On the Possibility of Democratic Institutions

Just read this stimulating piece by Murray Bookchin.  I am a sucker for all things Spanish Revolution (even the old one ;-)).  I like the challenge he offers us libertarian-anarchist leaning folks not be content with a rejection of power.  He insists that we not hope for a world without power, but think how we can “give power a concrete institutional emancipatory form.”  The question, he argues, “is not whether power will exist but whether it will rest in the hands of an elite or in the hands of the people.”

I think I am happy with my approach to this problem, which is that we should accept that power and institutions cannot be eliminated, and we should reject the idea of a perfect society at the end of history, but we shouldn’t think of power “resting” anywhere, at a fixed point.  Rather we must perpetually struggle to democratize ourselves, our institutions, and our society.  Bookchin seems to be unconcerned about the dangers of the workers surrendering the power they had won to a plenum, to an institution that would rule them with their own power.  In that case, the power would not rest in the hands of the people, but in the plenum.  Those are real dangers, even if the plenum is not the same thing as the liberal bourgeois state.  It is an important problem, one we are likely to struggle with for a long time.