Hoverbikes

In a comment over at Roderick’s place, William Gillis has this to say by of encapsulating his worries about (his reading of) Kevin Carson’s emphasis on economic localism:

To clarfiy, my doubts regarding what’s often addressed (not entirely correctly, I agree) as the interrelating two-sided work of you and Kevin is really just my distaste for Localism and Rights-based ethics.

And I’m sorry you caught the backdraft of my annoyance with what is clearly primarily Kevin’s contribution re: Localism. (Note: I don’t mean local sufficiency or DIY tech, but the focus on stable regional communities, as opposed to a gleaming interconnected mass society on hoverbikes.)

— William Gillis, comments @ Austro-Athenian Empire, 27 April 2009 2:50am

That’s beautiful, and it deserves a response in kind. So here’s my attempt to put down my own view on the matter. When I have my hoverbike, I’ll use it for a lot of things, and one of the things I hope to be able to do is to fly through uncountable different neighborhoods within the gleaming metropolis. Don’t forget that even New Tokyo will have neighborhoods, or at least I hope it will, because a city with no neighborhoods isn’t worth a damn. The always-ready hyperlocal holographic social networking mapping mash-up that shimmers into existence over my hoverbike dash will help me find landmarks and fascinating holes-in-the-wall and the good old hang-outs and the hot new things, with help from the interwoven knowledge of friends, visitors, and longtime locals. Some of the neighborhoods may be glass and steel; others may be orchards and wheat fields and villages; others campus gothic spires, grassy quads and libraries; others may be permaculture cities of green roofs and hanging gardens. They will speak many different languages; some will be young and others old; some will be slow and stable over time, and others will be frenetic and constantly changing. Some may be stable in structure while constantly changing in population (think of a University campus), and others may be exactly the reverse (think of an indie rock scene). Which ones are the best to visit, or to live in, will depend on the circumstances of life for each of us. (What you want by way of stability or surroundings when you’re 50 may be different from what you want when you’re 19. What I want at 27 may be different from what you want at 27. What I want in the summer may be different from what I want in the fall.) And that’s what’s beautiful about it. It’s the neighborhoods that makes the city glorious. But without the city, and the hoverbikes to fly through it, there wouldn’t be the neighborhoods, either. There would only be warehouses, deserts, and fortresses.

Which is another way of saying that I don’t think the issue here is really, or at least ought to be, one of (stable) localism versus (dynamic) globalism, or cosmopolitanism, or what have you. There is, I think (oh Lord) a dialectical solution. It has to do with the extent to which the local and the global are allowed to evolve and flourish together, or, on the other hand, are mediated, battered, and fortified, by rigidifed political fabrications (like Nations, States, Law-and-Order, Smart Growth planning committees, Stupid Growth planning committees, Development fetishes, Tradition fetishes, bigots, bashers, macho squads, and all the other forms of structured power-over that would bulldoze and blockade and wall off ghettoes rather than letting neighborhoods grow).

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  1. Jeremy

    RIght on, Charles.

    The emphasis on stable communities - like that at the end of Mutualist Political Economy - seemed to me more about communicating a vision about how things could be, primarily for non-anarchists. I, for one, think S.O. and William are really blowing this out of proportion. Some people are going to desire stability, and some will desire instability. Carson’s point is that everybody should be footing the bill for what they want, not that everybody should live in one manner and forcing everybody to subsidize the “one true lifestyle”.

    In other words, Gillis will have to foot the bill for the R&D on that hoverbike instead of getting Lockheed to develop it for the Army, only to release it to the public with speed and altitude governors and a rich licensing system. :-)

  2. Soviet Onion

    I, for one, think S.O. and William are really blowing this out of proportion. Some people are going to desire stability, and some will desire instability.

    Yeah … totally not the point.

  3. Jeremy

    OK, so I don’t get the point. Glad we established that without risking another conversation to understand one another.

    How did I go from being invited to participate in the RNC welcoming committee activism to being condemned as a parochial anarcho-fascist so quickly? These are the kinds of questions scholars of the future will not ask.

