Autonomy and Immediacy in Organisational Practice : Bunds, Bands and Affinity
Those who cannot be identified are classified as anonymous.
Autonomy and Immediacy in Organisational Practice
This article proposes the bund (Peterson, 2001) and the band (Ingold, 2004) both as a way of analyzing autonomous social movements (ASMs) and as a basis for a future alternative society. It begins by reviewing the literature on social movements, showing its limits in relation to the group forms of ASMs. Many theories assume that social movements necessarily take organizational (gemeinschaft) or community (gesellschaft) forms, and succumb to the logic of hegemony. Others base their analysis of ASMs on networks or constituent power, but without showing how this power is actualized or how the nodes of networks are composed. It then outlines the theories of the bund and band, before reviewing literature from within European and American ASMs and demonstrating that the key elements of the bund/band logic are present in these movements. The bund, band or affinity group is understood in terms of communion or ritual (including political action) as the basis for unity (instead of a hegemonic signifier), the existence of intense mutual interpersonal knowledge, and the maintenance of individual autonomy. The article also shows that the bund is effectively theorized as the basis for a future society in the anarchist utopia Bolo'bolo (P.M., 1983). It concludes that the idea of the bund/band/affinity group is a major contribution to social transformation and organization studies.
The possibility of 'another world', and the proposal of transformative practices, are common elements of radical politics. Contemporary radical theory seems, however, to be lacking in concrete suggestions as to the means to create an alternative society. This article is a contribution to radical theory which seeks to demonstrate that a concrete social form is already available which serves as a basis for social movements, and which can serve as the nucleus of an alternative society. An argument will be advanced that autonomous social movements (ASMs) are characterized by a distinct organizational form, characterized by Peterson (2001) as the bund, a form emerging in the sociological literature as a third alternative to gemeinschaft (community or society, usually with involuntary, ascribed connections) and gesellschaft (formal organization). This form is similar to the anthropological concept of the band (Ingold, 2004; Bird-David, 1994), and entails the absence – and by extension, the non-necessity – of the characteristics of gemeinschaft and gesellschaft forms, such as normativity, hegemony, hierarchy and renunciation. A bund does not have a master-signifier, a unifying structure, or a common moral code; it constructs sociality through the integrating, charismatic force of political theater. To support this theory, the article will explore the writings of various authors from European and American ASMs who address issues of organization, autonomy and affinity. It will show that the bund is already present as a proposal and an experiential element in activist texts, and that it has even been considered as the basis for another world. It will propose that this organizational model provides a comprehensive alternative to the dominant system, and that it should be a major orientation in organizational theory, sociology, and radical politics.
The study of ASMs is broadly located in the social movement studies literature, but at a digression from the dominant perspectives. Autonomous or 'newest' social movements are generally taken to be distinct both from 'old' social movements, such as trades unions, and 'new' social movementsbased on identity (Day, 2005, p. 9). ASMs are defined in terms of auto-valorization and independence from hierarchical forms such as parties (Katsiaficas, 2006, pp. 7-8). In Day's analysis, they are said to be based on affinity instead of hegemony as a model of movement integration (2005, p. 9). In general, however, such discussions are limited in saying too little about the organizational forms of emerging movements, and the meaning of affinity in practice. This article contributes to the literature by clarifying the organizational forms of ASMs, in particular, the way group-formation can occur without the autonomy-violating imperative of hegemony.
This approach rejects the dominant trends in the social movement literature. Social movement theory is generally traced to collective action approaches, which see social movements as solving collective action problems and pooling resources for rational individuals pursuing social interests (Tarrow 1998; Schwartz, 1976). Later approaches emphasized the political opportunity structure as an influence on movement emergence and choices, with the possibility of success effectively generating movements to exploit it (McAdam, 1999; Tilly, 1978). However, these approaches assume rational, goal-oriented social movements which coalesce in formalized social movement organizations. This goal-driven model of social movements is largely inappropriate for new social movements and autonomous social movements. People are assumed to be (consciously or unconsciously) rational utility-maximizers within the gesellschaft logic of capitalist motivation, with organizations mobilizing self-interested actors through formal organizations for instrumental goals. ASM's also tend to be methodologically illegible to American-style social movement theory. For example, Fisher et al. (2005) found that social movement organizations, including affinity groups, mostly operate to mobilize and transport non-local protest participants. However, their ability to assess anarchist and autonomous participants was frustrated by their high refusal rate in the survey (2005, p. 107). In other words, the very exclusivity, secrecy and qualitative focus of ASMs render them resistant to this kind of study. Similarly, Marxists tend to reduce social movements to a two-way choice between desirable, class-based, formal organization or naïve spontaneity - for example, in Harvey's (1995) theory of militant particularisms and Hobsbawm's (1959) account of peasant rebellions. These approaches compare ASMs disfavourably with formal organizations.
New social movement theories break with older approaches by emphasizing affect, embodiment, identity and meaning-construction (e.g. Melucci, 1989; Offe, 1985; Laclau and Mouffe, 1985). NSMs are taken to emphasize changing lifestyles and culture, instead of political change (Pichardo, 1997). NSM's are analyzed as post-materialist (Ingelhart, 1990) and as positing essentialist identities as a basis for action (Young, 1995, p. 157), and as occurring within the field of production of symbols, relations and identities, instead of the material world of resources (Melucci, 1989). They are associated theoretically with the new middle class (Melucci, 1989; Offe, 1985; Parkin, 1968). However, ASM's differ from new social movements in that they are explicitly political or anti-political, and take on many 'old' social movement issues such as capitalism. They are not about individual self-realization within the dominant system.
Attempts to reduce ASMs to a logic of hegemony have limited the applicability of NSM theory. For example, Bohm et al (2010, p. 18) portray ASMs are complicit in the logic of neoliberalism, which also emphasizes autonomy and flexibility. This follows from arguments of scholars such as Thomassen (2007) and Laclau (2001). For these theorists, immanent everyday practices are necessarily incomplete, unless sutured by a hegemonic signifier. They thus understand ASMs as movements based on autonomy understood as an empty signifier (Bohm et al., 2010, p. 28). Such a signifier, equivalent to Lacan's master-signifier, functions to represent the absent fullness of society which is always (im)possible, and not to create immediacy. Movements thus require an 'overarching' integration by transcendental, hierarchical political forms (Thomasson, 2007, p. 120), and life without a state or representational politics is taken to be radically impossible (Laclau and Mouffe, 1985, pp. 35, 69). ASM theorists contend that this reading reduces ASMs to old forms of politics (Day, 2005, pp. 168-9). Laclauians are committed to the view that '[t]here is only one way to “do politics”, which is to seek to represent a multitude of floating signifiers under the umbrella of a despotic signifier; ultimately this means a statist politics' (Robinson and Tormey, 2009a, p. 133). Ultimately, the necessity of the formation of hegemony, complete with a master/empty/despotic/sovereign signifier, is asserted rather than demonstrated in Laclauian theory. This problem arises because NSM theories tend to assume a gemeinschaft model of culture, representation, identity and belonging in social movements.
