Part II. Intersections
“Anarchism has but one infallible, unchangeable motto, ‘Freedom.’ Freedom to discover any truth, freedom to develop, to live naturally and fully.”
“By anarchist spirit I mean that deeply human sentiment, which aims at the good of all, freedom and justice for all, solidarity and love among the people; which is not an exclusive characteristic only of self-declared anarchists, but inspires all people who have a generous heart and an open mind.”
“You cannot buy the revolution. You cannot make the revolution. You can only be the revolution. It is in your spirit, or it is nowhere.”
—Ursula K. Le Guin
“Intersectionality, Species and Social Domination” makes the case that anarchism is highly open to, if not already characterized by, intersectionality. Erika Cudworth considers the history of anarchist thought and practical political engagement to demonstrate concern with an eclectic range of dominations—around “race,” ethnicity and nation; caste, class and wealth; formations of sex, sexuality and gender; colonialism, imperialism and warfare amongst others. This openness of anarchism to considering multiple forms of domination, she suggests, means that it is well-suited to develop powerful critiques of the human domination of other animals. The essay begins with a consideration of two important anarchist contributions to debates on human relations with other animals: those of Kropotkin and Bookchin, both of whom see humanity as co-constituted in “federations” of life with nonhumans, despite Bookchin’s inability to move decisively away from the dichotomy between humans and other animals. The essay proceeds to examine anarchist work which foregrounds the intersectionalized oppression of humans and other animals, arguing that while intersectionality and social domination are increasingly engaged with by both anarchism and animal liberation discourse, there is a significant way to go. Nevertheless, anarchist theory and politics—opposed as they are, to a range of dominations that are understood to be interlinked and interdependent—are highly compatible with a politics which contests the human oppression and exploitation of nonhuman animals.
Intersectionality, Species and Social Domination
An anarchist society is one “which organizes itself without authority” (Ward, cited Marshall, 1992, p. 42). Hierarchical and exclusive forms of social organization are usually understood by anarchists to be forms of domination. It is unsurprising then, that the history of anarchist thought and practical political engagement demonstrates a concern with an eclectic range of dominations—around “race,” ethnicity and nation; caste, class and wealth; formations of sex, sexuality and gender; colonialism, imperialism and warfare amongst others. These forms of social domination have been at least as significant in anarchism as the focus on the state and governance; for some scholars and activists, more so. This concern with challenging multiple sites of power has led to anarchism being presented implicitly as a challenge to dominatory power. Alternatively, the coupling of anarchism with other explicit challenges (anarcha-feminism, anarcho-communism, green anarchism, queer anarchism and so on, or multiple chains thereof!) illustrates the eclecticism of the anarchist challenge. We might say, therefore, that anarchism is highly open to intersectionality, if not already characterized by it.
The term “intersectionality” is now widely used. Its origins are feminist, specifically, black feminist scholarship’s attempts to theorize the overlapping qualities, as well as the tensions between formations of “race” and gender (see Crenshaw, 1991). The empirical and theoretical exploration of the ways different kinds of domination impact on one another has been a feminist preoccupation since the mid-1970s, and this has included, for some, an interrogation of the binary distinction between “human” and “animal” (for rather different accounts, see Adams, 1976; Haraway, 1989). This has gone against the presumption of academic social science that we are “supposed to study people, not other creatures” (Kruse, 2002, p. 375). Arnold Arluke (2004) has noted that it is not only mainstream scholarship which has been characterized by “androcentrism” (as he puts it). Radical and critical scholarship has also been highly resistant to the study of nonhuman animals, shaped by the belief that studying animals lessens or undermines the notion of oppression. This essay challenges anarchism to think about species seriously as a form of social domination, and reflect on the humanocentrism and human exclusivity that characterizes much of both historical and contemporary scholarship. It is not my intention to document this here, rather, to suggest that the openness of anarchism to considering multiple forms of domination means that it is well-suited to develop powerful critiques of the human domination of other animals.