  4. Araglin

    Charles,

    Really great post — Have you done any fiction writing?. I hate to move things into a more analytical register, but your post made me wonder:

    Isn’t it true that for any of the ‘groups,’ ‘communities,’ or ‘neighborhoods’ in this imaginary freed-market world to be able to preserve itself and its character (supposing that its character is judged to be a good, if perhaps only one of countless possible, and perhaps equally-worthy alternative goods that would not be jointly-realizable in the same ‘place’), it must be morally permitted to prohibit behavior or activities (in the ‘place’ wherein the group finds itself ‘located’) that are contrary to that character, to exclude those who refuse to conform to the standards of the place, and to thereby discriminate against that which is other to its identity (so long as it can do so soley by means of free association and the control of the group’s legitimate property, and so without violating anyone’s rights)?

    For example, if one is participating in a Chess tournament, one mustn’t get upset that the sponsoring organization does not allow one to move the pieces around the chessboard in non-standard ways, even this limitation denies you some measure of self-expression. If one wants to invent a form of non-standard chess and can find others willing to play it with one, and one wants to hold one’s own non-standard chess tournament, that’s great. One’s happiness may indeed depend upon being allowed to so do; but that doesn’t mean that one has been wronged if the practicioners of standard Chess don’t want to play with you and refuse to ‘recognize’ or ‘respect’ non-standard moves…Wouldn’t this hold even if the rules of Chess are ‘rigid’ and ‘static’? Isn’t it also true that the very ‘staticness’ of the rules allows the players thereof to develop increasing elaborate and sophisticated, dynamic strategies for play within those rules?

    I’m not urging any kind of facile extrapolation of a general (there’s-nothing-wrong-with-discrimination!) lesson from this styled case, or to apply that lesson to cases in the real(not-freed-market) world of discrimination based upon race, gender, creed, national origin, etc. Even so, however, don’t the considerations that I have sketched out have at least some relevance to an analysis of these more charged questions?

    More pointedly, would the dispensation of left- and thick-libertarianism (insofar as you are a guardian thereof) allow one to openly (if qualifiedly) defend stasis, perhaps arbitrary rules, discrimination, and exclusion, when these are deployed for purposes of defending partial, particular goods and where other alternative goods are free to establish and preserve themselves in other ‘places’ by like means?

    Thanks, Araglin

  5. anonymouse

    I particularly like your choice of the word neighborhood, because there’s a huge difference between a neighborhood and a village: a neighborhood is an inextricable part of the whole, a point of intersection in the many-layered physical and social networks that make up the city. And a neighborhood is also not quite the same thing as a community: it may be home to several overlapping social groups with varying levels of interaction. This sort of complexity, social richness, and radical interdependence is what I love about cities, and if an anarchist utopia only has room for the simplicty and self-sufficiency of a village, then I’d just have to say “no thanks”.

  6. Soviet Onion

    How did I go from being invited to participate in the RNC welcoming committee activism to being condemned as a parochial anarcho-fascist so quickly?

    I never called you parochial or a fascist.

  7. Araglin

    Jeremy,

    I think your above comment about having to ‘pay’ for one’s lifestyle (rather than have it subsidized in various ways) is an incredibly important one, and one that ought to hold good regardless of whether one happens to favor the static or the dynamic, the local/parochial or the cosmopolitan, the traditional or the counter-cultural.

    If there are ongoing subsidies to one life-style or another that have skewed things, they ought to be ended and restitution made where possible.

    However, I think it’s devisive and counterproductive for those devoted to particular lifestyles to denounce as “close-minded,” “bigoted,” or worse, and/or seek to excommunicate those others within the anarchist/libertarian movement —- who appear to wholeheartedly agree that any ongoing interventions adversely effecting said lifestyles should be repealed/ceased and appropriate restitution extracted —- simply because these others don’t appear share all of the same cultural viewpoints, priorities, or enthusiasms (say, because these others appear to favor small town life, a settled existence, organic community, family life, traditional practices, and/or craft production).

  8. Roderick T. Long

    Araglin,

    Isn’t it true that for any of the ‘groups,’ ‘communities,’ or ‘neighborhoods’ in this imaginary freed-market world to be able to preserve itself and its character … it must be morally permitted to prohibit behavior or activities

    Well, property owners will certainly be free to prohibit whatever they want to prohibit on their own turf. (Sometimes their prohibitions will be grounded in bigotry or will be otherwise objectionable, in which case they may legitimately be fought by boycotts, moral suasion, and the like — but not force. In other cases their prohibitions will be perfectly okay.) And they will also be free to contract with one another to ensure that their neighbours go along with such prohibitions.

