Towards an anarchist cybernetics: Stafford Beer, self-organisation and radical social movements

2018-03-05T14:28:37Z (GMT) by Thomas Swann
In the early 1960s, a number of anarchist writers showed an interest in cybernetics, in which they saw the tools for better articulating radical forms of self-organisation. Discussions on the connections between anarchism and cybernetics did not advance very far, however, and by the 1970s the topic seems to have fallen off the anarchist radar. With an increase in interest in cybernetics over the last few years, this paper picks up where these debates left off and highlights some key points of contact between cybernetics and anarchism that have the potential to advance radical accounts of self-organisation. Based on a theoretical appraisal of the core texts and arguments in the debate around anarchism and cybernetics, the paper shows that the way in which hierarchy is formulated in cybernetic thought has a crucial impact on anarchist theory and practice and aids both academic approaches to social movements and, importantly, anarchist and radical left praxis. In addition, it provides a response to the critique of cybernetics in critical management studies that stands as a barrier to taking cybernetics seriously as a contribution to radical understandings of organisation.