Another strand in social movement literature focuses on cultural meanings. Historical authors such as Rudé (1964), Tilly (1978) and Thompson (1971) emphasize the basis of social movements in everyday cultures and meanings, such as moral economies. Similarly, scholars such as Scott (1990) and Guha (1999) situate peasant social movements in wider social contexts and scripts, while others apply similar concepts to working-class movements (Fantasia, 1988; Burawoy, 1982; Piven and Cloward, 177). These authors provide powerful accounts of historical and communal social movements, and a clear sense of why and how particular modalities of struggle occur. However, these theories are of limited usefulness when discussing movements which arise in alienated social contexts, separate from wider identity-categories, and which effectively have to self-generate their own social world, often almost from scratch. ASMs are ultimately rather different from the types of social movements which are rooted in gemeinschaft social forms, even when the tactics used are similar.
There is also a distinct literature on ASMs. Existing works on autonomous social movements often focus on transnational networks, forums and protests (e.g. Chesters and Welsh, 2006; Sen et al., 2004), or on narrative histories of movements in Europe (Katsiaficas, 1997; Wright, 2002; Membretti, 2007) or Latin America (Sitrin, 2007; Motta, 2009; Lavaca, 1007). Such works frequently reflect on the importance of affinity, prefiguration, horizontalism, anti- or post-representation, and autonomy from the state, capital and formal organizations (Katsiaficas, 1997; Day, 2005; Motta, 2009). According to scholars, autonomous social movements typically 'see their everyday experiences and creations as the revolution they are making' (Sitrin, 2011, p. 271), and use horizontal, non-hierarchical structures (Sitrin and Azzelini, 2014). For example, intentional communities often involve alternative forms of work and belonging (Firth, 2012, p. 110). ASMs are sometimes characterized as 'anti-identitarian' (Fletcher Fominaya, 2010, p. 399), and are often composed of people who are 'not really of' the dominant society (Heberle, 1995, p. 58). The role of ritual in movements is sometimes discussed (Issa, 2007), as is the primacy of practice and the practical (Graeber, 2004, pp. 5-7; Gordon, 2007). A number of scholars have emphasized the importance of affect in social movements (Juris, 2008; Sullivan, 2004; Routledge and Simons, 1995; Peterson, 2001). Affinity is also considered consistent with networked models of social life, such as Deleuzian theory (Anon., 1999) and actor-network theory (Giraud, 2015), and praised for its usefulness in coordinating direct action in non-hierarchical ways (Dupuis-Deri, 2010, pp. 40, 54; Leach, 2013, p. 189). Larsen and Johnson (2012, p. 632) define affinity politics as 'creating noncoercive, cooperative, and spontaneous relationships' through 'situatedness'. They suggest that such politics renders dominant institutions 'increasingly redundant' (2012, p. 634). However, their Derridean framework renders them suspicious about the possibility of general systemic-level change. Dupuis-Deri (2010) provides a detailed analysis of the idea of affinity groups, suggesting that they are based on friendship. Similarly, Leach (2009) argues that German autonomous groups have an unstructured organizational model and are resistant to institutionalization of their practice or ideology. In large mobilizations, different groups take on different tasks in an informal, decentralized way.
However, there is little work on the nature of the social tie in ASMs. Existing ASM works (e.g. Chesters and Walsh, 2006; Cleaver, 1999; Klein, 2002), including the author's earlier work (Karatzogianni and Robinson, 2009), arguably overemphasize the network nature of relations among nodes in ASMs, and neglect the internal dynamics and formative conditions of nodes themselves. While networking or rhizomatics is crucial to mobilizations, a network composed of atomized, precarious individuals ultimately lacks resilience, and succumbs to the kind of pressures which have generated the current, performatively neoliberal social media-scape (Couldry, 2008, pp. 16-17). In network-theoretical terms (Granovetter, 1973), bonding ties may ultimately be more important than bridging ties in creating and sustaining social movements. While place-independent, instantaneous communications provide remarkable opportunities for ASMs, they are effective only if autonomous actors exist at a local level who are able to take advantage of such networks. In earlier work, the author has discussed the basis of autonomous social movements in active desire and networks (Karatzogianni and Robinson, 2009), and in the politics of the excluded (Robinson, 2010). However, the author has not previously explored the organization of autonomous movements at the microsocial level, and this has left earlier analyzes somewhat too abstract.
Another theoretical literature theorizes ASMs in different terms, based on the concept of 'constituent power' or a family of related concepts. These approaches theorize an underlying creative force which is more basic than social categories and conflict, which is conceived as autopoietic, excessive over representation, self-unfolding and processual, and generative of newness, new situations, and resistance to entrenched power. Negri (1999) uses the term 'constituent power', and similar formulations appear in Graeber (2007) and Virno (2004). Holloway (2005) terms it 'power-with' in distinction to 'power-over', Gulli (2005) terms it 'labor', Kropotkin (1897) and Ward (1973) term it the 'social principle' (versus the 'political principle' of the state), and Castoriadis (1998) terms it the socially instituting imaginary. Agamben's (1990) 'whatever-singularity', labor or self-activity in the early Marx (1844), Deleuze/Nietzsche's 'active force' (Deleuze, 1990) and Bergson's (1911) elan vital also have family resemblances to these concepts. In each case, constituent power (or the equivalent force) is treated as more-or-less ontological, and hence, ever-present in human existence. In Negri, for instance, consistuent power is a 'collective subjectivity' which 'wrenches free from all the conditions and contradictions' to which it is subjected (1999, p. 324). Repressive social forces, conservatism and inertia are explained as alienated or reactive expressions or internal blockages of this force. For example, Negri treats exhaustion as an effect of mystification (1999, p. 327). What is often missing in these accounts is a discussion of how the creative force is manifested or actualized in practice, and why this force sometimes revolutionizes the world, whereas at other times it is trapped in alienated forms or inertia. A theory of group-formation, of the creation of social contexts which actualize creative force, is necessary to theorize how this force can operate at an outer-worldly, not simply an ontological, level.