    But if you’re already living in a neighbourhood and your neighbours come to you and want you to sign a contract agreeing not to let your guests wear the red hat or whatever, and you don’t want to sign, they have no right to force you.

  9. Rad Geek

    Jeremy,

    Well, some will desire stability and some will desire instability is part of it, but not all of it. (There’s a question as to what people ought to desire, for one thing. There’s also a question as to who is able to get what they desire, and who is not able to get what they desire. The latter question, just to give you the heads-up, is one that I think is profoundly shaped by existing systems of power and authority — both formal and informal, both coercive and non-coercive — within civil society, outside of the official organs of the State.) But, it’s also important to keep in mind that I take myself to be saying something different from what some of my left libertarian comrades (notably Kevin) who write very positively of locality and stability say. Not because I think Kevin is saying something particularly wrong on the matter, but rather because his emphasis is a bit one-sided, and I appreciate what Soviet Onion, Will, et al. are doing to try to correct that one-sidedness.

    I also don’t think anyone called you a parochial anarcho-fascist. If they did, as I already said in the earlier thread, I think that’s tremendously unfair to you, and I’ll say it as many times as I need to. There are real anarcho-fascists out there, and I certainly don’t consider you one. I consider you a friend, even while we disagree.

    anonymouse,

    Thanks. If the choice of words is felicitous, I owe it mainly to Karl Hess.

    I think I agree with what you’re getting at in distinguishing a village from a neighborhood. I do want to add a note of caution, though, because in choosing the word neighborhood rather than village one thing I certainly do not hope to do is suggest something like the kind of denunciations of actually existing villages and the life of those villages (provincialism, bumblefuck, BFE, flyover country and the like) that often get hurled down from the skyscrapers in actually-existing metropolises, cities, etc. There’s often a lot of ugly classism, and some perverse counterparochialism, involved in that kind of discourse. (If we’re using village just to mean a relatively narrow stretch that people mostly don’t leave, well, there’s all kinds of villages, and those who complain the most about narrow horizons are often those who’ve never really ventured north of 110th street or south of Williamsburg.) There are lots of great things about actually-existing cities, but a free city would look nothing like they do, and many would actually have much more of the country and the village to it were it not for the state, urban planning boards, and the like. The sense in which I hope for everything to become a neighborhood is a sense that’s rooted in a vision of the emerging cosmopolis, of which every rational being is a citizen and within which every community is a neighborhood. Actually existing cities are not necessarily closer to it, and certainly not closer to it in every respect, than actually existing homesteads, villages, small towns, university towns, etc. etc. etc.

    Araglin,

    Thank you. I’ve wrote a little fiction when I was much younger. (If you’re clever, or if you knew me at the time, you can still even find it on the Internet.) Nothing worth any great remark. And nothing much of any great length that was in a speculative or fabulous genre, although that’s what you might have guessed from looking at what I liked to read both then and now.

    Of course, I agree with you that in a free society people have the right to do all kinds of things, including exclusionary or discriminatory things, with their own person and property and together with others on a basis of mutual consent. (Hell, I think it’s potentially within people’s rights to set up the sort of contractual city-wide HOA hellholes that Hoppe holds up as a paradigm and possibly even a necessary condition of free living.) Of course, as usual, I think that the questions of what they morally or prudentially ought to do are different from the questions of what they may do without committing injustice.

    I think in order to answer that kind of question, there’s a lot more analysis that needs to be done, and a lot more in the way of specifics. Sure, there are things that are legitimate or even wise that you could describe as prohibitions or exclusions that I’d happily stand up for. (I think universities should prohibit plagiarism. I think that public property, in Roderick’s sense, is likely to be an important part of any free society; but for it to remain public property, you at least have to exclude certain uses, like, say, trying to enclose large sections of the commons for private use. Etc.)

    ut presumably there are also important standards that have to be met when you start doing this kind of thing, before it’s the sort of thing that I would count as wise or would recommend to anyone or even the sort of thing that I would socially tolerate: standards of reasonable purpose (and there are some purposes that I consider categorically unreasonable, e.g. white supremacy, erasing any public manifestations of non-heterosexuality, etc.), of proportionality of invasiveness (even if busybodying remains consensual, there’s a point at which it becomes foolish and impertinent), of not inflicting undue harm (which I think can be a defeater even if the balance of benefit to some over harms to others turns out to be positive), of not reinforcing damaging forms of social domination, of both absolute levels and distribution of beneficial results (for whom? well, presumably that depends on how many people you’re affecting and how many people you’re trying to get to cooperate on this), and so on, and so forth. How high those standards are are of course going to vary with how large the scale of the project is, what the costs are of holding people to the standard, what the purpose to be achieved is, and the like. There’s very little categorical I could say here; I’d just need to know a lot more of the specifics.

