspects of social and political life in Yugoslavia they concluded that it is possible to nd forms of political and economic alienation even within Yugoslav society; that exploitation of the proletariat by the owners of capital

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had been replaced by the exploitation by a new elite or what Milovan Djilas, another Yugoslav dissident, described as the new class; that the introduction of mechanisms of a market economy had reproduced the antagonism between labour and capital; that self-management could only truly be found on the micro levelwithin companies, local communities and organizationsand was impossible to nd at higher levels of decision-making. believed the revolution was never nalized in Yugoslavia, That is why Markovic namely, because private ownership of the means of production was never transcended by social ownership but only modied into state property; as the bourgeois state was not transcended by a web of self-managing organs of workers councils, but instead grew into a state run by bureaucracy and technocracy; as the political party, as a typical form of a bourgeois political organization, was not abolished but in some respects had become even more authoritarian, and the ideological indoctrination within it even more drastic. The fact that there is only one such organization which contended, hardly an advantage over monopolizes all political power is, Markovic bourgeois pluralism. Hence, the (r)eal suppression of political alienation will materialize only when all monopolies are dismantled, when authoritarian and hierarchical organizations such as the state and Party gradually wither away and are replaced by self-governing associations of producers and citizens at all social levels.33 The solution offered by praxis-philosophy demanded the total de-professionalization of politics, the spreading of self-management to all levels and spheres of society, the introduction of workers councils on the regional, republican and federal levels, and even the introduction of participatory democracy through the abolition of the party itself. These aspirations saw the Praxis group setting itself on a collision course with the powers that be. Their demands were, obviously, too radical for Yugoslavias political authorities even their conception of man as a being of praxis, that is, free, creative and self-actualizing activity, informed Edvard Kardeljs theory of selfmanagement and, hence, formed the very basis for the wider Yugoslav Experiment, meaning a new social, economic and political modelin a way they were merely logical interpretations of the 1958 programme of the League of Communists of ascertained that the biggest crime of the Praxis groupone Yugoslavia. Markovic that led to an array of political pressures that intensied after the student protests of ula Summer School and the Praxis 1968 and culminated in the abolition of the Korc journal in 1974, as well as the expulsion of eight of the journals collaborators (the socalled Belgrade Eight) from the Faculty of Arts in Belgrade years laterseems to be that they took these ideas seriously.34 Sher reminds us that, to appreciate the signicance of their accomplishments, it is necessary to view them in the broader political and, above all, historical context: Nowhere else in Eastern Europe has there arisen such a sustained, public, animated, unfettered, and candid dialogue concerning the founding







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principles of the society, the sociopolitical and cultural forms that have evolved under communist rule, and the nature of political authority. Nowhere else has such debate, even when it has surfaced no matter how briey, been accorded the degree of acceptance and even legitimacy that it earned in Yugoslavia, and nowhere else did it attract such broad international interest.35 Sher concludes,



That all this occurred in Yugoslavia, moreover, testies not only to the extraordinary elasticity and resilience of that remarkable country and its political structure, but also, in the wake of the forceful termination of the Praxis experiment, to the gradual loss of some of those very qualities that have hitherto made the Yugoslav experiment a unique and bold adventure in democratic socialism.36 Unfortunately, history was to prove that Shers remarks were right and it did so twice over since the rest of the Yugoslav story in the late 1980s and early 1990s unfolded as a simultaneous tragedy and farce.


Democratizing Democracy




Since individual liberation is considered as a prerequisite to the liberation of society, humanistic reconstruction of Marxism offered by praxis-philosophy is no longer focused on the collective, but rather on the individuum. With this radical ontological and epistemological shift, praxis-philosophy moved signicantly closer to the anarchistic position. We should not forget that one of the most important members who was explicitly encroaching on the eld of of the group was Trivo Indjic rin was anarchistic political thought, while the French anarchist historian Daniel Gue still one of the more distinguished foreign collaborators of the Praxis journal. Consequently, praxis-philosophy was often renounced for not reecting authentic Marxism, but in fact being an anarcho-liberal anomaly. To a certain extent, these remarks were justiable for praxis-philosophy was never characterized by the narrow economic reductionism, which had resulted in the fetishization of economic exploitation and class antagonism. In Bookchinite terms, the philosophy of praxis operated with the concept of domination which consequently detected and respectfully included exploitation that may not even have an economic meaning at all; for example, the domination of men over women, the domination of bureaucracy and technocracy over workers. Instead, praxisphilosophy raised a much broader and more important questionnot only the question of class antagonism, but of hierarchy and domination as such.37 That is why the evaluation of todays situation through the praxis-philosophy prism is a great deal more radical; today, it is impossible to speak of the economic crisis in a vacuum for at least as much should be said about the political and general social crisis.

