On Being Anti-Imperial: Consensus Building, Anarchism, and ADR
Law, Culture and the Humanities, Forthcoming
27 Pages Posted: 22 Jul 2011 Last revised: 15 Sep 2011
Date Written: July 22, 2011
This Comment examines the reach and possible limits of “imperial legality” by comparing two kinds of practices intended to enable actors to resolve conflicts and make collective decisions without the force of sovereign impositions: contemporary anarchism, which has become an influential part of the anti-neoliberal globalization movement, on the one hand, and professional consensus building, which is rapidly emerging as part of the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) movement, on the other hand. Although both sets of practices are intensely focused on generating consensus, this comparison highlights the different conceptions of process that they employ. Professional consensus building’s capacity to render itself “merely” procedure - a means to further another set of ends - makes it remarkably easy to scale up to imperial proportions. By contrast, anarchism’s vision of process aspires to collapse distinctions between means and ends, refuses to constrain anyone who does not participate, and seeks transformation deep in the minutia of selves, social practices, and political relations. As a result, it is much more recalcitrant - and, perhaps more to the point, much less desirable - than ADR to redirect for imperial ends. The Comment thus explores how consensual processes offer their subjects an ideal of legality that is alternatively amenable or hostile to imperial ambitions.
Keywords: anarchism, consensus, radical democracy, imperialism, alternative dispute resolution
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