We begin with a consideration of two anarchist contributions to debates on human relations with other animals. First, Kropotkin’s contribution to understanding species in terms of differentiations rather than differences and his notion that we are co-constituted in “federations” of life with nonhumans. This conceptualization links him to contemporary scholars in animal studies who question hierarchical models of species distinction. While owing much to Kropotkin, and also being highly attentive to the “linked hierarchies” of intra-human domination and the necessity of challenging the exploitation of non-human nature, anarchist political ecologist Murray Bookchin held fast to the dichotomy between humans and all other animals. While I will endorse Bookchin’s wide-ranging understanding of the linked emergence of hierarchy and the necessity of challenging multiple forms of social domination, I critique his “humanocentrism” (Bekoff, 2002).
Other kinds of critical political theory, particularly feminism, have effectively problematized such distinctions and have longstanding engagements with ideas about linked hierarchies and dominations. Some, such as Carol Adams and Val Plumwood, have developed approaches to human relations with non-human animals framed by what is now commonly referred to as “intersectionality.” My intention is to draw on feminist influenced accounts of human relations with nonhuman animals as constituted by relations of intra-human oppression and exploitation in arguing that in seeking to challenge varied forms of domination, anarchism must also attend to the domination of nonhuman animals. The essay closes with the examination of some anarchist work which foregrounds the intersectionalised oppression of humans and other animals. I will argue that while ideas of intesectionality and social domination are increasingly engaged with both anarchism and animal liberation discourse, there is a significant way to go. I argue that both anarchist theory and anarchist politics—opposed as they are, to a range of dominations that they see as interlinked and interdependent—are compatible with a politics which contests the human oppression and exploitation of nonhuman animals.
Glimpses of the NonHuman in Some Anarchist Thought
The Western conception of the human as an autonomous, rational being able to make decisions and choices about actions has only developed alongside, and in contradistinction to, the “animal.” These conceptions of autonomy and rationality have been important to all Western left political projects, including anarchism. It is not my intention to give a comprehensive overview of the way species has, or rather more often, has not, featured in the history of anarchist thinking. Rather, I want to consider two well-known anarchist writers for whom species and species relations have featured. Neither Kropotkin nor Bookchin are referenced much in work within “animal studies,” but certainly they have a contribution to make. They also, of course, link anarchism to critical perspectives on humanocentrism.
In addition to his work as a political theorist and revolutionary, Kropotkin (1842–1921) was a geographer and a biologist who challenged the ways in which Darwin’s theory of evolution had been interpreted. Kropotkin argued that the metaphor of the survival of the fittest had become the central way in which evolutionary theory had been explained. The focus on competition over-stated one aspect of evolution, ignoring the significance of co-operation within species; rather, “sociability is as much a law of nature as mutual struggle.” (Kropotkin, 1987a, p. 24). Starting with an examination of nonhuman animals Kropotkin claimed that “natural selection continually seeks out the ways precisely for avoiding competition as much as possible” (1987a, p. 72). He noted how few animal species exist by directly competing with each other compared to the numbers who practice “mutual aid,” and that those who do are likely to experience the best evolutionary prospects. Given this, it is therefore unlikely that humans should have flourished so successfully without co-operation (1987a, p. 74). Sociability is inherent in the success of humans as a species (1987b). Drawing upon the work of anthropologists, and the observations of Darwin, Kropotkin argued that from the earliest times, humans were social rather than individualistic, and dependent on “the support they found in their surroundings” (1987a: 154). Contemporary biologists might describe this in terms of co-evolution—natural systems developing as a result of interactions with their “environment” and the incredible variety of nonhuman life forms therein (Kauffman, 1993). Mutual aid has been, Kropotkin argues, a feature of human existence that has widened its reach, ultimately potentially to the whole human species and beyond its boundaries (1987a, p. 234). The story of evolution in Kropotkin is not one of a path towards fixed things, but a process of relationships and linked becoming. Species is not a fixed taxonomy but about the recognition of what Darwin calls “differentiations.” Mutual Aid stressed the process of evolution as one where successful adaptation and exploitation of evolutionary niches is secured by species’ propensity for co-operation and solidarity or what biologists might now refer to as symbiogenesis (Margulis and Sagan, 2002, p. 205). This order can be spontaneous and progressive. As Marshall notes, anarchists “consider society to be a self-regulating order which develops best when least interfered with” (1993, p. 13), and this order, in Kropotkin, is not human-exclusive.