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The anarchist label on praxis-philosophy is also valid, since the idea of praxis closely resembles the anarchist idea of pregurative politics. Praxis is in a way a theoretical building block for the idea of preguration that claims that we should create the future in the present with political and economic organizing alone, or at least foresee social changes and solutions for which we aspire. It is hence an attempt to overcome current limitations with the construction of alternatives from the bottom-up, and rejects total construction of the future as a new phantasm that paralyses human creativity and freedom, but rather simply demands a search for new political solutions that are open to modication. The second conclusion which arises from readings of the existing disposition through praxis-philosophy is an entirely different understanding of democracy itself. Democracy from within praxis-philosophy is impossible to comprehend as something that is initiated with the new institutionalized set-up since it can only be understood as practice in our everyday life. It is thus incompatible with majoritarian democracy, since praxis demands democracy that would build on consensus decision-making, and never on majority rule that is not only inherently oppressive but also paradoxically divisive and homogenizing at the same time.38 Such an understanding of democracy always leads to a negation of the thesis that democracy is in a crisis, as the main ones in crisis are neo-liberal capitalism and statism as such. The main reason for such false conclusions is our relentless search for democracy in places where it is least likely to be found. Too often we ignore numerous studies commenced in past years within anthropology and history which suggest that democracy and (centralized) authority are incompatible; that is why democracy consequently cannot be found within etatistic frames and centres of power, but rather on the periphery of the political map. According to James C. Scott, another problem that results in our analytical myopia is that we understand as politics only open politics of liberal democracies. The result of this myopia is that we overlook political praxis beyond the visible end of the spectrum. Scott describes politics that doesnt look like politics as infrapolitics, and warns that it provides much of the cultural and structural underpinning of the more visible political action on which our attention has generally been focused.39 Infrapolitics is as much a product of political necessity as of political choice, so we should understand it not only as a form of political resistance under the conditions of tyranny, but also as the silent partner of a loud form of public resistance of modern democracies. In praxis-philosophy we already nd rudimentary thesis, later developed and rened by Scott, that although infrapolitics is not part of the mainstream, and that many times it is hard to detect this immense political terrain that lies between quiescence and revolt, it is still real politics, in many respects conducted in more earnest, for higher stakes, and against greater odds than political life in liberal democracies.40 According to Scott, the infrapolitics of the seemingly non-political on the micro level is recognized as the crucial precondition of democracy on the social level. These forms of struggle are, nevertheless, still marginalized and trivializedfrom the political Right and Left advocating real political action meaning action via political partiesas: (a) unorganized, unsystematic and individual; (b) opportunistic and

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self-indulgent; (c) with no revolutionary potential/consequences; and/or (d) implying accommodation with the system of domination.41 It is true that in case of the unwritten history of resistance, the prosaic but constant, or even Brechtian forms of struggle often merely result in marginal gains that ease forms of their exploitation. It is also true that instead of targeting the main source of exploitation or the immediate source of exploitation, everyday forms of resistance, as Scott also chooses to call them, rather follow the line of least resistance. Although we should never overly romanticize the weapons of the weak, conversely, these forms of infrapolitical actions are also not trivial. Needless to say, the advantage of such resistance is that it results in concrete and immediate advantages. Moreover, when multiplied by thousands and millions of people such individual acts of quiet resistance may in the end make an utter shambles of policies dreamed up by their would-be superiors.42 It is ironic that in times of uid modernity (Bauman), infrapolitical action that in the past characterized peasant resistance in settings where open political activity was restricted is once again becoming the most convenient form of struggle for social movements with no formal organization, no formal leaders, no manifestoes, no dues, no name, and no banner.43 Praxis and the Newest Social Movements Two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and in the middle of a global nancial and economic crisis, we are discovering a deeper crisis of politics per se, where the crisis is not understood as the incompetence of politics to mitigate the contradictions inherent to the current economic model, but as its incompetence to transcend the very same economic model. We could also say that we are witnessing a triple crisis of politicscrisis of participation, representation and legitimacy. Despite the several undemocratic and even anti-democratic trends we have witnessed in recent years, a different reading of the same period is available to us that can paint a much more optimistic picture of the state and perspective of democracy. What follows is a short history of the newest social movements (NSM), as Richard J. F. Day calls the postSeattle movements,44 that should not be read as a new chapter in the development of praxis-philosophy, but rather as a conrmation that a different understanding of political action and democracy that could be found within praxis-philosophy leads us to the negation of the present thesis on the crisis of democracy. Although many studies conclude that the NSM were born amid the tear gas and rain that accompanied the anti-WTO protests in Seattle in 1999, we rather argue that they were a direct outcome of the Zapatista uprising and the later encuentro against neo-liberalism and for humanity (Encuentro Intercontinental por la Humanidad y contra el Neoliberalismo). The encuentro, organized in the Lacandon jungle in 1996 by rcito Zapatista de Liberacio n Nacional, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (Eje EZLN), resulted in an appeal for an intercontinental network of resistance, recognizing differences and acknowledging similarities, [that] will strive to nd itself in other resistances






