Murray Bookchin's 1995 book, Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism is remarkably prescient.
Like it or not, thousands of self-styled anarchists have slowly surrendered the social core of anarchist ideas to the all-pervasive Yuppie and New Age personalism that marks this decadent, bourgeoisified era. In a very real sense, they are no longer socialists--the advocates of a communally oriented libertarian society--and they eschew any serious commitment to an organized, programmatically coherent social confrontation with the existing order. In growing numbers, they have followed the largely middle-class trend of the time into a decadent personalism in the name of their sovereign "autonomy," a queasy mysticism in the name of "intuitionism," and a prelapsarian vision of history in the name of "primitivism."
Today, intuitionism seems to take the form of emotionalism and experientialism, that is, an emphasis on the feelings and experiences of each as uncriticizable grounds for political positions. Similarly, primitivism seems to have become localism, a localism that privileges do-it-yourself and "small" as necessarily better than anything mass or large. What's interesting here is that emotionalism and localism characterize the campaign language of George W. Bush's compassionate conservativism, the way he depicted himself as speaking from his gut, the dominant culture's critique of intellectuals and rejection of science, the marketing language of organic, natural, and whole, the Chamber of Commerce's campaign on behalf of small business, and the racist anti-federalist politics of southern states who don't want the government telling them what to do. Back to Bookchin:
Indeed, capitalism itself has been mystified by many self-styled anarchists into an abstractly conceived "industrial society," and the various oppressions that it inflicts upon society have been grossly imputed to the impact of "technology," not the underlying social relationships between capital and labor, structured around an all-pervasive marketplace economy that has penetrated into very sphere of life, from culture to friendships and the family. The tendency of many anarchists to root the ills of society in "civilization" rather than in capital and hierarchy, in the "megamachine" rather than in the commodification of life, and in shadowy "simulations" rather than in the very tangible tyranny of material want and exploitation is not unlike bourgeois apologias for "downsizing" in modern corporations today as the product of "technological advances" rather than of the bourgeoisie's insatiable taste for profit.
I appreciate the connection Bookchin makes to downsizing; it seems to me that the language of downsizing amplifies ideas that small is better and then connects with ideological elements of leaner, faster, fitter, and flexible, all of which describe guerrilla warfare, ideal new economy corporations, and the healthy bodies of the active-lifestyle class of tri-atheletes and pink ribbon marathons.
I don't think the rejection of technology applies, though (and I don't think it applied even in 1995 when Bookchin wrote this). Rather, personally networked communication devices are now part of lifestyle anarchism, crucial to the critique of institutions and bigness insofar as they enable connections that can be fantasized as fluid, horizontal, and voluntary. So rather than construing the enemy as industrial society, the enemy is "the state" as that which threatens networked communications. Danger comes from big government, but this danger can only be met by being small and lean, basically by running and hiding. Insurrection replaces revolution and seizing the state and making a better one is replaced by the momentary ecstasies of temporary autonomous zones (Bookchin has a scathing critique of Hakim Bey).
A last bit, for now, from Bookchin:
The bourgeoisie has nothing whatever to fear from such lifestyle declamations. With its aversion for institutions, mass-based organizations, its largely subcultural orientation, its moral decadence, its celebration of transcience, and its rejection of programs, this kind of narcissistic anarchism is socially innocuous, often merely a safety valve for discontent toward the prevailing social order. With the Bey, lifestyle anarchism takes flight from meaningful social activism and a steadfast commitment to lasting and creative projects by dissolving itself into kicks, postmodernist nihilism, and a dizzying Nietzschean sense of elitist superiority.