Southern ASMs are also often based on existing communities. For example, the traditional ayllu is central to Andean social movements (Crabtree, 2005; Zibechi, 2010; de la Cadena, 2015; Burman, 2014). As Zibechi argues, Bolivian ASMs arise from 'a dense network of relationships between people, relationships that are also forms of organization... in everyday life... between friends, between comrades, or between family', relations more important than the gesellschaft forms of union, party and state (2010, pp. 13-14). An argument is sometimes made for the superiority of Southern autonomous social movements based on their roots in local traditions (de Acosta, 2007; Motta, 2012). However, this position is of little help in rebuilding social movements in contexts where such traditions are simply absent. If Northern activists begin as isolated individuals who coalesce in bunds, and not from gemeinschaft-like communities, then this is not a misrecognition based on Northern subjectivity. It is because atomization is the actual condition of life in Northern societies. For instance, responding to identity politics in the US (which he sees as reproducing dominant oppressive categories), ASM activist Peter Gelderloos suggests that, in his experience, '[a]ll the identities that society tried to stitch me into don't fit', and his ancestors' complicity in capitalism left him 'with an inheritance stripped of anything I value' (2010, p. 7). This creates the situation where common struggle and the experience of alienation become the focal points of activism (2010, p. 6). In addition, community-based movements risk reproducing oppressive aspects of gemeinschaft societies (Lachapelle et al., 2004; Colloredo-Mansfeld, 2009). On the other hand, Southern ASMs also develop bund-like social forms such as an emphasis on deeply knowing one another (Neka, 2003) and the idea of changing social relations (CS and MTDS, 2002). ASMs seek to transform and politicize communities, and therefore, are arguably creating bund structures alongside, or hybridized with, gemeinschaft structures.
There is also a basis for theorizing ASMs in Deleuzian theory. Deleuze and Guattari emphasize the importance of intrinsic intensity within a plane of consistency, instead of instrumental action towards an end (1984, p. 22). The Deleuzoguattarian concept of the war-machine (1984, pp. 352-7) is based on Clastres' (1994) theory of indigenous war. In this model, war-machines are taken to deterritorialise social assemblages, release flows of becoming, and form packs and bands (1984, p. 352). It is the form taken by marginal groups in revolt (1984, p. 366). This model emphasizes the transformative force of war-machines rather than their internal structure, though the role of affect is also emphasized (1984, p. 400). They theorize a conflict between the state's antiproductive control mechanisms and the nomadism of packs and bands (1984, p. 386). A pack is an unstable type of group which limits its numbers, avoids hierarchies, and is distinct from the 'mass' (1984, p. 33). Guattari also develops a concept of the subject-group which parallels affinity groups today. Whereas the subjugated group is structured in a segmentary way and through group fantasies, the subject-group relates directly to its entire context (1984, pp. 6-7). Like a war-machine, a subject-group practices contextuality, openness, autonomy and the fluidification of its social context (1984, p. 29). Instead of a group fantasy, a subject-group has contingent 'transitional objects' based on its inclusion in action (1984, p. 42). It becomes 'something apart from society' (1984, p. 29) and thus capable of transformative utterances (1984, p. 194). Sartre's (1976) conception of the fuzed group should also be considered in this regard. Sartre formulates a typology of five interpersonal arrangements, of which two (organization and seriality) correspond to gesellschaft and another (institution) to gemeinschaft. The remaining forms, the group-in-fusion and the pledged group, arguably correspond to different varieties of bund (the action-group and ideological sect respectively).
To conclude this literature review, most existing theories remain trapped in conceptions of social movements (and social life more broadly) as either a gemeinschaft or gesellschaft. The third alternative of the bund remains occluded, and ASMs thus remain incomprehensible. The literature directly on ASMs, and the constitutive power and Deleuzian literatures, provide partial exceptions. However, these literatures are limited in that they emphasize the network aspects of social movements and the underlying creative power, but neglect the organizational forms which render the social actualization of creative power possible. This article seeks to fill the gap by exploring the functioning of affinity groups as viewed by theorists within ASMs.
Before considering the model used in the article, a caution is needed on methodology. Many critics from different perspectives argue that speaking 'over', or from outside, social movements is dominatory, reproducing 'knowledge-over' which turns into 'power-over' (e.g. Mignolo, 2000, pp. 3-48; Tischler, 2008; Motta, 2011; Cox, 2015; de Souza Santos, 2007; Dussel, 1998). This article instead seeks to engage with voices of theoretical production within ASMs, treating these voices on a par with academic theories so as to contribute to translating the practices of ASMs into organizational theory. The aim, in particular, is to make visible the experience of autonomy as a mode of social relationality, which is obscured in dominant organizational models used in social movement theory. The author is involved in ASMs, but does not claim epistemic privilege on this basis. Rather, the aim of the article is to encourage participatory consciousness (Heshusius, 1994) in the organizational forms of ASMs.
This article argues that ASMs are based on the bund as a social form. This concept, invented by Schmalenbach (1961), has been applied to ASMs by Peterson (2001). It was designed as an alternative to the classic sociological pairing of gemeinschaft and gesellschaft, derived from Tönnies (1955) and still operative today through similar pairings such as Jihad versus McWorld (Barber, 1996), liberalism versus communitarianism, and (capitalist) net versus (identitarian) self (Castells, 1996, pp. 3, 22-3; 1998, p. 383). Gesellschaft is easily understood as the normal form of capitalist organization. As the most visible alternative, gemeinschaft involves enduring connections which are involuntary and ascribed (Peterson, 2001, p. 32). However, like gesellschaft, gemeinschaft relies on a normative underpinning. Normativity involves the creation of an external criterion, a norm, against which individual “behavior” is assessed. It is a product of disciplinary power (Foucault, 1977, p. 223) which leads to general social inauthenticity, treating people as desituated subjects (Maldonado-Torres, 2006, p. 11) and generating an abjected, abyssal underside (Agamben, 1998; de Souza Santos, 2007). Both gemeinschaft and gesellschaft forms of bonding rely on renunciation as a central dynamic – as normativity in the former case, and contractual self-limitation in the latter. The bund form, in contrast, does not require renunciation for its functioning, but rather, is lived as an expression of autonomous desire.
Schmalenbach developed the concept of the bund as a third alternative to gemeinschaft and gesellschaft as models of social organization. In this theory, the bund (or sect) is a form of 'pure communion' (Peterson, 2001, p. 30). In contrast to the ascriptive bonds and norms of gemeinschaft and the formal arrangements of gesellschaft, the bund relies on the charisma of ecstatic, intense moments of collective enthusiasm and emotion (2001, p. 31). For Schmalenbach and Peterson, this is a distinct form of social organization. In effect, the intimate emotional bond arising from experiences of communion replaces the hegemonic/despotic/sovereign/master-signifier as the source of social connections. In contrast to gemeinschaft, a bund or 'communion' is elective, and has no natural or naturalized basis (2001, pp. 32-3). In Schmalenbach's terms, a bund involves 'fusion', rather than contract (gesellschaft) or coalescence (gemeinschaft) (Peterson, 2001, p. 33). Members politically 'fuze' (Peterson, 2001, p. 34) in moments of 'collective ecstasy' (Gurvitch, 1941). This is similar to the Bakhtinian idea of the carnivalesque as joyful immediacy (Robinson and Tormey, 2009a, pp. 144-5), and explains why ASM utopias tend to be immediate rather than deferred (Robinson and Tormey, 2009b).