    I do think that in a free society, though, one thing you will see is a major shift away from negative incentives as a way of structuring neighborhood life and a major shift towards more positive incentives. Because securing compliance through negative incentives is usually a zero-sum or negative-sum game, and typically much more costly, if all the costs are internalized rather than subsidized, as they currently are by the state. Securing cooperation through positive incentives is a positive-sum game, and typically cheaper (when all costs are internalized) and more effective than the use of negative incentives. So, for example, if people don’t want big-box retailers in their neighborhood, I suspect you’re more likely to see people trying to create less-formal more-local alternatives that can outcompete the big-boxes, or, in the last resort, to pool resources to buy up the land before the big-boxes could get it — rather than trying to, say, make people turn down big-box bids for the real estate through some cockamaimey system of land-trusts and HOAs. Those sorts of things are pretty tricky to pull off, and once pulled off are pretty tricky to adjudicate and enforce, when you take out state subsidies and require the would-be regulators to pay their own way.

    Now, there is also a secondary question, in addition to the question of what it would take for a exclusionary or prohibitory practices to be a bad, which is the question of what it would take for them to be worthy of protest or conscious (nonviolent) activism aimed at undermining them. I think the standards for that are higher; basically, there have to be at least some direct victims of the harms that the practices are causing, who have stepped up to protest and who are asking for allies to stand in solidarity with them. Here as elsewhere I believe in solidarity, and generally not in paternalistic rescue operations.

    But, like I said, I can’t do much to answer any of these questions at a general level, except to sketch out a few of the criteria. I’d need to get some specifics to do much more.

    However, I think it’s devisive and counterproductive for those devoted to particular lifestyles to denounce as “close-minded,” “bigoted,” or worse, and/or seek to excommunicate those others within the anarchist/libertarian movement —- who appear to wholeheartedly agree that any ongoing interventions adversely effecting said lifestyles should be repealed/ceased and appropriate restitution extracted —- simply because these others don’t appear share all of the same cultural viewpoints, priorities, or enthusiasms

    Well. There are cultural viewpoints and then there are cultural viewpoints. If somebody believes in rigid adherence to traditional heteropatriarchy, for example, but says that any coercive measures supporting it (whether public in the form of laws or private in the form of bashing, violence against women, etc.) are an injustice that ought to be ended, then I appreciate the sentiment, but there are lots of reasons to be concerned about their views even if they have no plans to coercively impose them on me. Something can be bigoted, authoritarian, foolish, or just plain nasty and cruel, without being coercive.

    As, to take one example, with the cruelty that both peers and parents (especially fathers) with a strong enthusiasm for traditional heteropatriarchy often act out, in the most extreme ways, towards children who turn out to be gay or bisexual, or who have interests or express themselves in ways that don’t live up to the standards of genital correctness. Even if the cruelty is expressed in ways that are wholly nonviolent, cruelty is still cruel; people who treat children that way (even, or rather especially, their children) ought to be called out on it, and ought not to be socially supported or clapped on the back for the way that they act. Someone who goes out of his way to be nasty to children over the colors they wear or the harmless games that they enjoy is a scumbag and a bully, and I think it’s perfectly reasonable to say so, and to treat them like one, either individually or cooperatively.

    (And, of course, in fact, in the real world, and in any libertarian society where there hadn’t been a radical transformation away from how things are done now when it comes to traditional practices, the cruelty is often not really expressed nonviolently; children often get beaten, or have the threat of violence used against them, for this sort of thing. When that happens it is typically called a private matter of cultural viewpoints and traditional practices, but in fact is a matter of structured, politically-motivated violence, and is a direct matter for libertarian concern.)

