From “autonomous zone” to ecovillage
The idea of the “autonomous zone” is somewhat akin to Occupy.
But it pre-dates Occupy:
It’s the realization of a certain vision of social change.
Many of us got “woke” during the Sixties, but how to effectuate the deep social transformation that we felt was needed was far from clear. Some formed communes, some became McGovernites or Alinskyites, some went New Age, some embraced Libertarianism or Maoism or Buddhism.
Many of us went back to Marx. I did. But there was a little-recognized new social current percolating that looked, instead, to Kropotkin, William Morris, Gandhi, Mumford, Bookchin, Paul Goodman, and Theodore Roszak. It said that the Marxist vision of a mega-organized society (i.e., its advocacy of national economic planning) fails to appreciate important issues like scale and community. The New Left had focused on the idea of a deeper, more participatory form of democracy. The context of the hypertrophied modern nation-state is hardly conducive to such. Reading Fifth Estate during the ’90s, I came to agree.
The decentralists identified with the historical anarchist movement. Their idea of transforming society went something like: Create autonomous zones in one place after another, then network them, then generalize the paradigm.
It’s time to consider how a different presentation of the idea could be more widely appealing and get more resonance. ‘Anarchy’ is too conflated with chaos and ‘autonomy’ is too vague. The autonomous zones keep springing up, but, like the the Occupy enclaves, they don’t endure. I think real social change could be fostered by shifting the discourse toward concepts like neighborhood ecovillages, rejuvenation of local community life, bioregionalism, and the greening of society.