In everyday communities and institutions – families, universities, businesses, clubs – we cannot help but engage in politics, in the sense of influencing or making collective decisions. I think political philosophy does better when it turns its attention to those communities and institutions smaller than the state, where most of our political actions take place: political philosophy should be a philosophy not just of the state but of office politics, of academic politics.
In that regard, I’ve noticed an interesting commonality between two works whose authors likely wouldn’t see themselves as having anything in common: Graeber and Wengrow’s anarchist anthropology The Dawn of Everything, and the standards set out by the Project Management Institute. Graeber and Wengrow look at a wide range of anthropological and archaeological sources on how humans organize their societies; the Project Management Institute examines how an individual (a project manager) can get a group of people to succeed at a collective institutional goal.
To the former (one of whom is the author of Bullshit Jobs), the latter probably looks like a deadening or sinister tool of The Man. To the latter, the former likely looks like a juvenile whining that refuses to sully its hands with getting anything done. Yet both concern themselves with the questions of how non-state institutions can be run: the latter in the day-to-day practice of making those institutions’ projects succeed, the former in imagining the functioning of a world without a state. And so both wind up exploring one core and inescapable concept: power.Continue reading