    Of course, the world is full of people and practices and traditions, and I’m happy to say that a lot of, indeed most of the vast welter of human diversity isn’t a matter either of cruelty or of structured violence. I love the world, and let a thousand flowers bloom, and all that. As for living in one place for decades at a time, or for a strong positive commitment to immediate or extended family, hey, great, that’s fine. But positive commitments for oneself here need to be distinguished from guilt-tripping and browbeating directed against others (which is often, sadly, just as important a dynamic). And I also think that given the prevalence of certain kinds of cruelty, of cowardice, of busybodying, of belligerent stupidity, of harassment, of bullying, and finally of private violence, done under the heading of culture and tradition and family, all of this is an area where quite a bit of analytical care, critical attention, forward thinking, and, where necessary, conscious activism, is called for.

    Hope that helps.

  10. Araglin

    Professor Long,

    While I certainly agree with your statement regarding rights insofar as it goes (based, as it appears to be, upon standard libertarian principles of free association, property, contract, and tort), my own question wasn’t whether the sorts of behavior that I mentioned — i.e., exclusionary or discriminatory behavior conducted in order to achieve or preserve a partial or particular good or its character — violated libertarian rights.

    If they did violate rights in a particular case, one would want to condemn them, and one wouldn’t need any particularly left- or thick-libertarian account of them in order to do so.

    My question was about whether this sort of behavior would be morally permissible (assuming that they did not violate rights), and what criteria or considerations might be desployed in order to make such a determination.

    I also agree your statements regarding the efficacy of non-coercive forms of resistance to non-rights-violating forms of exploitation, oppression, or other social problems.

    But, again, that leads us back to my question as to whether the sorts of things I mentioned should be considered morally wrong in the first place (and thus worth resisting).

  11. Araglin

    Charles,

    Thanks. That was quite good, and it helped quite a bit. I agree with you regarding cruelty and also about the vexing issues relating to children - who are often not yet mature enough (cognitively or otherwise) to look out for their own interests and may less able to exercise ‘exit.’

    Nonetheless, I would like to see more in the way of a response to my point about “discriminations” against behavior and practices that might be perfectly fine in their own right (such as touching a ball with one’s hands) and even integral to one’s ability to realize certain goods (such as football or basketball), but which (if allowed on this field, say, during these hours) would impinge upon or destroy the singular character of certain other partial/particular/non-universal good (such as hackey-sacking), assuming that the devotees of hack-sacking are not seeking to impose these same ‘no-hands’ discriminatory requirements on all ‘places’ and groups (by, for example, trying to have the rules changed in Basketball so as to forbid players from using their hands).

    In this case, the requirement that has been adopted within hackeysacking is in a real sense arbitrary or contingent (and therefore can’t be easily defended in abstract, rational terms, as subserving the cause of human autonomy), and it evinces a kind of narrowness (after all, what’s wrong with using one’s hands?). It may even have the unfortunate effect of excluding from participation those people out there who don’t have the use of their legs for some reason (paraplegics, etc.), who are — through no fault of their own — unable to flourish within the context of any sport that has a ‘no hands’ rule.

    Again, what I’m trying to get at here is that there are a lot of different possible goods out there (the art of sonnet-writing, for example), many of which are constituted by various rules and forms that seem bizarre in their positivity (why only 14 lines? why that rhyme scheme?), which rules would be unbearably oppressive if extended to all areas of life for all people (whose communications, if more poetic, would be far less efficient).

    Based on this thought process, such as it is, I would think that, anarchists/libertarians should seek (i) to make sure that all rights are respected, and past wrongs vindicated; (ii) to make sure that those unhappy for whatever reason with extant forms of practice or association not be otherwise (non-coercively) blocked from ‘exiting’ these associations or from setting up other forms of practice or assocation ‘elsewhere’; and also (iii) to allow those who are interested in continuing to ‘enact’ the extant forms of practice or association to do so unmolested by their discontents.

    Araglin

  12. anonymouse

    Rad Geek, I’ve got nothing against villages nor the people who choose to live in them, but I do have something against those who think that this sort of lifestyle close to the land, as part of a small geographic community makes for better people. It’s that sort of thinking that leads to the suburbanist “homeowners make for better people”, and I don’t think that leads to anything good. I’m also somewhat uncomfortable with all the predictions about what life will be like: if we’re assuming free markets and such, how do you even know what the aggregate of people’s preferences will come out to, especially given that their choices have been so limited by government coercion (of “urban planning” and such) for so long. Thus far, I think it’s clear that there more demand for urban environments than suburban or rural ones, and that people are happy with going to their local coffee shop just as much as they are with renting movies by mail from the giant warehouses of netflix.