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around the world. This intercontinental network of resistance will be the medium in which distant resistances may support one another. This intercontinental network of resistance is not an organizing structure; it has no central head or decision maker; it has no central command or hierarchies. We are the network, all of us who resist.45 A direct outcome of the Zapatista encuentro was a global network, the Peoples Global Action (PGA), which unites anarchist collectives in Europe and elsewhere with groups ranging from Maori activists in New Zealand, sherfolk in Indonesia, or the Canadian postal workers union.46 The network includes many movements and collectives that cannot be reduced to a single ideological platform but, as can be seen from its Hallmarks, the organizational principles of the PGA demand the actionization of political theory, above all, through recuperation of the concept of pregurative politics or a preguration which claims we should create the future in the present with political and economic organizing alone, or at least foresee social changes and solutions for which we aspire: 1. A very clear rejection of capitalism, imperialism and feudalism; all trade agreements, institutions and governments that promote destructive globalization; 2. We reject all forms and systems of domination and discrimination including, but not limited to, patriarchy, racism and religious fundamentalism of all creeds. We embrace the full dignity of all human beings; 3. A confrontational attitude, since we do not think that lobbying can have a major impact in such biased and undemocratic organizations, in which transnational capital is the only real policy-maker; 4. A call to direct action and civil disobedience, support for social movements struggles, advocating forms of resistance which maximize respect for life and oppressed peoples rights, as well as the construction of local alternatives to global capitalism; 5. An organizational philosophy based on decentralization and autonomy.47 Although the NSM are a diverse coalition of coalitions and bring together various collectives and movements that were often oppositional in the past, the NSM still managed to develop their own collective identity. However, the NSMs diversity can be viewed as both a fundamental strength and a fundamental weakness. Diversity can come at a high cost, especially [i]n a political culture that values unity, the . . . diversity provides opportunities for its critics to disparage it and security forces to undermine it.48 The NSM are indeed a colourful coalition of ecologists, indigenous activists, farmers, feminists, trade unionists, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other initiatives that, according to Esteva, offer one no, and many yeses. While we can clearly not dene the NSM as anarchist movements only, we can conclude that the majority of their creative energy is nowadays coming exactly from anarchist groups. On the other hand, anarchist principles are so widespread throughout the NSM that we could mark it as anarchist in places where it is without this identity. According to Giorel Curran, we can speak about post-ideological









