Kevin Carson

American academic

Kevin Amos Carson (born 1963) is an American author, anarchist and political theorist.

Quotes edit

  • In a very real sense, every subsidy and privilege ... is a form of slavery. Slavery, simply put, is the use of coercion to live off of someone else's labor. For example, consider the worker who pays $300 a month for a drug under patent, that would cost $30 in a free market. If he is paid $15 an hour, the eighteen hours he works every month to pay the difference are slavery. Every hour worked to pay usury on a credit card or mortgage is slavery. The hours worked to pay unnecessary distribution and marketing costs (comprising half of retail prices), because of subsidies to economic centralization, is slavery. Every additional hour someone works to meet his basic needs, because the state tilts the field in favor of the bosses and forces him to sell his labor for less than it is worth, is slavery. All these forms of slavery together probably amount to half our working hours. If we kept the full value of our labor, we could probably maintain current levels of consumption with a work week of twenty hours. As Bill Haywood said, for every man who gets a dollar he didn't sweat for, someone else sweated to produce a dollar he never received.
    • The Iron Fist Behind the Invisible Hand (2002)
The natural effect of unfettered market competition is socialism.
  • The natural effect of unfettered market competition is socialism. For a short time the innovator receives a large profit, as a reward for being first to the market. Then, as competitors adopt the innovation, competition drives these profits down to zero and the price gravitates toward the new, lower cost of production made possible by this innovation (that price including, of course, the cost of the producer’s maintenance and the amortization of her capital outlays). So in a free market, the cost savings in labor required to produce any given commodity would quickly be socialized in the form of reduced labor cost to purchase it.
  • When that happens, and the “World’s Sole Remaining Superpower” loses its early-adopter advantage, drone technology will work to the advantage of the side with the most decentralized, distributed organizational infrastructure, and the most widely dispersed and hardened end-points. And it will disproportionately hurt the side with the most centralized, hierarchical form of organization and the most concentrated target profile. Anyone want to venture a guess as to which respective sides fit those descriptions? Imagine, if you will, a world in which drones are cheap and widely available. Then stop and think about the target profile of the Empire and the corporate interests it serves. Imagine how easy it would be to get targeting information on the homes, churches and country clubs of the senior management and directors of the aerospace companies that make American drones. The Boardrooms and C-Suites themselves. The factories. The whole South Asian chain of command, from CINC CENTCOM down to battalion and flight headquarters. The logistical tail of the drones, including the control centers at every airbase from which drones are staged. Begin to get the picture?
    • Bring on the Drones! (2013)
  • . The central theme of contemporary autonomist Marxism is a shift from giant organizations and insurrectional seizure to gradualism and Exodus. The rapid transformation of the working class, the blurring of the lines between work and the rest of life, and the shift in meeting a growing share of our needs into the informal and social economy, mean that the Old Left’s workerism (and like Harry Cleaver, I include syndicalism and council communism in the Old Left), its focus on the production process as the center of society, and its treatment of the industrial proletariat as the subject of history, have become obsolete. In this regard, read Toni Negri’s contrast of the Multitude to previous Old Left ideas of the proletariat. Mostly, I call it a heroic fantasy because any model that envisions a post-capitalist transition based on the universal adoption of any monolithic, schematized social model is as ridiculous as Socrates and Glaucon discussing what musical instruments and poetic metres will be permitted in the perfect state. The real world version of the post-capitalist transition — just as with the transition to capitalism five centuries earlier — isn’t a matter of any single cohesive social class, as the subject of history, systematically remaking the world guided by some single, comprehensive ideology, and organized around a uniform institutional model. It’s a matter of a wide variety of prefigurative institutions and technological building blocks that already exist in the present society, continuing to grow and coalesce together until they reach sufficient critical mass for a phase transition — a phase transition whose outlines can only be guessed at in the most general terms. This is the model advocated by Michel Bauwens, by Paul Mason, by John Holloway, by Peter Frase, and by a lot of other people who can hardly be fitted into any American individualist ghetto.
    • 'In Which the Anarcho-Syndicalists Discover C4SS' (2016)
  • The key to efficiency, for the New Class, was to remove as much of life as possible from the domain of "politics" (that is, interference by non-professionals) and to place it under the control of competent authorities. "Democracy" was recast as a periodic legitimation ritual, with the individual returning between elections to his proper role of sitting down and shutting up. In virtually every area of life, the average citizen was to be transformed from Jefferson's self-sufficient and resourceful yeoman into a client of some bureaucracy or other. The educational system was designed to render him a passive and easily managed recipient of the "services" of one institution after another.