  13. Roderick T. Long

    Araglin,

    My question was about whether this sort of behavior would be morally permissible

    Well, I answered that question too — namely, it depends on the details. Can you give some concrete examples of cultural (as opposed to sports-related) prohibitions you have in mind?

    and what criteria or considerations might be desployed in order to make such a determination.

    Well, relevant factors would be the extent to which the prohibition systematically harms and/or disrespects the excluded people. (Harm has to do with the consequences, disrespect has to do with the motives; I’d say both are relevant.)

  14. Marja Erwin

    Hypothetically, suppose that Carol prefers the conversation, and company, of womyn to that of men. Beth has been abused by her father and her husband; having escaped this abuse, she seeks to move to an all-women’s community. Ariadne is an Amazonian nationalist and abhors the idea of sex-mixing.

    Each of these people, for their own reasons, joins the same womyn’s-only community. It does not allow men into its grounds. On what basis do we judge this prohibition?

    I have more sympathy for Carol’s or Beth’s reasons than for Ariadne’s. However, if the prohibition is unobjectionable without Ariadne, it remains unobjectionable with her.

    I don’t think we should defer to the best reason, among all the reasons of all the members, if there are simpler ways to address her concern. I’m inclined to be more generous to single-group communities if they are composed of historically-marginalized groups, and more skeptical if they are composed of historically-privileged ones. In addition, I’m inclined to be more generous to smaller communities than larger ones.

  15. Aster

    “Can you give some concrete examples of cultural… prohibitions you have in mind?”

    Precisely my question. What specific prohibitions, exclusions, and discriminations are you concerned with protecting?

    Charles-

    I very much liked this essay. You’ve convinced me that there can be good kinds and aspects of localism.

  16. Roderick T. Long

    Marja,

    I agree with most of what you say.

    if the prohibition is unobjectionable without Ariadne, it remains unobjectionable with her.

    I’m not sure that would always be true.

    Suppose a club turns down O.J. Simpson for membership. Some members voted to turn him down because they don’t like murderers. Other members voted to turn him down because they don’t like blacks. What should we think about the club’s decision? Well, surely the answer to that question will depend on the relative percentages of the two groups of members.

  17. Rad Geek

    Marja,

    Hypothetically, suppose that Carol prefers the conversation, and company, of womyn to that of men. Beth has been abused by her father and her husband; having escaped this abuse, she seeks to move to an all-women’s community. Ariadne is an Amazonian nationalist and abhors the idea of sex-mixing.

    Well. Speaking only for myself, I’m perfectly happy with all three reasons and wouldn’t presume to lodge objections. (Whether or not I find Ariadne’s views objectionable as political theory depends on what kind of separatist she is, whether or not her reasons for separatism are based on some sort of biological essentialism, etc. But whether or not I agree with her political theory, I wouldn’t find that a reason to object to her living arrangement.)

    When it comes to the creation of spaces that exclude one or another social class, I’m quite happy with saying that the evaluation of separatism depends almost entirely on the position of that class within the systems of social power that formed the class division in the first place. Like you, I think that there’s an important difference between separatism by members of historically oppressed classes, and separatism by members of historically oppressive classes, because (as I see it) the two have fundamentally different functions and effects, and so come out quite differently when you apply the kind of criteria that I was mentioning above to Araglin.

