Bob Black

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refusal of work, post-industrial society, Hunter-gatherer societies,

Bob Black (born Robert Charles Black, Jr. on January 4, 1951) is an American anarchist and lawyer. He is the author of The Abolition of Work and Other Essays, Beneath the Underground, Friendly Fire, Anarchy After Leftism, and numerous political essays. Kenn Thomas hailed Black in 1999 as a "defender of the most liberatory tendencies within modern anti-authoritarian thought".[1]



Beginning in the late 1970s, Bob Black was one of the earliest people to advocate what is now called post-left anarchy. In his vociferously confrontational writing style he has criticized many of the perceived sacred cows of leftist, anarchist, and activist thought. An unaffiliated New Leftist in his college years, Black became dissatisfied with authoritarian socialist ideology and after discovering anarchism spent much of his energy analyzing authoritarian tendencies within ostensibly "anti-authoritarian" groups. In his essay "My Anarchism Problem" he writes: "To call yourself an anarchist is to invite identification with an unpredictable array of associations, an ensemble which is unlikely to mean the same thing to any two people, including any two anarchists." Though not a self-proclaimed anarcho-primitivist, he sometimes writes for and has strongly influenced anarcho-primitivist publications.

Some of his work from the early 1980s (anthologized in The Abolition of Work and Other Essays) highlights his critiques of the nuclear freeze movement ("Anti-Nuclear Terror"), the editors of Processed World ("Circle A Deceit: A Review of Processed World"), radical feminists ("Feminism as Fascism"), and Libertarians ("The Libertarian As Conservative").

The Abolition of Work

The Abolition of Work, Black's most widely read essay, draws upon the ideas of Charles Fourier, William Morris, Herbert Marcuse, Peter Kropotkin, Paul Goodman, and Marshall Sahlins. In it he argues for the abolition of the producer and consumer-based society, where, Black contends, all of life is devoted to the production and consumption of commodities. Attacking Marxist state socialism as much as market capitalism, Black argues that the only way for humans to be free is to reclaim their time from jobs and employment, instead turning necessary subsistence tasks into free play done voluntarily - an approach referred to as "ludic". The essay argues that "no-one should ever work", because work - defined as compulsory productive activity enforced by economic or political means - is the source of most of the misery in the world. Black denounces work for its compulsion, and for the forms it takes - as subordination to a boss, as a "job" which turns a potentially enjoyable task into a meaningless chore, for the degradation imposed by systems of work-discipline, and for the large number of work-related deaths and injuries - which Black typifies as "homicide". He views the subordination enacted in workplaces as "a mockery of freedom", and denounces as hypocrites the various theorists who support freedom while supporting work. Subordination in work, Black alleges, makes people stupid and creates fear of freedom. Because of work, people become accustomed to rigidity and regularity, and do not have the time for friendship or meaningful activity. Most workers, he states, are dissatisfied with work (as evidenced by petty deviance on the job), so that what he says should be uncontroversial; however, it is controversial only because people are too close to the work-system to see its flaws.

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