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anarchism which is the only correct and the best response to the recongured political, economic and social landscape that, in a certain sense, renders traditional currents of anarchism obsolete.49 Post-ideological anarchism adopts ideas and principles from the heritage of classical anarchism very exibly and non-doctrinally, and simultaneously rejects its traditional forms to construct genuinely new autonomous politics through eclectic collection and merging. The anarchist renaissance within the movement of movements is not only inspired by anarchism but is also dynamized by currents of ideas which in the past were its counterpoise. This position was approached for the rst time by Dave Neal in his essay Anarchism: Ideology or Methodology? where we nd two basic perceptions and conceptions of anarchism: capital-A and small-a anarchism. If the former, according to Neal, can be equated with ideologically pure positions within the traditional schools of anarchism and thus equates anarchism with an ideology or a set of rules and conventions to which you must abide, the latter is characterized by nondogmatism, eclecticism and uidity and is understood as a methodology or a way of acting, or a historical tendency against illegitimate authority.50 In his essay, written years before the global initiative Occupy had reached full stride, Neal estimated that within the anarchist movement we can still nd a plethora of Anarchistsideologueswho focus endlessly on their dogma instead of organizing solidarity among workers. A decade later, David Graeber contemplated that what we might call capital-A anarchism still exists within the NSM, but it is the small-a anarchism that represents the real locus of creativity within those movements. In his reection on new anarchism, he stresses that it still has an ideology but for the rst time it is an entirely new onethat is, a post-ideology immanent in the anti-authoritarian principles of its praxis: A constant complaint about the globalization movement in the progressive press is that, while tactically brilliant, it lacks any central theme or coherent ideology . . . Yet this is a movement about reinventing democracy. It is not opposed to organization. It is about creating new forms of organization. It is not lacking in ideology. Those new forms of organization are its ideology. It is about creating and enacting horizontal networks instead of top-down structures like states, parties or corporations; networks based on principles of decentralized, non-hierarchical consensus democracy. Ultimately, it aspires to be much more than that, because ultimately it aspires to reinvent daily life as whole.51 Barbara Epstein also ascertains that anarchism represents the main inspiration for a new generation of activists.52 Their understanding of anarchism surpasses its narrow and dogmatic interpretation that reduces it to a set of prefabricated solutions or even to an eternal truth that can only be interpreted, commented upon or conrmed anew with new data and evidence. Epstein argues that we can distinguish anarchism per se, thus capital-A anarchism or anarchism as an ideological tradition, and anarchist sensibilities that overlap with Currans conceptualization of post-ideological anarchism, or Neals conceptualization of small-a anarchism. With this




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reinterpretation the NSM again warn that anarchist thought cannot be reduced to one single dimension as, despite the unshakeable basic premises, it is also full of internal contradictions, own criticism and, consequently, redened positions. They point out that anarchism is not a coherent and completed system but a set of ideas which addresses important questions but leaves many of them unanswered; it is only a set of inquiries and researches without nal results. According to Epstein for contemporary young activists anarchism does not represent some abstract radical theory, but instead means a decentralized organizational structure, based on afnity groups that work together on an ad hoc basis, and decision-making by consensus. It also means egalitarianism; opposition to all hierarchies; suspicion of authority, especially that of the state; and commitment to living according to ones values . . . Many envision a stateless society based on small, egalitarian communities. For some, however, the society of the future remains an open question. For them, anarchism is important mainly as an organizational structure and as a commitment to egalitarianism.53 As can be seen, in many recent reections of the NSM we nd the two main positions on anarchismanarchism as an ideology and anarchism as praxis. If the former emphasizes a conscious acceptance of anarchist ideology and the identication of the subject as an anarchist, then the latter represents a sensibility or the ethical paradigm and understands anarchism rather as a tendency in the history of human thought and practice, which cannot be encompassed by a general theory of ideology, since its contents and manifestations change over time.54 In this case, there is also no need for interpellation of the individual into a self-conscious anarchist. By analogy with Howard Zinns understanding of Marxism, post-ideology within the NSM is not a xed body of dogma, to be put into black books or little red books, and memorized, but a set of specic propositions about the modern world which are both tough and tentative, plus a certain vague and yet exhilarating vision of the future, and, more fundamentally, an approach to life, to people, to ourselves, a certain way of thinking about thinking as well as about being. Most of all it is a way of thinking which is intended to promote action.55 At the centre of Zinns examination is the idea that anarchism should not be a theory of the future, but a living force in the affairs of our life, constantly creating new conditions, the spirit of revolt, in whatever form, against everything that hinders human growth, as Emma Goldman claimed at the beginning of the 20th century.56 It goes without saying that many hardline anarchists are as appalled by such unorthodox understanding of anarchism, as diamatchiks have been by a Copernican revolution of Marxism initiated by praxis-philosophy.