Many of Kropotkin’s ideas are elaborated in the work of Murray Bookchin, who has been instrumental in linking anarchism to green social and political thought in the development of “social ecology.” In his best known work, The Ecology of Freedom, Bookchin gives an account of the emergence of social hierarchies. These emerged with, first, the oppression of women, proceeding to the exploitation and oppression of other groups of humans, socially stratified according to age, “race,” class and sexuality (2005, p. 24). The notion of overlapping and intersected forms of social domination which are systemic and co-constituting is clearly compatible with an intersectionalised analysis of social domination. In addition, Bookchin’s understanding of the hybridized and amorphous nature of contemporary political systems embedded firmly in the social fabric and constantly in the processes of arranging and rearranging social life—can be given a posthumanist reading (see in particular Bookchin, 2005, pp. 191–200). However, although Bookchin is to be applauded for his conception of humans as in and of nature, he holds to a problematic human exclusivity when it comes to considering relations between human and other species. He cannot account for human domination of other species, domination that for some feminist scholars (such as Fisher, 1979) predated, and was the model for, the oppression of women.
A key reason for this lies in the distinction Bookchin makes between “first” and “second” nature. For Bookchin, humans as a species have developed to an exceptional degree such that they have produced a “second nature,” that is, a “uniquely human culture, a wide variety of institutionalized human communities, an effective human technics, a richly symbolic language, and a carefully managed source of nutriment” (Bookchin, 1990, p. 162). This is a development out of “first nature,” or “nonhuman nature.” An important distinction between human and nonhuman nature is hierarchy, “institutionalized and highly ideological systems of command and obedience,” which are an “exclusive characteristic of second nature” (Bookchin, 2005, p. 26). Hierarchy is not a defining feature of second nature (human culture), but one that has emerged historically. Earlier, societies were non-hierarchic, and characterized by mutualism, where care was taken for all members of society, without attributing particular status to differences between its members. Over time, Bookchin suggests that hierarchic relations emerged related primarily to gender, age and lineage, developing into the range of hierarchic distinctions that typify the contemporary world. Our current malaise is a result of an evolutionary history containing two competing logics—that of spontaneous mutualistic ecological differentiation, and that of social domination (Light, 1998, p. 7). Similarly to Kropotkin, Bookchin considers that species exist in relations of mutual interdependence and co-operation and the concept of species co-evolution and ‘federations’ of life forms, runs through both Mutual Aid and The Ecology of Freedom.
However, Bookchin’s Enlightenment narrative in The Ecology of Freedom tells of an evolution to a higher level of consciousness culminating in a state of “free nature” in which intra human hierarchies are dissolved and the domination of the environment is no more—it is inferred by this that animals will be liberated through our Enlightened protectionism which enables other species to flourish. However, the human domain remains unique and distinct (Bookchin, 2005, p. 458). While I would concur with Bookchin that the human world has certain unique properties, the hard distinction of human worlds from those of all other species is an unnecessary and humanocentric move. Bookchin is careful to track the development of different forms of intrahuman domination, their distinct qualities and co-constituted aspects. When it comes to the human domination of “first nature,” however, there is a reductionist argument made that the end of intra human domination will simply result in the demise of the exploitation and oppression of nonhuman beings.
This said, both Kropotkin and Bookchin provide us with a useful legacy that might be drawn into critical work in animal studies. For example, the insight that many species have overlapping forms of “species life” with humans, with certain needs, forms of sociality and ecological and cross-species dependency; the challenge in Kropotkin of the presumption of human separateness from “other” animals, arguing that we should think about “differentiations” rather than differences. Differentiations of species, and particular social, economic and ecological contexts give rise to different kinds of human animal relationship that sociological animal studies has been concerned with, such as the use of certain nonhuman animals as laborers of various kinds; as food and resources; as “companions”; as human entertainment, and so on. We might best understand these socially constituted categorizations as carrying relations of human power, and that power is very often not benign. The next section considers the idea of species as a political category and the notion of species difference as a form of social domination. Bookchin’s conceptual framework of linked domination makes its presence felt here as the domination of species has been seen to be bound up with intra-human forms of domination.