Communion involves a 'state of intense and comprehensive solidarity' which does not need any basis in common descent, residence, origin or sexual relations (Shils, 1957, pp. 133-4). In the absence of such naturalized bases, communion must be constantly enacted and reasserted (Peterson, 2001, p. 33). In contrast to transcendental forms, it requires immanent, immediate existence in order to operate, or at least periodic reunions (2001, p. 58). A bund is elective, exclusive, and often requires a particular experience as a basis for entry. It often seeks to sever connections with mainstream society and prefers isolation to compromise (Becker, 1946, p. 83). Meaning arises during the action – not before (as in rational action) or after (as in irrational action) (Peterson, 2001, p. 66). This locates action in the time of kairos or transformative immediacy (c.f. Firth and Robinson, 2014; Negri, 2004; Benjamin, 1974). Peterson also argues that militant resistance gets its force, subversiveness, creativity and credibility from its 'sub-political articulation in everyday life' (2001, p. ix). Autonomous social movements are not simply political groups, but 'a way of life' (2001, p. 52). This contrasts with traditional activism, which enacts politics outside everyday life (Peterson, 2001, p. viii; Flacks, 1988). It has also been demonstrated that the criticism of ASMs for allowing informal hierarchy is overplayed, and such groups are actually more inclusive than hierarchical organizations (Dupuis-Deri, 2010, p. 50; Leach, 2013, p. 189).
The particular ASM form of communion is the political theater of collective action. Action is valorized, and seen as a source of empowerment (2001, p. 1). Identity-construction is based on the 'emotional states' emerging from confrontations and direct action. Identity is paradoxically both a cause and effect of action (2001, p. xii). Such action is 'hot' and passionate, and very different from Cartesian rationalism (2001, p. xiii). This leads to what Heatherington terms 'expressive identities' (1998, p. 17), developing distinct lifestyles and symbols which involve expressive methods of forming difference and resistance (1998, p. 37). Activist communities are 'emotional communities' as much as moral communities (Peterson, 2001, p. 24). Action is often focused on ritual events or mass protest or direct action (2001, p. 2). Ritualized confrontations with police or rival groups create a 'mentality of embattlement' and an us-them division (2001, pp. 29, 55). Actions 'speak louder than words' because of their emotional effects (2001, p. 36). Actions and events are themselves charismatic, and are more effective than charismatic leaders in creating collective energy. Such energy is often experiences as 'authentic, unmediated personal relationships' (Hetherington, 1998, pp. 93-4). Peterson believes this feeling of 'necessary force' is actually constructed through the ritual itself (2001, p. 58).
Like other rituals, these ritualized actions lead to a sense of 'we', of solidarity (2001, p. 53), generating an 'emotionally charged sense of interdependence' (2001, p. 55). In the 'magical moment of group fusion', people feel 'strengthened and expanded' and 'part of something larger' (2001, p. 59), arguably without losing their autonomy. For Peterson, the role of ritual is even greater in countercultural groups than in mainstream society (2001, pp. 53-4, 60). Following Esherick and Wasserstrom (1990), Peterson suggests this particular kind of ritual is 'political theater' (rather than ritual in the conservative sense), because it departs from traditional scripts and challenges the status quo (1990, p. 54). In a bund, ritual can construct solidarity without common beliefs or norms (Peterson, 2001, p. 59). In other words, it precludes the necessity for a hegemonic moment or of normativity. This expresses itself discursively in ideas such as non-renunciation of desire and radical opposition to the social system, often conceived as something external to the actor, from which they have seceded and with which they are in conflict.
Peterson, following Schmalenbach and Durkheim, sees bunds as ephemeral. They tend to harden into gemeinschaft or gesellschaft forms over time (Peterson, 2001, p. 33) and are 'fleeting' due to the intensity required (Schmalenbach, 1961, pp. 333-4). How, then, can they form a basis for alternative sociality? This article suggests that the anthropological literature on hunter-gatherer bands provides a clear sense of the possibility of something similar to the bund-form persisting in time. For example, Ingold argues that the 'immediacy, personal autonomy and sharing' of band life are 'utterly incompatible with the concept of society' in its dominant (i.e. gemeinschaft or gesellschaft) definitions (2004, p. 67). Bands typically have no formal authority, extensive individual autonomy (Bird-David, 1994, p. 586; Myers, 1986) and weak or nonexistent group boundaries (Bird-David, 1994, p. 591; Lee and DeVore, 1968, p. 8; Ingold, 2004, p. 60; Turnbull, 1968). Participation depends on 'voluntary, unstable and reversible relationships... for the limited period during which [one] actively participates fully in common activities' (Meillassoux, 1981, p. 18). Relationships exist in a form of immediacy which 'responds to the flow of the joint experience' in a common space and time (Schutz and Luckmann, 1973; Bird-David, 1994, p. 598). Ilongot society, for instance, lacks words for leaders and formal structures, with life being 'casual and informal' (Rosaldo, 1980, p. 1).
Bands differ from the gemeinschaft in their open membership and lack of ascriptive ties. However, they differ from the gesellschaft in involving inclusive 'we-relationships' based on 'deep mutual knowledge' (Ingold, 2004, p. 64). Bands are neither intimate and exclusive nor anonymous and impersonal (Bird-David, 1994, p. 591). They consider social relations as fusion which does not override individual autonomy and is reversible (1994, p. 596-7). Bands involve a particular kind of 'we relationships' involving a 'sharing perspective' (1994, p. 583) and relationships 'culturally emphasizing a flow of joint experience, and knowledge of others in their “vivid” presence' (1994, p. 599). The function which elsewhere is performed by the us-them boundary is in bands focused on the social core of energy; people 'organize their social lives through focusing attention rather than referring it to a rigid structure' (Wilson, 1988, p. 50). Knowledge-formation is also recognized as relational, operating without the master-signifier function (Smith, 2007, p. 81; Robinson and Tormey, 2009a, pp. 142-3; de Souza Santos, 2007).
