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New book examines the relationship between anarchism and cybernetics

Anarchism should be taken seriously if society wants to be better organised, according politics lecturer Dr Thomas Swann.

In a new book, Dr Swann (POLIS) brings together a decade of research and aims to develop a better understanding of how groups of people make democratic decisions about organising their lives.

He looks at the concept of cybernetics – the study of control and communication – and its relevance in modern society when combined with anarchism.

Dr Swann said: “This book brings together research I’ve conducted over the last decade that aims to develop our understandings of how anarchism can function as a theory of organisation.

“By looking at cybernetics, in particular the work of Stafford Beer, I’ve tried to show that we can and should take anarchism seriously if we want to think about how the societies we live in can be organised better than they are now.

“Key to this is the idea of self-organisation, of how people can get together in groups to make decisions democratically about how they want to organise their lives.

“Cybernetics provides a lot of insights about effective self-organisation, but it is only by combining it with anarchism, I argue in the book, that the true potential of this approach of organisation is realised.

“The book also discusses the role of social media and other communications technologies in self-organisation and concludes by suggesting how anarchism and cybernetics are relevant to the political world we live in right now.”

From Occupy, to the Indignados and the Arab Spring, the uprisings that marked the last decade ignited a re-emergence of participatory democracy as a political ideal within organizations.

This pioneering book introduces cybernetic thinking to politics and organizational studies to explore the continuing development of this radical idea. With a focus on communication and how alternative social media platforms present new challenges and opportunities for radical organising, it sheds new light on the concepts of self-organization, consensus decision making, individual autonomy and collective identity.

Revolutionising the way in which anarchist activists and theorists think about organizations, this unprecedented investigation makes a major contribution to the larger discussion of direct democracy. – from the book

The book, Anarchist Cybernetics, is out now and available at 20% discount when you order from Bristol University Press.