The purpose of this is to attempt broaching a debate of informal anarchist praxis that focuses on contexts which I lack the terminology to succinctly describe. The problem of terminology arises because the contexts with which I’m concerned are social spaces where numerous identities congregate and loosely compose a vague culture through familiarity and consistency. While there are a variety of terms that approximate a description of these contexts, they are unsuitable. Participants in these spaces vary in terms of race, class, sexuality, religion, and other usual sociological categories. Yet, they don’t come together in anything that could be considered a coherent culture.
One way to describe these spaces is to consider them the buffers, interfaces, and filters between mainstream culture and subculture. They open up at particular hangouts (bars, venues, local eateries, etc.) and appeal to both more isolated, inwardly facing counter-cultures and those exploring cultural regions (and values) slightly outside a mainstream comfort zone. Consequently, these are spaces where counter-cultural individuals come into contact with the mainstream in more relaxed and intimate environments; spaces where individuals with different backgrounds and values become less “othered”/objectified without the social constraints of the workplace, the school, or any other place with narrowly defined purpose.
These hangouts and the proto-cultures which are constituted and expressed through them offer a variety of potential. They are the immediate outside of more coherent subcultures which individuals participate in and where newcomers find avenues into more underground spaces. Conversely, they are also spaces where capitalists constantly attempt to advertise their products and services, attempting to become staple features of them through sponsorship, branding, and other interventions. This itself creates an underlying conflict of values between culture and capital. At the same time, these are also spaces where individuals are often at odds with the State as it acts to regulate noise and rowdiness, set points of surveillance to apprehend intoxicated drivers, and infiltrate undercover to gather intelligence.
For the above reasons and many others, anarchists may often avoid such spaces as much as possible. These spaces are often rampant with sexism, racism, homophobia, fighting, superficial rituals, and general stupidity. The entertainment they offer is usually of a mediocre variety in attempt to appeal to a lowest common denominator of cultural taste and tolerance. Their accessibility is somewhat oriented around consumption, therefore suggesting participants have some money to spare. In all of their flexibility, they are still spaces mostly structured by privately owned local businesses and are accordingly rigid. Though all of the above is true, anarchists don’t simply ignore the existence of these spaces. They are spaces which have become a fixture of contemporary society and if anything, represent a potent model of social life to be critiqued, attacked, embraced, and/or supported. As such, a discussion about these spaces could prove quite useful.
I think this is a topic that almost everyone should be able to have something to say about, which is usually discussed abstractly (and confusingly), and directly pertains to revolutionizing everyday life in one way or another. I invite anyone with an interest in informal anarchist praxis to participate in discussing the features of these spaces in their locality, but also keeping in mind broader regional potentials. Feel free to describe your personal experiences, attempts at organizing, critiques, and other thoughts.