A certain type of leadership is possible, based on power-with which is grounded on trust and the absence of coercion (Henrikisen, 1973; Clastres, 1977; Ingold, 2004, pp. 62, 66). Reflecting this tradition, Canadian Indigenous theorist Taiaiake Alfred argues for an indigenous approach based on individual autonomy (2009, p. 39), leadership through persuasion rather than coercion (2009, pp. 17, 116) and 'creating engagement', rather than power-over (2009, p. 74). Affect may also have an important role in motivation in the absence of instrumentalism, as is suggested in Rosaldo's (1980) emphasis on liget – an Ilongot concept denoting passion, anger or intensity. Liget is the source of the energy which motivates work in a society without work-compulsion (1980, pp. 27, 44), and rituals suggest 'the reproduction of an unconstrained and vital life' (Rosaldo, 1980, p. 56).
Overall, these characteristics are similar to those discussed by Peterson and Schmalenbach in relation to the bund. Social life in bands is integrated by the exercise of constituent power and an experience of immediacy, without hegemonic functioning and with only weak normative aspects. This suggests that the bund or band can provide a general alternative to dominant social forms. Several characteristics of the bund or band can be summarized, which can then be sought in ASM texts. The bund and band are small-group based, with immediate experience among members replacing hierarchical structures. Hence, they rely on intimate mutual knowledge. They rely on intense experiences of communion, instead of formal structures or hegemonic master-signifiers, for group integration. They are thus action-groups with some kind of ritual or theater as their integrative force. They also preserve the autonomy of members, while also providing some kind of collective experience.
So far, the ideas of bund and band have been reconstructed from an academic perspective. Their relationship to immanent conceptions within ASMs remains in doubt. However, ASMs have a rich vein of immanent social theory constructed within the movement by its participants. We can treat these theories as a kind of immanent organic ideology generated by people who have themselves participated in affinity as a form of life. This literature suggests that such movements do, indeed, use something like the bund/band model, and that it is the means by which they actualize constituent power and the base unit of rhizomatic networks. The immanent appearance of such an organizational model, sometimes in a highly developed form, suggests that the bund/band social logic has appeared in practice in ASMs, and has had a lasting impact on participants. The texts reviewed include most of those hosted on the Anarchist Library website which mention affinity groups, as well as other texts familiar to the author.
Immanent ASM theorists often orient towards an expressive view of constituent power. For example, Feral Faun writes: 'I want to know the free-spirited wildness of my unrepressed desires realizing themselves in festive play' (Faun, 1988). This is an energy Faun remembers from childhood, which involves intense emotion, festive living and 'vital energy' (1988, p. 12). Bonanno similarly writes of a 'vital impulse' and excitement in play, which is creative of new values (1977, pp. 15-16), and Bey emphasizes the importance of peak experience, which is 'value-transformative on the individual level' and transforms everyday life (Bey, n.d.a).
Insurrectionary anarchist Alfredo Bonanno provides a classic and influential theory of affinity groups which largely reproduces bund features. In Bonanno's theory, the moment of rebellion is taken to be first of all internal, a rebellion 'of a personal nature' in which one rejects the existing system based on an inner 'idea-force'. Affinity entails the grouping of people who have been through such an inner rupture (1996, p. 11). People feel an inner autonomous space in which 'we can move about as we please', and project this space onto social reality, which is controlled by the system (1996, p. 12). Actions are important as an 'expressive moment' of one's life (Bonanno, 1996, p. 2). Action 'projects itself into the future' (1996, p. 9) in a manner termed propulsive (n.d.). Hence, Bonanno does not see action as constitutive of the action-group, but rather, as its effect. However, action provides an important criterion in practice. The way one tells a true radical from a recuperated pseudo-radical is that the pseudo-radical's life is quantitative and not qualitative action (1996, p. 2). Hence, the fact of action, or at least of expressive living, is the decisive criterion of the 'we' for Bonanno. Another insurrectionary piece, 'Individual Projectuality and Affinity', similarly argues that affinity groups arise from 'individual projectuality'. People join with others to 'carry on a specific common project' (Anon., 2009, p. 3). Only when people know what they want from their lives can they discover points of affinity with others (2009, p. 3).
To realize such expressive action, Bonanno thus calls for 'small groups based on the concept of affinity', groups which can even be 'tiny' if necessary, but which actualize 'knowledge of the other' (1996, p. 10), a 'strength of mutual personal knowledge' (1998, p. 11), or 'reciprocal knowledge' (1993, p. 12). Such knowledge of the other is Bonanno's working definition of affinity: 'Affinity is acquired by having working knowledge of each other' (1999, pp. 5-6). Affinity is never perfect, as it is possible to mistakenly believe one has affinity. It requires that one 'reveal' oneself to the other person, dispensing with the 'affectations' of simulated sociality. This is why action is more appropriate than phatic sociality in discovering affinity (1999, p. 6). Bonanno emphasizes that 'affinity should not be confused in sentiment', and can arise even among people who do not like one another, or be absent among those who do. However, there must be some kind of connection between affect and political motivation (1999, p. 12). The process is seen in terms of finding each other (as fellow rebels), developing analysis, and then acting together (1999, p. 12). A related but anonymous text argues that affinity is not sympathy or sentiment, but knowledge of the other (Anon., 2009, p. 1). Such knowledge is a common effect of the group process, but not its 'primal aim'. The aim, rather, is action, based on 'the qualitative strength of a number of individuals working together in a projectuality that they develop together as they go along' (2009, p. 2; c.f. Anon., 2001).
These groups develop 'means of intervention in common', and, while it is held together by affinity, the group's 'propulsive aspect is action' (1999, p. 13). They aim for a state of 'being aware of each other and feeling at one with each other, sharing the tension towards action and the desire to transform the world', acting 'forward together into a future in which we build our common project' (1999, p. 6). They are 'capable of carrying out specific coordinated actions against the enemy' (1998, p. 11). Action is important so as to weaken the bonds to mainstream society, including internal bonds such as morality and obedience (1999, p. 5). Instead of aiming for growth, such groups limit themselves to 'becoming a point of reference' for interested people to exchange 'affinity, friendship, affection' (1993, p. 12). These are desirable, not to widen one's friendship circle, but to pool experiences so as to expand 'possibilities of struggle' and action (1993, p. 12). The experience to rebellion generates an altered consciousness, but rebels often succumb to the 'needs of the moment' unless equipped with a 'project' which unites heart and head (1999, pp. 3-4). The word 'project' here carries the idea of a propulsive or projectile force, derived from the phenomenological use of the term. Bonanno sometimes distinguishes such groups from organizations of synthesis, which tend to synthesize struggles, use hierarchical relations, and ultimately become fixated on their own organizational survival (1999, pp. 13-14). This implicitly emphasizes the difference between bund and gesellschaft. In Bonanno's definition, affinity groups have the twin characteristics as being action groups (similar to Peterson's action sects) and groups based on intimate mutual knowledge (similar to Ingold's bands).