Intersectionality and Dominations
Peter Singer is a much associated with the use of the terminology of “liberation” and “oppression” to describe human relations with animals. The key concept underpinning Singer’s contributions is “speciesism,” discrimination based upon species membership. The undoubted strength of theorizing as Singer does, in terms of the interests of nonhuman animals, has been to set an agenda in which the lives and well-being of nonhuman animals is analytically foregrounded. To consider “species” as a problematic, socially constituted and oppressive category has been a highly important innovation, problematizing the certainties and the qualities of human power. Decades have passed since arguments were made for the sentience of animals and the irrationality of the ways in which humans treat them, yet fundamental changes in human relations with nonhuman animals have been negligible. Singer scorns the suggestion that a failure of his position on animal liberation was that he did not attend to the intersection of the oppression of nonhuman animals with some of those animals we call human (Cudworth, 2011a, p. 56). Yet this has been the problem.
Other work in animal studies has usefully stressed the operationalization of speciesism as a discourse of power rather than a form of discrimination. These accounts are often intersectional; considering the ways in which the discourse of species is constituted with other discourses around human difference and domination. Cary Wolfe, for example, is clear that while “the violent effects of the discourse of speciesism fall overwhelmingly in institutional terms, on nonhuman animals” (Wolfe, 2003a, p. 6), the “discourse of animality [has] historically served as a crucial strategy in the oppression of humans by other humans” (Wolfe, 2003b, p. xx).
This questioning of the way in which overlapping discourses co-constitute forms of Othering has a long legacy in feminist and postcolonial theory, and in particular in ecofeminist work. Some of those attempting to understand the cross cutting of multiple social inequalities with gender, have used the term “intersectionality” to emphasize the ways social differences and dominations are mutually constitutive. The effects of, for example, “race” for gender are not simply an overlapping of inequalities. Gender relations, through intersection, change the properties of “race” (McCall, 2005; Phoenix and Pattynama, 2006). While the term “intersectionality” emerged from black feminism in the U.S. (Crenshaw, 1991), this focus on multiple inequalities and forms of social domination has been a characteristic of socialist feminist writing (Walby, 1990, 2009, 2011, p. 125–46) as well as ecofeminism (Cudworth, 2005; Sturgeon, 2009).
From the early 1970s ecofeminists suggested that cultural discourses carry binary normalizations that construct a dichotomy between women and “nature,” including the multifarious species of nonhuman animal, and male-dominated, Western, human culture. The arguments presented often drew on a form of standpoint epistemology: gender roles constituted through such discourses (such as social practices of care) render women in closer material proximity and relation to the environment and nonhuman animals (Salamone, 1982). Additionally, it was contended that women may empathize with the sufferings of animals as they have some common experiences, for example female domestic animals are most likely to be “oppressed” via control of their sexuality and reproductive powers (Benny, 1983). Others examined the speciesism of linguistic practices and the links between this and our gendered and radicalized use of language (Dunnayer, 1995; Adams, 1990, 2003); or looked at the interrelations between gender and the environmental and species impact of colonial practices (Lee Shanchez, 1993; Shantu Riley, 1993). Such writing has been influential in alerting us to the intersectionalised qualities of oppression. However, there is often a tendency in this literature to deploy an all-encompassing theory of gender relations to explain intersected oppressions. For example, Suzanne Kappeler has asserted that patriarchy is “the pivot of all speciesism, racism, ethnicism, and nationalism” (1995, p. 348). Val Plumwood sees gender, nature, race, colonialism and class as interfacing in a “network” or “web” of oppressive relations (1993, p. 2, 194). Ultimately however, forms of domination have “a unified overall mode of operation, forming a single system” with a “common structure and ideology” (1994, p. 79, my emphasis). These approaches provide a powerful analysis of the ways the social system of gender relations is co-constituted through ideas and practices around ‘nature’ and species relations. However, there is a tendency towards conflation in ecofeminist accounts, inviting criticism for an over-general use of a theory of patriarchy, which is presumed to account for a wide range of oppressive relations.