Studies in Mutualist Political Economy (2007) edit

  • Vulgar libertarian apologists for capitalism use the term "free market" in an equivocal sense: they seem to have trouble remembering, from one moment to the next, whether they’re defending actually existing capitalism or free market principles. ... When prodded, they’ll grudgingly admit that the present system is not a free market, and that it includes a lot of state intervention on behalf of the rich. But as soon as they think they can get away with it, they go right back to defending the wealth of existing corporations.
    • Studies in Mutualist Political Economy (2007), Chapter 4.

Organization Theory: A Libertarian Perspective (2008) edit

  • The great investors are almost entirely clueless as to what their supposed “employees,” the corporation managers are doing. The CEOs are almost entirely clueless as to what the branch and facility managers are doing. And the management of each facility are almost entirely clueless as to what is going on within the black box of the actual production process. In the light of this reality, Mises’ “entrepreneur”—so carefully and closely involved in the minutiae of choosing between technical possibilities of production, a brooding omnipresence guiding the efforts of every employee—is largely a construction of fantasy. It’s quite ironic, in fact, considering that Mises starts out the block quote above with the announcement that the entrepreneur is not omnipresent.
    • Organization Theory: A Libertarian Perspective (2008), Chapter 7
  • We have probably already passed a “singularity,” a point of no return, in the use of networked information warfare. It took some time for employers to reach a consensus that the old corporate liberal labor regime no longer served their interests, and to take note of and fully exploit the union-busting potential of Taft-Hartley. But once they began to do so, the implosion of Wagner-style unionism was preordained. Likewise, it will take time for the realization to dawn on workers that things are only getting worse, that there’s no hope in traditional unionism, and that in a networked world they have the power to bring the employer to his knees by their own direct action. But when they do, the outcome is also probably preordained. The twentieth century was the era of the giant organization. By the end of the twenty-first, there probably won’t be enough of them left to bury.
    • Organization Theory: A Libertarian Perspective (2008), Chapter 9

Homebrew Industrial Revolution (2010) edit

  • The shift to the pre‐job pattern of self‐employment in the informal sector promises to eliminate this pathological culture in which one secures his livelihood by winning the approval of an authority figure. In my opinion, therefore, we should take advantage of the opportunity to eliminate this pattern of livelihood, instead of—as Ford proposes—replacing the boss with a bureaucrat as the authority figure on whose whims our livelihood depends. The sooner we destroy the idea of the “job” as a primary source of livelihood, and replace the idea of work as something we’re given with the idea of work as something we do, the better. And then we should sow the ground with salt.
    • Homebrew Industrial Revolution (2010), Chapter 3
  • But the point, as I argued with Caplan, is not that managers are inherently less intelligent or capable as individuals. Rather, it’s that hierarchical organizations are—to borrow that wonderful phrase from Feldman and March—systematically stupid. For all the same Hayekian reasons that make a planned economy unsustainable, no individual is “smart” enough to manage a large, hierarchical organization. Nobody–not Einstein, not John Galt–possesses the qualities to make a bureaucratic hierarchy function rationally. Nobody’s that smart, any more than anybody’s smart enough to run Gosplan efficiently–that’s the whole point. No matter how insightful and resourceful they are, no matter how prudent, as human beings in dealing with actual reality, nevertheless by their very nature hierarchies insulate those at the top from the reality of what’s going on below, and force them to operate in imaginary worlds where all their intelligence becomes useless. No matter how intelligent managers are as individuals, a bureaucratic hierarchy makes their intelligence less usable.
    • Homebrew Industrial Revolution (2010), Chapter 7.
  • Localized, small‐scale economies are the rats in the dinosaurs’ nests. The informal and household economy operates more efficiently than the capitalist economy, and can function on the waste byproducts of capitalism. It is resilient and replicates virally. In an environment in which resources for technological development have been almost entirely diverted toward corporate capitalism, it takes technologies that were developed to serve corporate capitalism, adapts them to small‐scale production, and uses them to destroy corporate capitalism. In fact, it’s almost as though the dinosaurs themselves had funded a genetic research lab to breed mammals: “Let’s reconfigure the teeth so they’re better for sucking eggs, and ramp up the metabolism to survive a major catastrophe—like, say, an asteroid collision. Nah, I don’t really know what it would be good for—but what the fuck, the Pangean Ministry of Defense is paying for it!”
    • Homebrew Industrial Revolution (2010), Chapter 7