The immediatist anarchist Hakim Bey (aka Peter Lamborn Wilson) similarly articulates themes resonant with the bund/band approach. For Bey, chaos is the basic ontological state of existence, and order is an alienating illusion (1994a, p. 23). The ontological primacy of chaos undercuts hegemonic systems (Greer, 2013, p. 176). In the field of chaos, things are held together by attraction or affinity (Bey, 2008, p. 15). This is the only viable form of government, and involves a state of abundance (1994b, pp. 2-3). Hegemony is thus ontologically impossible, and Bey proposes intensity similar to communion as an alternative basis for meaning. Peak experiences – Bey's equivalent of mystical communion – are central to value-formation and the possibility of adopting ontological anarchism (Bey, n.d.a; Wilson, 1999, p. 31). Such experiences allow for access to the imaginal realm, or the unconscious (Bey, 1994a, p. 111; Wilson, 1999, p. 22). Bey argues for the possibility of creating values from desires, by means of altered consciousness. The focal point can only be experienced in immediacy, and not represented (Bey, 1995, p. 32; 1994a, p. 133).
This leads to proposals for organizational forms distinct from those of the dominant society. Bey's best-known organizational proposal is the Temporary Autonomous Zone (TAZ). A TAZ is a short-lived autonomous space in which peak experience and altered consciousness are realized. He maintains that the TAZ is self-explanatory to those who have experienced it (Sellars, 2010, p. 13). It is experienced as intensity and abundance (1994a, p. 112). In works written after TAZ, Bey multiplies organizational forms. In the 1990s he wrote of 'Permanent TAZ's' (1993a). More often, however, he focused on small-scale, immediate, and often clandestine groups such as the 'bee' (1993b) and the 'tong' (n.d.b). Tongs are mutual aid groups for marginal or illicit goals (1994b, p. 3). A modern tong would be a nucleus of 'self-chosen allies' who seek to reclaim space and time for play or intensity, forming the basis for a new society (1994b, p. 17). Bey associates such approaches with the band or gang (1994a, pp. 22, 104). In another work, Bey arranges immediatist groups by size and permanence: gatherings, potlatches, bees, tongs, TAZes, and insurrections. Of these, only those up to the tong can be predetermined (n.d.a). These groups do not have a common moral code, but rather, a 'matrix of friendship' (1994b, p. 19). The act of simply coming together outside of system-provided categories is already a major victory, providing 'virtually everything Immediatism yearns for' (1994b, p. 21). People should seek to cultivate freedom, love, justice and insight among close friends, to the maximum degree possible (Wilson, 1988). Other social forms are alienated or misguided forms of this basic level of value-formation. The aspects of intense experience, projectual small-group formation, immediacy and autonomy are strongly resonant with the concepts of bund and band.
Similarly Wolfi Landstreicher argues that autonomous self-organization occurs whenever people are 'angered by their conditions' and 'decide to act for themselves' (n.d., p. 3). The twin elements of affect and action are thus fundamental. Like Bonanno, he sees the individual, who is already angered, as the basic unit of organization (n.d., p. 3). People find that they need others as 'means necessary' for their struggle against the system, leading to a collective practice (n.d., p. 4). For Landstreicher, this rediscovery of individuality – including distinct 'desires, needs and dreams which have no relation to what capital has to offer', which are best met in mutual affinal relations – is the same as the self-abolition of the oppressed class (n.d., p. 4). The resultant groups are based on 'the development of relationships of mutuality' in relation to people's struggles, dreams and desires, and not on 'conforming individuals to an organization imposed on them' (n.d., p. 4). Such groups reject all representation (n.d., p. 3). This once more repeats the key characteristics of the bund. Firstly, groups do not restrict desires, but rather, are formed to pursue them. Secondly, their basis is action and affinity, not normativity. Thirdly, the process of desire-formation of subjects in such groups is bottom-up and diffuse, and not generated either by the dominant society or by the group itself.
Similar elements appear in Cathy Levine's feminist response to Jo Freeman's Tyranny of Structurelessness (Freeman, 1970; Levine, 1979). Levine argues that large organizations turn members into cogs in the wheel, turning size into an obstacle to participation. In contrast, small groups 'multiply the strength of each member' (1979, p. 4). Small groups are a reaction against a lack of control in large organizations, and hence are 'a solution' to the problem of building a culture consistent with a new society (1979, p. 7). People, and political groups, are paralyzed by 'feelings of personal shittiness' which will paralyze social struggle if they are not fought as seriously as political causes (1979, p. 7). For Levine, small groups provide friendship and recognition of the individual, which relieve feelings of shittiness (1979, p. 7). Hence, 'the revolution should be built on the model of friendships' (1979, p. 7). In this article, Levine uses a largely Reichean approach to desire, viewing repression as a source of neuroses which in turn impede radical action and social transformation. She recognizes that differences in personal style, sometimes shaped by social positionalities, make some people more assertive and others more deferential, dependent, or passive. However, while large organizations turn these stylistic differences in power-differentials or ignore or annihilate them, small groups can appreciate and utilize them as particular powers of each individual (1979, p. 7). The idea that groups based on personal intimacy can also be relatively non-normative is a notable continuity between Levine's text and the idea of the bund/band. While she does not explore the action and intensity aspects of the phenomenon, she clearly counterposes small groups to gesellschaft-type organizations.
Another early text, from a different milieu, is the Red Sunshine Gang pamphlet Anti-Mass, which shows clear Situationist and Maoist influences. In this pamphlet, 'mass' is defined as a 'form of organization' dominant in today's 'mass society', which also affects social movements (RSG, 1970, p. 3). This mode of organization renders people spectators of their own lives (1970, p. 6), and oppresses people by suppressing differences, including class, race, and sex differences. It is a 'nightmare of compromise and suppressed desires' (1970, p. 7). It is contrasted with 'class', which in this idiosyncratic usage, refers to 'a consciously organized social force' based on 'active (subjective) participation' (1970, p. 3). People make the revolution by 'actually changing social relations' (1970, p. 40), presumably from mass to class. An aspiration is expressed for qualitative, self-determined subjectivity, in contrast to conditioned, behaviorist reactions (1970, pp. 7-8). In this language, 'mass' is roughly equivalent to gesellschaft.