David Nibert’s work has been important in foregrounding an analysis of capitalism in understanding our relations with nonhuman animals. Nibert (2002, p. 7) explicitly uses the concept of oppression in relation to the historical development of human relations with nonhuman animals. He argues that social institutions are foundational for the oppression of animals—not the individual attitudes and moral deficiencies implied by Singer. Nibert isolates three elements in his model of oppression. First, we have economic exploitation where animals are exploited for human interests and tastes; second, power inequalities coded in law leave animals open to exploitation; and third, this is legitimated by an ideology of speciesism which naturalizes the oppression of animals in its many forms. Contemporary cultural processes and institutional arenas through which animals are exploited and oppressed—zoos, the breeding and keeping of “pets,” the “use” of animals in research, hunting, farming and slaughter are explained in terms of profit creation, corporate interest and the generation and sustaining of false commodity needs. Nibert acknowledges his debt to ecofeminist writers and his understanding of the concept of oppression is very much influenced by its use in feminist theory (such as Young, 1990). Nibert even appears to endorse a model of interacting systems of oppression: “the arrangements that lead to various forms of oppression are integrated in such a way that the exploitation of one group frequently augments and compounds the mistreatment of others” (Nibert, 2002, p. 4, original italics). Disappointingly however, the overriding thesis is that the human oppression of other animals is caused and reproduced by relations of capitalism (2002, p. 3). While I concur with Nibert on the oppression and exploitation of domesticates in animal agriculture, an explanation based on an analysis of capitalism does not capture the range of interlinked processes involved. We must also consider the ways in which for example the intersection of colonialist and patriarchal relations is particularly marked in the farming of animals for food.
In the contemporary West, the meat industry is patriarchally constituted. Farmed animals are disproportionately female and are usually feminized in terms of their treatment by predominantly male human agricultural workers. Farmers disproportionately breed female animals so they can maximize profit via the manipulation of reproduction. Female animals that have been used for breeding can be seen to incur the most severe physical violences within the animal food system, particularly at slaughter (Cudworth, 2008). Female and feminized animals are bred, incarcerated, raped, killed and cut into pieces, in gargantuan numbers, by men who are often themselves subjected to highly exploitative working conditions (Eisenitz, 1997, 85). These working conditions are structured by the gendered division of labor and also characterized by a culture of machismo (Cudworth, 2008, for further discussion see Alexis, this volume).
Furthermore, operations of local, regional and global networks of relations shaped the development of animal food production, and the production and consumption of animals as meat was an historical process in which systemic relations of species are constituted with and through relations of colonialism. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, European countries established the global international system of meat production. Britain and Germany in particular invested heavily in land and later also factories in South America, primarily in Argentina in the eighteenth century, and in Brazil in the nineteenth (Velten, 2007, p. 153; Rifkin, 1994, pp. 145–7). The colonial model of meat production was further enabled by the development of refrigerated shipping which made it possible to ship “fresh” meat to Europe from the U.S., South America and Australasia (Franklin, 1999, p. 130). This enabled Europeans to consume greater quantities of meat, but in order to make best use of the potential market in Europe the price had to be minimized by intensifying production and saving labor costs through increased mechanization, processes which led to the development of intensive agriculture in Europe and the U.S., models of production now spread across the globe with corporate interventions in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean (Cudworth, 2011b).
Finally, as social and natural systems are co-constituted, we must also consider the impact of farmed animal agriculture on the worlds of other species and things. As is becoming increasingly recognized, industrialized animal agriculture is a driving force behind contemporary and pressing environmental problems that we face—deforestation, water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change and loss of biodiversity (CIWF, 2002; Steinfeld et al., 2006; World Bank, 2001). Thus while farmed animal agriculture is an integral element of a social system of species relations in which domesticate nonhuman animals are oppressed, it is also constituted by relations of capital, colonialism and patriarchy and shaped in important ways by intra-human difference.
What is required therefore is as full an analysis of social intersectionality as we are capable of. We need an analysis of social difference, inequality and domination in terms of relational systems of power. We also need an analysis of the social practices and institutions which constitute, reproduce and rearticulate the relations of species specifically. The oppression of non-human animals is co-constituted by relations of capitalism, colonialism and so on but is not reducible to them.
