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Anarchist CyberneticsControl and Communication in Radical Politics$
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Thomas Swann

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781529208788

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781529208788.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM POLICY PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.policypress.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Policy Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in PPSO for personal use.date: 02 July 2022

Anarchism and Cybernetics: A Missed Opportunity Revisited

Anarchism and Cybernetics: A Missed Opportunity Revisited

(p.35) 3 Anarchism and Cybernetics: A Missed Opportunity Revisited
Anarchist Cybernetics

Thomas Swann

Policy Press

Chapter Three provides a historical and conceptual overview of both anarchism and cybernetics, focusing on recent developments in anarchist social movement practice and Stafford Beer’s organisational cybernetics respectively. The chapter argues that the core cybernetic principles of complexity, control and autonomy, understood through the overarching idea of self-organisation, can help elaborate a detailed understanding of anarchist organisation. To do so, the chapter develops Beer’s Viable System Model for anarchist social movement organising and uses the example of Occupy to show how the functional hierarchy of Beer’s model can be applied to forms of organisation that are typically understood as rejecting hierarchy. The chapter builds on an important article written by John D. McEwan to show how functional roles in an organisation can be realised on structurally non-hierarchical ways that reinforce the radically democratic and participatory practices of anarchism.

Keywords:   Anarchism, Cybernetics, Self-organisation, Stafford Beer, John D. McEwan, Viable System Model, Functional hierarchy

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