Living at the Edges of Capitalism: Studies in Mutual Aid and Exile

School of Consciousness and Transformation ANTH 6393 1.00

Since the earliest development of states, groups of people either escaped or were exiled. They often established self-governed communities (Scott 2010). As nation states and capitalism developed, and particularly as new regions were incorporated into the emerging capitalist world-system beginning in the sixteenth century, the problem was not simply how to escape states but also how to escape capitalist relations and processes of accumulation that were bundled up with state control. But people still did it. Well-known historical examples of escape include Russian Cossacks (Boeck 2009), pirates (Linebaugh and Rediker 2001) and escaped slaves or maroons (Price 1996). Contemporary examples of territorial escape include the Zapatistas in Mexico (Earle and Simonelli 2005), land occupations, and even political prisoners (O’Hearn 2009). Structural escape has been identified in urban communities in the heart of Jamaica (Gray 2004), in the shack-dwelling areas of African cities (Pithouse 2006), and on the outskirts of large South American cities (Zibechi 2012). This course addresses the following questions: How do people leave the spaces, structures, and/or processes of world capitalism? Who do they identify as “the enemy”? Do they practice mutual aid and solidarity in communities or organize mainly on a household basis? Are there rules of entry and exit? How are their practices located geographically and structurally with respect to states, the interstate system, and economic structures including markets, farms, and corporations? What kinds of bargains do exiles make and with whom, and how does this affect their ability to sustain political and economic autonomy (or, provide dynamics that cause their recapture by states with which they make bargains)? And, finally, how are the outcomes of these questions affected by changes of global capitalism, including economic cycles, the rise of new leading sectors and world-wide divisions of labor, and the changing presence and experiences of anti-systemic movements?

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