Anarchism and Human Domination
Analyses of intersectionality and domination have therefore been used to understand our relationships to animals, but rarely in explicitly anarchist ways. In this section, I consider the more academic intervention of Bob Torres (2007), who applies Nibert’s model of animal oppression to the case of highly industrialized capital-intensive agriculture in the global north, and in doing so, explicitly links it to anarchist politics. I also look at the important pamphlet by one of the contributors to this collection, Brian Dominick (1995, 1996, 1997). Dominick’s Animal Liberation and Social Revolution outlined the similarities in perspective between anarchism and veganism, broadly defined in terms of living a life which is as compassionate as possible towards animals, including of course, human beings. For Dominick, veganism is anarchist praxis.
Capitalism has, as Torres rightly suggests, “deepened, extended and worsened our domination over animals and the natural world” (2007, p. 3). Animals are largely understood as laborers—producing commodities such as milk and eggs and becoming commodities such as meat and leather. Animal labor within capitalism is slave labor. In the commodities of meat, milk and eggs, complex chains and networks of productive forces and relations can be found (2007, pp. 36–38). Animal labor is also alienated labor if we consider the alienation from the products of labor, of breeder animals separated from their young, for example; and the alienation from productive activity, for example in the dull existences of meat animals whose labor is to eat, in order to become meat. Animals are also alienated from members of their species in the ways they are contained and separated, and alienated from their “species-life” in being unable to fulfill natural behaviors such as foraging, play and nest building. Torres argues strongly against the use of animals in agriculture however high standards of welfare might be for although “some forms of dominance are ‘nicer’ than others, exploitation is still exploitation in the end” (2007, p. 44). Animals are not exploited in the same way as human beings in the labor process, however. The classed and radicalized composition of the labor force in animal agriculture and the meat industry and the alienated conditions of labor are deeply problematic (see 2007, pp. 45–49). Animals demonstrate a different kind of embodied labor. Their bodies not only are exploited by working for us in order to produce animal food products, their bodies are themselves commodities, as he puts it: “They are superexploited living commodities” (2007, p. 58). Animal lives and bodies are a means to profit creation within capitalism. In addition, animals are property, and this relationship of ownership over animal bodies is essential for the extraction of profit. Torres’ analysis here is much influenced by anarchist writing, in particular the ideas of Proudhon and Kropotkin. The value created by labor and embodied in private property is not fully recognized—and in the case of animals, is not recognized at all. Animals-as-property means that, in the case of animal agriculture for example, animals are “sensate living machines” for the production of commodities (2007, p. 64). But the condition of animals is one of slavery—they can exercise no choice in their lives and can never leave the place of production, unlike humans in the wage production system of capitalism. For Torres, capitalism remains the key analytical device throughout, and his analysis of human relations with nonhuman domesticate animals is conceptually underpinned by notions of property relations and commoditization.
Torres also draws strongly on anarchist ideas about interlinked dominations, those of Bookchin in particular. Torres sees critique of domination and a contestationary politics of non-domination as key to anarchist politics (Torres, 2007, pp. 85–7). While Bookchin’s own contribution to debates on the status of nonhuman animals is limited and problematic, the simple but vital notion that human domination is intersectionalised is key to an anarchist embrace of projects of animal liberation. Yet as Torres points out, the domination of the nonhuman animal world is an instance of highly normalized and everyday oppression in which most Western humans are much invested. It is also, as I have tried to demonstrate here, crucial to understand our relations with nonhuman animals as integrated into intra-human exploitative and oppressive structures.
The analyses of linked dominations and of the politics of non-denomination could have played a greater role in Torres’ analysis however. While he allows that the histories of exploitative systems are different and differentiated (2007, p. 156), and that the oppression of animals can exist before and beyond capitalism, his analysis of the oppression of animals, however, becomes focused very much on one systemic cause:
If we’re to be successful in fighting oppression—whether based on race, class, species or gender identity—we’re going to need to fight the heart of the economic order that drives these oppressions. We’re going to have to fight capitalism [2007, p. 11].