As in other texts, affinity-groups are proposed as an alternative to massification. The 'small group' is a necessary means to 'break out of the mass', driven by a felt 'need for collectivity'. By itself, such a group is dragged along by wider political forces. It becomes a 'collective', with an 'independent existence', when its members 'agree on the method of struggle' (1970, p. 3). A collective is a subject rather than an object of history. It should be non-hierarchical and self-organized, as simple as possible, and low on administration. it should also be no larger than a band, and aim to reproduce itself in new autonomous collectives, not to recruit and grow (1970, p. 4). A collective should not communicate with the mass, but with other collectives and individuals, remaining isolated if necessary (1970, p. 5). It is 'out of the mainstream and... feels no regret' (1970, p. 6). It focuses on local action, but without 'becoming provincial' (1970, p. 7). Its strength is based on 'relationships between people', not on 'numbers' (1970, p. 5). Small size allows direct communication, limits the power of any leader who emerges, and leads to a multitude of groups which is harder to destroy than a large organization (1970, p. 5). The collective is the 'nucleus of a classless society', and a means to separate – libidinally as well as materially – from alienated and collapsing institutions (1970, p. 4). Hence, the socially transformative role of the small group is clearly theorized here, as is its qualitative basis. Again, personal intimacy and action provide strong bonding elements.
In the famous French autonomist/anarchist work The Coming Insurrection, similar perspectives emerge. The Invisible Committee discuss the core project of affinity groups in terms of a Badiousian theory of truth. 'There's a truth underlying every gesture, every practice, every relationship, every situation. Our habit is to elude it, to manage it' (IC, 2008, p. 41). Affinities are effects of truths. 'We have come up with a neutral idea of friendship, as pure affection without consequence. But all affinities are affinities within a common truth' (2008, p. 41). In establishing affinity, everyday non-submission is crucial to show true affinity (2008, p. 42). The 'commune', or affinity group, is counterposed to the 'milieu', with informal hierarchies, gossip and so on (2008, p. 42). Like organizations for other authors, milieus for the IC are 'counter-revolutionary' because they exist only for their own preservation (2008, p. 43). A milieu is roughly an activist network which has turned into a gemeinschaft, a normatively bounded community without a core of projective energy.
In contrast, communes occur 'when people find themselves, understand each other, and decide to go forth together' (2008, p. 43). Communes do not define themselves in terms of ingroups and outgroups, 'but by the density of the connections at their core' (2008, p. 43). They are 'not defined by the persons that make them up, but by the spirit that animates them' (2008, p. 43). In other words, social integration in a commune is an effect of communion, and not of normative hierarchies. Fluidity among communes is important to prevent their hardening into milieus (2008, p. 47). Communes form the basis of a new society, replacing the various specialized institutions such as schools and unions (2008, p. 43). Communes which expand and spread can overtake the power of the system (2008, p. 47). On a strategic level, they also provide possibilities for mutual aid and 'moral survival', providing a basis to break with dependency on the system and pit one's strength against it (2008, p. 43). For example, it 'escapes work' (2008, p. 44), avoiding contractual as much as normative bases for commonality.
The Curious George Brigade provide similar reflections on movements in the early 2000s. They argue that organizational approaches lead to groups which 'largely exist to propagate themselves and, sadly, do little else' (CGB, 2002a, p. 3). Their meetings and procedures are a 'greedy maw' which consumes activists' time and energy, which could instead be devoted to action (2002a, p. 3). Their implicit definition of affinity depends on doing things based on attraction: 'people should engage in activities based on their affinities', which are 'meaningful, productive and enjoyable' (2002a, p. 4). Hierarchies are fundamentally based on mistrust, fear, and power-hoarding (2002a, p. 5). People need to be able to decide for themselves with whom to form affinity groups and collectives, and not sacrifice their desires or autonomy so as to work with others (2002a, p. 5). This leads to mutual trust. To protect against these tendencies, one should 'be critical of anything that demands the realignment of our affinities and passions for the good of an organization or abstract principle' (2002a, p. 5). This is in sharp contrast to the valorization of self-transformation in much of the radical academic literature. In another piece, they celebrate the use of 'pulsing and swarming tactics', with a 'constant flow of people joining, breaking up and rejoining' in new combinations, and a practice of hitting multiple targets without a set pattern. These tactics make protests impossible to analyze and neutralize, and they require decentralized organization (2002b, p. 1). The idea of trust as the basis for organization echoes the anthropological discussion of bands. While the Brigade's work resonates with network theories, they also theorize action in terms of affective intensity, echoing the idea of communion in the theory of the bund.
Writing in the late 1960s, and also using a Marxisant vocabulary with Situationist inflections, the US group Up Against the Wall Motherfuckers (UAW-MF) see affinity groups as a means to 'project a revolutionary consciousness' and 'develop forms for particular struggles', and in a revolutionary period, to become the central unit of armed struggle (1968, p. 1). They define an affinity group as a 'street gang with an analysis' (1968, p. 1), or a 'small intimate group' with tactical-theoretical possibilities (1968, p. 1). This group is 'the source of both spontaneity and new forms of struggle' (1968, p. 2). It is a context in which people who 'do not any longer know how to live together – to share the wholeness of their lives' can find a 'much more complex and multifarious life' (n.d., p. 1). The 'small' actions of different small groups will create a generalized rebellion and revolution (1968, pp. 1-2). Affinity groups can grow secretly and resist repression (n.d., p. 1). Such groups are counterposed to the 'hierarchical organization' or 'socialism', as well as to 'bourgeois' parliamentary democracy (n.d., p. 1). Affinity groups arise from a desire for self-fulfillment across different levels of life, and is psychologically 'pre-organizational', expressing the 'drive out of which organization is formed' (n.d., p. 1). They are also the basic form of post-revolutionary life (n.d., p. 1). The basic idea of the affinity group as a source both of creative energy and concrete action is similar to the other approaches discussed here.
While coming from a range of theoretical perspectives – anarchism, post-Situationism, libertarian Marxism, feminism – the texts discussed here reproduce similar aspects of the bund/band model. Many of the texts emphasize the importance of 'qualitative' power, creative energy and intimacy in small-group organization. Some also link this to constituent power or to the capacity to network across groups. The small group often appears as the organizational form in which constituent power or desire can find expression and actualization. Intense, passionate experience is taken to be central to group formation, and seems to function as the socially-integrative feature in the absence of hierarchical structures. Action is sometimes central to group-formation, and sometimes conceived as its effect. Overall, such theories point to an awareness – presumably rooted in experiences of participation in groups of this kind – that a certain kind of passionately intense small group can provide a general organizational alternative to hierarchical organizations. Such groups are often seen as providing both a means for dispersed resistance and the basic unit of an alternative society. The three central aspects of the bund or band – intense mutual knowledge, communion instead of hegemony, and preservation of autonomy – are central aspects of the affinity group or other small group advocated by the various immanent ASM theorists.