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Conclusions In the past, a crisiseconomic and politicalhas been perceived merely as an anomaly or rupture within the harmonious working of a self-regulatory system, as a dysfunctional moment that will be overcome when the balance of the system is restored. Such conception of crisis results in myopia that overlooks many crises that are present, but are not perceived as such, because of their positive role in consolidating and reproducing the status quo, despite their undemocratic and even anti-democratic inclinations. On the other hand, such conception equates with a crisis various ruptures that are inherent to the hegemonic economic paradigm and do not represent a threat to its functioning since they are a permanent part of its consolidation and reproduction.57 The current crisis is therefore an economic and political crisis in the proper meaning of the word, a crisis of crisis, since we face such a concentration of contradictions inherent to the system that they now represent a threat to its stability and very survival. The solution therefore does not lie in the partial solving of economic problems, but in new political structures and practices that would allow praxis to be feasible for man. It would be reasonable to reiterate here that a detailed evaluation of the thesis of the crisis of democracy, as seen through the lens of praxis-philosophy, leads us to the conclusion that it is impossible to talk about a crisis of democracy, although we can talk about a crisis of capitalism and statism. Similarly, Subcomandante Marcosthe voice of the Zapatista movementasserts that with the current processes of economic globalization the nation-state and capitalism are being forced to redene their position and purpose.58 Namely, the end of the cold war brought a new framework for international relations in which the new struggle for new markets and territories produced a new world war, the Fourth World War and, like with all wars, a redenition of the nation-state. The structure of the global economy, which has so far been leaning against the system of sovereign nation-states, is today namely in an irreversible crisis. In the cabaret of economic globalization with the construction of a de-territorialized Empire, the nation-state is being reduced to the indispensable minimum. [It] shows itself as a table dancer that strips off everything until it is left with only the minimum indispensable garments: repressive force. With its material base destroyed, its possibilities of sovereignty annulled, its political classes blurred, nation-states become nothing more than a security apparatus of megacorporations.59 Politics as the organizer of nation-states in this new world order ceases to exist. Today politics is nothing more than the economic organizer and politicians are administrators of companies, while national governments are only responsible for administering business in different regions of the Empire. This type of political architecture is not a novum, but merely a continuation and perfection of the hegemonic logic which, in a changed environment, has consequently taken on a new









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form. According to Marcos, this is indeed a strange modernity that moves forward by going backward.60 Finally, we can agree with the thesis that a hegemonic notion of democracy only recuperated the word, yet at the same time renounced its content. What therefore comes as no surprise is the theoretical radicalism which renounces the simplied treatment of democracy as an invention and which, instead of a legal dimension, analyses the genealogical dimension or roots (lat. Radix) of democratic praxis. The result of this dualism and, above all, of this myopia that sees democracy coming through institutions alone includes, as stated by David Graeber, modern liberal democracies within which nothing remotely similar to the Athenian agora can be found, but are undoubtedly ooded with parallels to the Roman circus.61 Here architecture was certainly not the sole thing Graeber had in mind. If we return to the closing words of the 1958 Program of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia that the Praxis group took literally, nothing that has been created can be so sacred to us that it cannot be transcended and superseded by something still freer, more progressive, and more human.62 This is why the important task of the pregurative adventure into new political structures and practices still lies ahead of us. Here we must be guided by instructions offered by a coeval of the Yugoslav praksisovci, the Martinique philosopher Frantz Fanon, who stressed that in our search for the new we should not pay tribute to the decadent past by creating new states, institutions and societies that still draw their inspiration from this past: Humanity expects other things from us than this grotesque and generally obscene emulation. [ . . . ] (I(f we want humanity to take one step forward, if we want to take it to another level [ . . . ], then we must innovate, we must be pioneers.63 What is needed, therefore, is praxis. Notes





[1] Laura Secor, Testaments betrayed: Yugoslav intellectuals and the road to war, in Alexander Star (ed.), Quick Studies: The Best of Lingua Franca, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2002, p. 269. , Marx in the Mid-Twentieth Century: A Yugoslav Philosopher Reconsiders Karl [2] Gajo Petrovic Marxs Writing, Anchor Books, Garden City, NY, 1967, p. 172. [3] Gerson Sher, Praxis: Marxist Criticism and Dissent in Socialist Yugoslavia, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 1977, p. 22. [4] Oskar Gruenwald, The Yugoslav Search for Man: Marxist Humanism in Contemporary Yugoslavia, J. F. Bergin, South Hadley, MA, 1982, p. 1. cs, History and Class Consciousness, Merlin Press, New York, 1971; Karl rgy Luka [5] Cf. Gyo Korsch, Marxism and Philosophy, Monthly Review Press, New York, 1970; also Martin Jay, cs to Habermas, University of Marxism and Totality: The Adventures of the Concept from Luka California Press, Berkeley, 1986. [6] Sher, op. cit., p. 65. [7] Gruenwald, op. cit., p. 1. , From Afuence to Praxis: Philosophy and Social Criticism, The University of [8] Mihailo Markovic Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, 1974, p. 64. [9] Marx in David A. Crocker, Praxis and Democratic Socialism, Humanities Press, Atlantic Highlands, NJ, 1983, p. 13. emu Praxis?, Praxis: lozofski , C [10] Gajo Petrovic casopis, I(1), September 1964, p. 3.

