[BOOK] “Politics at a Distance from the State: Radical and African Perspectives” (Kirk Helliker & Lucien van der Walt, eds., 2018)

Politics at a Distance from the State: Radical and African Perspectives, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Kirk Helliker and Lucien van der Walt (eds.), 2018, Politics at a Distance from the State: Radical and African Perspectives, London, New York: Routledge, 172pp.


For decades, most anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist movements identified radical transformation with capturing state power. The collapse of these statist projects from the 1970s led to a global crisis of left and working class politics. But crisis has also opened space for rediscovering alternative society-centred, anti-capitalist modes of bottom-up change, operating at a distance from the state. These have registered important successes in practice, such as the Zapatistas in Mexico, and Rojava in Syria. They have been a key influence on movements from Occupy in the United States, to the landless in Latin America, to anti-austerity struggles in Europe and Asia, to urban movements in Africa. Their lineages include anarchism, syndicalism, autonomist Marxism, philosophers like Alain Badiou, and radical popular praxis. This path-breaking volume recovers this understanding of social transformation, long side-lined but now resurgent, like a seed in the soil that keeps breaking through and growing. It provides case studies with reference to South Africa and Zimbabwe, and includes a dossier of key texts from a century of anarchists, syndicalists, insurgent unionists and anti-apartheid activists in South Africa. Originating in an African summit of radical academics, struggle veterans and social movements, the book includes a preface from John Holloway.

Table of Contents

Preface: at a distance from the state (John Holloway)

1. Politics at a distance from the state: radical, South African and Zimbabwean praxis today (Kirk Helliker and Lucien van der Walt)

2. Constructing the domain of freedom: thinking politics at a distance from the state (Michael Neocosmos)

3. Back to the future: revival, relevance and route of an anarchist/syndicalist approach for twenty-first-century left, labour and national liberation movements (Lucien van der Walt)

4. Prefiguring democratic revolution? ‘Workers’ control’ and ‘workerist’ traditions of radical South African labour, 1970–1985 (Sian Byrne and Nicole Ulrich)

5. Broadening conceptions of democracy and citizenship: the subaltern histories of rural resistance in Mpondoland and Marikana (Camalita Naicker and Sarah Bruchhausen)

6. A feminist perspective on autonomism and commoning, with reference to Zimbabwe (Tarryn Alexander and Kirk Helliker)

7. From Below: An overview of South African politics at a distance from the state, 1917-2015, with dossier of texts (ompiled and edited, with introduction, by Lucien van der Walt)

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