While the above texts suggest that the bund is a lived part of ASM experience, the final text discussed here – P.M.'s Bolo'bolo (1983), suggests a vision of the bund as a model for the whole of social life, to provide the 'authentic, personal experience' (1983, p. 25) lacking in the capitalist work-system. The bolo or collective unit is a type of relation among ibus (human beings) designed to replace money as the general structure of life. It is principally a 'self-help network' (1983, p. 35). On this model, 'in a bolo culturally defined people live together and their motivations are not determined by a compulsory set of moral laws. Each bolo is different' (1983, p. 36-7). Not everyone will join bolos, bu if enough do, money can vanish and never return (1983, p. 38). While bolos are fairly large units, everyday life is usually conducted in the kana, which is analogous to the hunter-gatherer band (1983, p. 47). The kana is a large household or similar unit, but is defined by the nima of its bolo. Bolos will be self-sufficient, but networked through horizontal communication (1983, p. 78).
A crucial aspect of the bolo system is nima, sometimes defined as 'cultural identity' (1983, p. 39). This provides the 'real motivation for ibus to live together' (1983, p. 48) and the 'real wealth of the bolos' in the sense of 'manifold spiritual and material possibilities' (1983, pp. 49-50). A nima is roughly a life-path, which in different contexts refers to a culture, religion, philosophy, subculture, counterculture, or lifestyle. It is an ibu's 'conviction and vision of life as it should be' (1983, p. 48). A list of types of bolo suggests some of the different nimas, a list including cultures and nationalities (Indian, Thai, Italian), religions (Jesus, Krishna, magick), philosophies (Marxism, anarchism, nihilism, dadaism), subcultures (punk, suburbanism, vegetarianism, machismo, retro), sexualities (BDSM, lesbianism, straight), and production/consumption choices (coca, herbs, alcohol) (1983, pp. 51-2). This gives a good sense of the range of meanings of nima. The idea of a nima seems to have a similar orientation to Bonanno's autonomous desires and Bey's creation of values. It provides a basis for communion around which small and medium groups can coalesce, providing a basis for social unity with little normativity or formal organization, and no overarching coercive structures. A bolo is not a 'society', as society always means police, politics and repression. Social control in bolos operates through reputation (1983, p. 37). There are also various other quasi-normative structures not outlined here, such as a hospitality system enabling a right to travel, a detailed discussion of food and energy self-sufficiency, and a multi-layered structure of delegate-based confederal institutions with downward accountability.
The goal of bolo'bolo is nima rather than survival (1983, p. 49), and nima is sometimes termed 'sacrosanct', even in cases where it leads to great harm (1983, p. 104). Hence, bolo'bolo (the world or system of bolos) is a 'framework for the living-up of all kinds of life styles, philosophies, traditions and passions', not a lifestyle in itself (1983, p. 49). It is expected to involve a 'more or less free flow of passions, perversions, aberrations, etc' (1983, p. 50), and 'new low-work/high-pleasure lifestyles' (1983, p. 64). Bolos will lead to diversification in fields such as architecture, as each bolo pursues its nima (1983, p. 69). It is expected that people will seek to expand their cultural horizons, and this will become most people's main activity (1983, p. 76). Nimas are sacred and have to be tolerated and even enabled, even when they lead to problems (such as the formation of bandit-bolos). Some people's nimas may preclude social living, and such people can live outside or in the interstices of the bolos (1983, p. 48). Reactionary and terroristic bolos are possible, though the wider structure tends to undermine them by making repression costly (1983, pp. 50-1).
While nima has broad and various implications, one of its suggestions is towards the lived intimacy of common experience which provides the basis for the bund. In many ways, bolo'bolo is a society of bunds, each oriented to its own immanent practice of a particular philosophy or lifestyle, extended into a global social network precluding any need for gesellschaft forms such as the market economy. The author proposes the establishment of this model on a basis similar to affinity groups. 'Provisional elements of bolo'bolo, seedlings of its structures, must occupy all free interstices, abandoned areas, conquered bases, and prefigurate the new relationships', in a process complementary with subverting the dominant system (1983, p. 23). New networks will meet increasing numbers of practical tasks, often unperceived, until the system loses its influence (1983, pp. 31-2). While it is not entirely explicit, nima seems to function as the element of communion in the world of bolo'bolo, and the group structure – of small, intimate groups with extensive individual autonomy – otherwise reflects the bund/band model very closely.
The conclusion of the above discussion is clear. The organizational form described by Schmalenbach (1961) and Peterson (2001) as the bund provides an extensive, general alternative to gemeinschaft and gesellschaft models of social organization. Small groups, integrated by intense experiences of communion resulting from action or ritual, can provide a social life without any necessity for hegemony, master-signifiers, normativity, formal organizational structure, or coercive leadership. ASMs often operate in this way, and therefore defy the assumptions of most social movement theorists. ASM participants are neither rational actors within gesellschaft organizations pursuing instrumental goals, nor are they subjects seeking representation within hegemonic systems. Rather, they are building alternative worlds which do not require most of the attributes of dominant institutions. Indeed, such groups provide a viable, comprehensive alternative to dominant, hierarchical forms of organization. The effective bases of such a world are threefold: intimate mutual knowledge among an elective group of participants, communion (peak experience, action, or nima) as a replacement for hegemony and normativity, and the preservation of autonomy in a world which is nonetheless relational.
ASM literature seems to show that bunds have existed, and been experienced, by participants in ASMs. The history of band societies shows the sustainability of such a social structure. Therefore, the sustainability of bunds is not in itself a problem. However, such groups are often vulnerable to repression and recuperation, because the loss of the integrative moment of political action or collective ritual is more destructive of social bonds than it would be for other organizational types. Security researchers admit that such groups are harder to infiltrate and crush than large organizations (de Armond, 2001, p. 203). However, the counterinsurgency approach of 'disrupting radical networks', the treatment of friendship itself as suspect, and the repressive, securitized social context in general, is having destructive effects on the possibility of sustaining the political theater which is organizationally central to bunds. Where bunds collapse, their participants often suffer a loss of their basis of social meaning akin to the loss of the master-signifier for mainstream social actors. The consequences are predictable: depression, trauma, cynicism, and even 'madness' (see Rolnik, 2011; IPC, 2014).
The malaise arising from surviving the defeat of a bund is also, however, a partial perspective. The circumstances for the defeat of particular bunds are contingent, and the bund remains potentially viable as an alternative to dominant models of social organization. Ultimately, there may well be a struggle for survival between the bund and its rivals, the gemeinschaft and gesellschaft social logics. The possibility for a meaningful, enjoyable, intense, subjectively authentic life lies with the bund. Political, economic and military power lie (for now) with its rivals. In this context, the existential importance of recognizing, valorizing and strengthening the bund as a social logic is vital. The bund, as an alternative to alienation, may be the best thing that organization theory has to offer as an answer to the timeless question of how to live one's life.
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