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[11] Cornel West, Democracy Matters, Penguin Books, New York, 2005, p. 68. [12] According to Marx, we can dene alienation as a discrepancy between mans current existence and his potential essence; meaning a discrepancy between what man is and what he could be. Consequently, man is as much man of the future as man of the past, since he is not only what , Marx in the Mid-Twentieth Century, op. he used to be but what he could become. Cf. Petrovic cit., p. 80. , Praksa/istina, Kulturno-prosvjetni sabor Hrvatske, Zagreb, 1986, p. 23. [13] Marx in Gajo Petrovic [14] It is here that we should point out that Marx himself, in spite of the clear demarcation between practice and estranged labour, is inconsistent with this analytic division and terminology. As a result, there are occasional instances of equalizing the idea of practice with the general concept of labour in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts themselves. Further obscurities appear in his later works where Marx drops use of the term practice and tigung) as an opposite to labour. Petrovic introduces the concept of self-activity (Selbstbeta remarks that the goal of Marxs trans-philosophy and thought, notwithstanding all the inconsistencies and alterations of terminology, remained the same: changing labour into what tigung). See he calls practice or self-activity (der Verwandlung der Arbeit in Selbstbeta , Praksa/istina, op. cit., p. 25. Petrovic , op. cit., p. 63. [15] Markovic [16] According to Marx, the total abolition of labour is impossible for even on a higher level of technological and social progress the production of material or routine labour within the kingdom of necessity is compulsory. However, he also added that it can and must be reduced to a minimum so as to reach an optimal level of praxis. Ibid., pp. 63 64. , Marx in the Mid-Twentieth Century, op. cit., p. 13. [17] Petrovic [18] Ibid., pp. 31 32. [19] A similar trend of the denunciation of all dogmas can also be found in Yugoslav lm, music, concludes that at that time socialist realism was art, architecture and literature. Markovic ultimately denounced as a caricature of Marxists approach to art. , Marx i maksisti, Odabrana djela, Vol. 3, Naprijed, Zagreb, 1986, pp. 150 [20] Cf. Gajo Petrovic and Robert S. Cohen, Yugoslavia: The Rise and Fall of Socialist 151; Mihailo Markovic Humanism: A History of the Praxis Group, Spokesman Books, Nottingham, 1975, p. 16. [21] Maurice Brinton, For Workers Power: The Selected Writings of Maurice Brinton, AK Press, Oakland, CA, 2004, p. 3. s discussion The continuity [22] For more on the (dis)continuity of Marxs thought, see Petrovic of Marxs thought, in Marx in the Mid-Twentieth Century, op. cit., pp. 35 51. [23] Fromm in Thomas B. Bottomore (ed.), Karl Marx: Early Writings, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1963, p. i. the phase of theoretical development ends with the congress of the [24] According to Markovic Yugoslav Philosophical Association in Skopje in 1962 and with the publication of the anthology entitled Humanizam i socializam, which is the result of collaboration between and Cohen, op. cit., p. 24. Zagreb and Belgrade philosophers. See Markovic [25] Ibid., p. 23. emu Praxis, Praxis, Zagreb, 1972, p. 162. , C [26] Cf. Gajo Petrovic , The philosophical concept of revolution, in Mihailo Markovic and Gajo [27] Gajo Petrovic (eds), Praxis: Yugoslav Essays in the Philosophy and Methodology of the Social Sciences, Petrovic D. Reidel, Boston, MA, 1979, pp. 152 153. [28] For more on the descriptive and normative conceptions of human nature, see Mihailo , The Contemporary Marx: Essays on Humanist Communism, Spokesman Books, Markovic Nottingham, 1974, pp. 81 91. , Praksa/istina, op. cit., p. 41. We could also note that praxis-philosophy renounces [29] Petrovic the concept of natura naturata (the comprehension of man in a historical sense of things as they now are or have become), but instead assumes and sees it in terms of natura naturans (the comprehension of man in the philosophical sense of things as they may become). and Cohen, op. cit., p. 37. [30] Markovic