"The Iron Fist Behind the Invisible Hand: Capitalism As a State-Guaranteed System of Privilege" (2011) edit

Full text at
  • Capitalism was founded on an act of robbery as massive as feudalism. It has been sustained to the present by continual state intervention to protect its system of privilege, without which its survival is unimaginable.
  • From the outset of the industrial revolution, what is nostalgically called "laissez-faire" was in fact a system of continuing state intervention to subsidize accumulation, guarantee privilege, and maintain work discipline.
  • The single biggest subsidy to modern corporate capitalism is the subsidy of history, by which capital was originally accumulated in a few hands, and labor was deprived of access to the means of production and forced to sell itself on the buyer's terms. The current system of concentrated capital ownership and large-scale corporate organization is the direct beneficiary of that original structure of power and property ownership, which has perpetuated itself over the centuries.
  • Ideological hegemony is the process by which the exploited come to view the world through a conceptual framework provided to them by their exploiters. It acts first of all to conceal class conflict and exploitation behind a smokescreen of "national unity" or "general welfare." Those who point to the role of the state as guarantor of class privilege are denounced, in theatrical tones of moral outrage, for "class warfare."
  • The manufacture of foreign crisis and war hysteria has been used since the beginning of history to suppress threats to class rule.
  • War crimes are only committed by defeated powers. (But as the Nazis learned in 1945, unemployed war criminals can usually find work with the new hegemonic power.)
  • Foreign war is a very useful tool for manipulating the popular mind and keeping the domestic population under control. War is the easiest way to shift vast, unaccountable new powers to the State. People are most uncritically obedient at the very time they need to be most vigilant.
  • Capitalism could not have survived at any point in its history without state intervention. Coercive state measures at every step have denied workers access to capital, forced them to sell their labor in a buyer's market, and protected the centers of economic power from the dangers of the free market.

The Desktop Regulatory State (2016) edit

  • Most of the constantly rising burden of paperwork exists to give an illusion of transparency and control to a bureaucracy that is out of touch with the actual production process. Every new layer of paperwork is added to address the perceived problem that stuff still isn’t getting done the way management wants, despite the proliferation of paperwork saying everything has being done exactly according to orders. In a hierarchy, managers are forced to regulate a process which is necessarily opaque to them because they are not directly engaged in it. They’re forced to carry out the impossible task of developing accurate metrics to evaluate the behavior of subordinates, based on the self-reporting of people with whom they have a fundamental conflict of interest. The paperwork burden that management imposes on workers reflects an attempt to render legible a set of social relationships that by its nature must be opaque and closed to them, because they are outside of it. Each new form is intended to remedy the heretofore imperfect self-reporting of subordinates. The need for new paperwork is predicated on the assumption that compliance must be verified because those being monitored have a fundamental conflict of interest with those making the policy, and hence cannot be trusted; but at the same time, the paperwork itself relies on their self-reporting as the main source of information. Every time new evidence is presented that this or that task isn’t being performed to management’s satisfaction, or this or that policy isn’t being followed, despite the existing reams of paperwork, management’s response is to design yet another—and equally useless—form.
    • The Desktop Regulatory State (2016), Chapter 2

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