Thursday, February 28, 2008

Book Review - Alongside Night

Alongside Night is the first novel published by author Joesph Neil Shulman, about the formation of an agorist anarchist society in America during a severe economic crisis. To call this novel simplistic is somewhat understated, but never the less, the novel is suitable for young adults with little to no understanding of anarchism or agorist principles.

The story itself is fast paced, but fails to deliever on important and vital details on social aspects of the society. However, the novel does give a thorough explanation of economic agorism.

The Revolutionary Agorist Cadre is a group of anarcho-capitalists' who have managed to form a society within a society during the demise of the American economy. Possessing gold (or counter-currency) is an offence, (mimicked in real life by the New Hampshire Liberty Dollar), and inflation is so high that parallels can only be drawn to the current economic crisis in Zimbabwe where inflation runs at 100,000% a year. Agorist currency is the gold standard, or European currency unaffected by inflation.

Members of the cadre are required to sign a contract:-

"Arbitration shall enforce the law of the contract to effectuate its purposes, and shall decide the issues by the application of reason to the facts under the guidance of the Law of Equal Liberty (each has the right to do with his/ her own what he/she wishes so long as he/she does not forcibly interfere with the equal right of another)."

The contract called the Submission to Arbitrate enables business between members for the economic benefits of both parties under the proviso that no harm or force must come between them, less they be held accountable by the arbitration committee. This contract is meant to serve as an alternative to mafia tactics (common among underground societies) for those who fail to meet their agreed upon responsibilities. The arbitration committee uses economic sanctions to maintain order within the Agorist Cadre, who retain control of the nation un-surprisingly through the threat of military force, namely nuclear weapons. No doubt exactly what would be required in real life.

However, there are more questions raised than answered in Alongside Night as to how exactly this agorist utopia would function. In terms of economic considerations, the novel is quite explicit, while other more social concerns are ignored. "Laissez-faire" or free market is used in the novel by cadre members as a greeting, and no doubt used as repetitive mind control in the novel, forgetting that the free market is not an end in itself, as not all considerations are economic. Free market demand can include prostitution and narcotics, which when left un-regulated, presume ably is left to the arbitration committee to sort out. But what are the long term impacts of the arbitration committee? Is it the equivalent to legal precedent?
Further, the idea of arbitration is only valid when the committee for arbitration is separated from the cadre to ensure integrity. How in practise would this work, and what procedure is in effect to stop the wealth of the nation becoming concentrated into the hands of a few? What will be used to stop the formation of cartels if the only sanctions are economic, and cartels can afford the inconvenience of fees? We are left to ponder these issues for ourselves.

One of these social examples sees our female hero Lorimer witness an orgy in the cadre complex, which seems to fit in with agorist principle. "Live and Let Live". It reminds me of an article I read from the New Right - The Tyranny of Individualism - where at the Love Parade in San Francisco, men can be seen walking around the streets masturbating. Personally, I can't accept this sexual "free market" proposed by Shulman in Alongside Night, but I respect the position of not forcing my "prudish" manner onto those who would want such a free market. For these reasons, I will accept the economic agorist principle, but for social considerations, I will accept a more national anarchist approach. That is, community members who wish to have a sexual free market with on the street masturbating, will only be able to do so without offending the right of conservative anarchists like myself if they are segregated into their own communities, with trade relationships between them.

All in all the book is worth a read.

3 comments:

Royce Christian said...

I apologise for not checking this out sooner. I can't remember what happened - I probably put it aside and said 'I will look at it when I'm free,' but then forgotten completely about it.

Anyway, to the review. I agree completely that the book is simplistic and it seems to follow in the path of other Libertarian-esque style novels loaded with political commentary. The idea behind gold being banned relates to previous US history where Roosevelt(?) banned people from owning or carrying gold. This is where it comes from as is supposed to be a slap in the face to that time. It's also wise to note that Europe's currency in the novel is unaffected by inflation because it adheres to a gold standard, unlike the American currency.

"who retain control of the nation un-surprisingly through the threat of military force, namely nuclear weapons. No doubt exactly what would be required in real life."

Forgive me for arguing semantics, but I'd just point out they retain security from invasion by other powers that would love to invade the US by detonating a nuke in the ocean and claiming they have placed fake nukes in military bases of opportunistic powers. I completely agree though that such a tactic may very well need to be replicated in any real situation.

When you ask, 'how would society function,' you miss the point of Agorist Anarchist theory. Society as a separate being doesn't really exist, but if society runs off anything, it's the free market - all voluntary non-coercive exchanges that take place. Once the economics are in place so they people can prosper and that's all agorists concern themselves with. Specifying exactly how a society will function is both futile and impossible as blueprints never work. The only appropriate answer is, 'I don't know,' and 'People will take care of things themselves under the right conditions'. Agorists only concern themselves with providing the right conditions.

'"Laissez-faire" or free market is used in the novel by cadre members as a greeting, and no doubt used as repetitive mind control'

The only thing I will say about this claim is that it is influenced by a novel by Ayn Rand where the phrase, 'Who is John Galt?' becomes a sign of oppression and hopelessness. It's not intended to be 'repetitive mind control' but a sign of resistance.

To the rest of your questions that concern Agorism in some way, I'll answer in a private email when I get the chance. At the moment I'm not really in the right frame of mind to be able to type out another epic email.

However, the important question at this interval is what potential do you think counter economics has?

Alex said...

In regards to defense and anarchism. - In would require nuclear weapons. Not for us, but for the threat of use. I like to think of the Amish as an example of a successful Anarchist community. They exist purely by the alturism of the state. If the state so wished it, they could "crush"/ assimilate that community. Hence, defence of your community is needed.

While I am a passivist anarchist, I recognise the reality that other nations/ states are not so benevolent.

Agorists only concern themselves with providing the right conditions.

I couldn't agree more! Which is why I make the statement, that the theory of agorism is purely an economic system and nothing more. A society requires more than an economic system, thats one of the reasons society is where it is today. Too much focus on economics alone.


I said that Lassiz-faire is mind control, because one of the simplest methods of mind control is repetition. Its used to convince the reader that a free market is the solution to all of the worlds woes. Agorism is an economic system, nothing more.

I 100% support counter currency and definitely believe its got some serious potential to make some real and positive change in the world. I would love to see the Liberty Dollar make it's way to Australia.

Royce Christian said...

I 100% support counter currency and definitely believe its got some serious potential to make some real and positive change in the world. I would love to see the Liberty Dollar make it's way to Australia.

Well you can except counter economic activity to generate competing currencies. I don't think the liberty dollar is going to make its way to Australia. In fact I think the guys who created the liberty dollar got what they deserved in a sense - you don't go out of your way to antagonise the American federal government and expect to be left alone. They were stupid - they made a severe tactical error and they paid for it.

Agorism is an economic system, nothing more.

Well that still doesn't change the fact that the use of Laissez Fare as a goodbye term was solely symbolic, intended to embody the kind of passive resistance that Agorists advocate.