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ula Summer School ranged from Progress and Culture (1963), The [31] The themes of the Korc Meaning and Perspectives of Socialism (1964), What is History? (1965), Creativity and Reication (1967), Marx and the Revolution (1968), Power and Humanity (1969), Hegel and the Contemporary Age; Lenin and the New Left (1970); Utopia and Reality (1971), Freedom and Equality (1972), The Bourgeois World and Socialism (1973) and Art and the Modern World (1974). [32] Ibid., p. 11. [33] Ibid., pp. 39 40. [34] Ibid., p. 40. [35] Gerson Sher (ed.), Marxist Humanism and Praxis, Prometheus Books, Buffalo, NY, 1978, p. 4. [36] Ibid. [37] Murray Bookchin, Anarchism: past and present, in Howard Ehrlich (ed.), Reinventing Anarchy, Again, AK Press, Oakland, CA, 1996. [38] CrimethInc., Expect Resistance: A Crimethink Field Manual, CrimethInc., Salem, OR, 2007, p. 78. [39] James C. Scott, Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcript, Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 1990, p. 184. [40] Ibid., p. 200. [41] James C. Scott, Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance, Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 1985, p. 292. [42] Ibid., p. 36. [43] Ibid., p. 35. [44] Richard J. F. Day, Gramsci is Dead: Anarchist Currents in the Newest Social Movements, Pluto Press, London, 2005. n (ed.), Our Word is Our Weapon: Selected [45] Subcomandante Marcos in Juana Ponce de Leo Writings of Subcomandante Marcos, Seven Stories Press, New York, 2001, p. 125. , Anarchism, or the revolutionary movement of the ic [46] David Graeber and Andrej Grubac twenty-rst century, , (accessed 12 July 2012). [47] Peoples Global Action (PGA), Hallmarks, , (accessed 12 July 2012). [48] Giorel Curran, 21st Century Dissent: Anarchism, Anti-Globalization and Environmentalism, Palgrave, New York, 2006, p. 64. [49] Ibid., p. 2. [50] Dave Neal, Anarchism: ideology or methodology?, , dave-neal-anarchism-ideology-or-methodology. (accessed 12 July 2012). [51] David Graeber, The new anarchists, in Tom Mertes (ed.), A Movement of Movements: Is Another World Really Possible?, Verso, New York, 2004, p. 212. [52] Barbara Epstein, Anarchism and the anti-globalisation movement, Monthly Review, 53(4), September 2001, pp. 1 14. [53] Ibid., p. 1. , Towards another anarchism, in Jai Sen et al. (eds), World Social Forum: ic [54] Andrej Grubac Challenging Empires, The Viveka Foundation, New Delhi, 2004, p. 35. [55] Howard Zinn, The Zinn Reader, Seven Stories Press, New York, 2009, p. 673. [56] Emma Goldman, Anarchism and Other Essays, Dover, Mineola, NY, 1969 (1910), p. 63. [57] Cf. Nicos Poulantzas, La crise politique, et la crise de letat, in James Martin (ed.), The Poulantzas Reader: Marxism, Law and the State, Verso, London, 2008, pp. 294 322. , see Subcomandante Marcos, The seven loose [58] For an English translation of the communique iga Vodovnik (ed.), Ya Basta!Ten Years of the pieces of the global jigsaw puzzle, in Z Zapatista Uprising, AK Press, Oakland, CA, 2004, pp. 257 278. [59] Ibid., p. 271. [60] Ibid., p. 258. [61] Ibid., p. 366.

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[62] In Sher, Praxis, op. cit., p. 3. [63] Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, Groove Press, New York, 2004, p. 239.


iga Vodovnik, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the Faculty of Z Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana. His teaching and research focus on social movements in the Americas, contemporary political theories and praxes, and the history of political ideas. Address for correspondence: Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana, Kardeljeva Pl. 5, SI-1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia. Email:








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