This is, ultimately, a reductionist position and a more intersectionalised analysis requires the broader notion of multiple domination, such as is found in Bookchin. This broader perspective comes through strongly in the pamphlet by Brian Dominick which argues that contesting domination is key to vegan politics. Dominick calls for anarchists to recognize the imposition of social categories on animals. Nonhuman species are not “less” than humans, rather, this hierarchy is constantly reproduced by the active dehumanization of animals and the reinforcement of separation. This hierarchy is political, and anarchists sensitive to the naturalization of categories of oppression (in terms of gender or “race” or ability and so on) should be attuned to those generated by the politics of species domination. In addition to an objection to hierarchy, anarchists are called to oppose the exploitation, violence and alienation experienced by nonhuman animals (in animal agriculture, vivisection, the pet industry etc.) as well as the alienation of many human laborers in such industries, and avoid as far as possible, the consumption of products based on the exploitation and suffering of animals. The intersectionalised nature of the domination of animals means that veganism becomes part of the multi-faceted resistance to the dominant social paradigm that is anarchism:
Only a perspective and lifestyle based on true compassion can destroy the oppressive constructs of present society…. This to me is the essence of anarchy. No one who fails to embrace all struggles against oppression as his or her own fits my definition of an anarchist.
On reflection, in an afterword to the third version of Animal Liberation and Social Revolution, Dominick softens this line and suggests that while social revolution is needed in all spheres of domination, including our relations towards nonhuman animals, we must see compassionate living as a process rather than an end state. It is an ideal to which few if any of us will realize, but a struggle to be engaged with. Indeed, the struggles in countering multiple dominations and oppressions in daily life mean that our political choices are always compromised and complicated (see Brian Dominick’s reflective discussion on his earlier writing in this volume).
Bookchin has nothing but contempt for what he calls “lifestyle anarchism,” but Dominick makes very clear that veganism is not about a “lifestyle choice.” Rather, Dominick rejects the dichotomous positioning of social change against “lifestyle.” The way he understands veganism as resistance to exploitation makes his argument closer to that of advocates of revolution in everyday life. It is to be understood as part of a process of human liberation which enables us to free animals from exploitation and oppression. What “agency” nonhuman animals might have is a topic of keen debate in animal studies. In the social sciences, agency has been attributed to beings with desires, intentions and wills and this definition certainly applies to some nonhuman species, certainly to those animals within agricultural complexes and many of those kept as pets in the West. Many species, particularly domesticates, have a sense of selfhood. They can exercise choice and communicate with humans and other species (however much the content may be open to interpretation) as fellow agentic beings. Yet what might constitute “liberation” for other species we might never know. Indeed, our very language of “liberation” is both humanist and human-centered. Yet as Carol Adams and Marjorie Proctor-Smith note, while animals “cannot fight collectively against human oppression, … the lack of struggle cannot be taken as absence of resistance or acceptance of domination” (1993, p. 309). In his afterword Dominick wisely eschews the term liberation for animals in favor of terms such as freedom from exploitation and violence which he sees as essential to the anarchist project of freedom for all. It is here, I think, that anarchism might usefully revisit notions of freedom, autonomy and liberation with a critical and posthumanist eye.
I have argued that there is the potential for a fruitful dialogue between critical approaches in animal studies and anarchist political thought. In the work of anarchist social ecologists such as Kropotkin and Bookchin, the critique of naturalized hierarchies and the embedding of social systems within “natural” systems are fore grounded. What is perhaps most significant in terms of their placing in the anarchist tradition however, is their analysis of patterns of hierarchy and domination which usurp, distort and reconfigure human relations, but also, particularly for Bookchin, structure our co-existence with nonhuman natures.
Anarchism has been relatively open to multifaceted struggles against different forms of social domination. The analysis of the power relations of domination has often been characterized by what is often now referred to as “intersectonality”—an examination of overlapping formations and practices of domination and interconnected relations of power. The insights of feminist, critical race and postcolonial theory have been of great significance here and have impacted on anarchist scholarship and work in animal studies. I have suggested that anarchism must embrace both the notion of species hierarchy as a form of social domination in which oppression and exploitation are naturalized, and an understanding that species relations are implicated in forms of intra human social domination.
To place both the struggle against multiple injustices and the attempt to live well as part and parcel of the same struggle has been an element of radical politics for centuries. As those such as Dominick and Torres have rightly suggested, living well with both human and nonhuman animals is a political as well as personal struggle in a context of multiple and entangled forms of domination. And that struggle would best be in the service of all the creatures with whom we human animals share this planet.
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