Rethinking class: from recomposition to counterpower

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by Paul Bowman

We’re reposting this article from the Workers Solidarity Movement of Ireland:


In Paul Bowman’s article ‘Rethinking Class: From Recomposition to Counter-Power’, he poses the question “Is class still a useful idea?” or “should we instead just dispense with it and go with the raw econometrics of inequality?” He draws a line between revolutionary class analysis and universalist utopianism and goes on to explore the history of different ideas of class and the elusive revolutionary subject. After exploring the intersecting lines of class and identity, he poses the challenge that we as libertarians face as we strive to create “cultural and organisational forms of class power [that] do not unconsciously recreate the… hierarchies of identity and exclusion” that are the hallmark of the present society.

If we were to strip the anarchist programme of the early 21st century down to its irreducible components, they would have to include at least these four – direct democracy, direct action, recomposition and full communism.

Most readers will have at least have heard of the first two and the last one – even if the latter passes nowadays, albeit undeservedly, more as a humorous internet meme, than a viable goal. However this article is about the less familiar third term, recomposition, and particularly around the category that gives it life – class.

Against universalism, against utopianism

The term class divides people into two camps. One which seems to uphold its validity with an almost cult-like intensity, and a much larger camp that is at best undecided, but mostly turned off entirely by it – and especially so by the apparently religious fervour of the small minority in the first camp. (more…)