    Araglin,

    I don’t think I disagree with anything you said above, except that my reaction to point (iii), as you’ve set it out, depends on what you mean by unmolested. If you mean that people who engage in that kind of practice shouldn’t have their rights to do so forcibly invaded, I agree with you. If you mean that they shouldn’t be bothered in any way (e.g. through boycotts or ostracism or cultural pressure or ridicule or…) then I think that that depends on the specifics. There are all kinds of cultural diversity, including some that are in some sense arbitrary — or, better, involve an essential element of both contingency and creativity (this is how we honor our dead; this is how we show gratitude to our host at a meal; etc.) — which are unobjectionable. But there are other forms of practice or association that are not just arbitrary, but express disrespect, or inflict harm, or degrade, or reinforce larger social structures that do any one of these or all together, etc. etc. etc. And practices or associations that do that will still be objectionable even if the people participating in or subjected to them have unhindered rights, and even reasonable material access, to exit from the community. (Having somebody’s consent to X doesn’t guarantee that X isn’t disrespectful to him, doesn’t degrade him, or doesn’t inflict harm on him. Consensuality is just a different sort of category. And there are many examples of cultural practices which use mimesis to disrespect or harm people who aren’t even present to be asked for their consent; e.g., blackface minstrel shows, where presumably you have the consent of both the white audience and the white actors to put on the production. What’s objectionable about them partly has to do with the intentions they express towards, effects they have for, the people represented; but it also partly has to do with what enjoying that sort of thing says about the audience that enjoys it. Even if there were no black people to be hurt by it for thousands of miles in any direction around — indeed, even if there were, horribile dictu, no black people left in the world to be disrespected by it — that kind of entertainment would still evinces small-mindedness and nastiness on the part of the people who are entertained by it, and that would still be a grounds for objecting to it as a cultural practice.)

    anonymouse:

    I’ve got nothing against villages nor the people who choose to live in them, but I do have something against those who think that this sort of lifestyle close to the land, as part of a small geographic community makes for better people.

    Sure. I agree with you about that.

    I’m also somewhat uncomfortable with all the predictions about what life will be like: if we’re assuming free markets and such, how do you even know what the aggregate of people’s preferences will come out to, especially given that their choices have been so limited by government coercion (of “urban planning” and such) for so long.

    Well, calculation of any kind of quantitative prediction is impossible here. But I think you can say something about the direction of change that you would expect, ceteris paribus, to happen after the removal of the government coercion, if you know something about the direction in which government coercion is currently pushing. (So, for example, I know that the bulldozer brigade’s interventions act very strongly to drive people in the urban core out of long-term housing; ceteris paribus, without that kind of state intervention, I’d expect inner-city neighborhoods to become more stable and for people to stay in one home for a longer period of time. Since state coercion also systematically tends to burn out any opportunity to gain free-and-clear ownership of land (requiring steady payment of property taxes, artificially pushing up the price of housing, directing unowned land towards big developers on the basis of political pull, cutting off would-be homesteaders from access to unowned or abandoned land, etc.), I expect, again ceteris paribus, that in a free society a lot more people will tend to own their homes free and clear. If the reasons that people tend to live in a particular city are closely connected with the distortions of the economy created by state intervention (how much draw would NYC have if not for the state-capitalist finance sector? how much draw would DC have if not for the federal government?), then, ceteris paribus, you can expect that people would be less strongly drawn towards those cities in a free society.

    Of course, the state does so damned much, and often pushing in opposite directions (driving up housing prices while simultaneously pouring in subsidies and loans to help privileged suburbanites pay down the artificially high prices, etc.), and generally makes such a monstrous clusterfuck of, well, everything, that laying out all the relevant tendencies is going to be extremely complex, if not impossible, and is likely to be partial even if you do your very best. But I think pointing out some of the relevant ceteris paribus tendencies, to the extent that you can, remains a valuable activity, so long as you’re willing to confess the limitations of your analysis and maintain a certain degree of humility about it.

  18. william

    **RadGeek,

    Which is another way of saying that I don’t think the issue here is really, or at least ought to be, one of (stable) localism versus (dynamic) globalism, or cosmopolitanism, or what have you. There is, I think (oh Lord) a dialectical solution. It has to do with the extent to which the local and the global are allowed to evolve and flourish together, or, on the other hand, are mediated, battered, and fortified, by rigidifed political fabrications

    Forgive me if I dissent on this exact encapsulation. Of course we all want the bad stuff removed, but free of it I can’t help but see things moving towards the global. That is to say that of course people will still have relations on a spatial level, with quads and regional mixes / ecologies of cultural tendencies and the like, but they will slope off and dissolve into one another in undefined ways. When you talk of “neighborhoods” there’s a certain objectiveness and discreteness to such concepts that implies the presence of lines and boundaries (even if there may be contention or haziness as to their precise nature). I find this frightening. When folks like Soviet Onion talk about polycentrism in this context, my reading of that is not a center over here and a center over there but every possible perspective a valid center. So that I don’t live on the fringes of the Lents Park Neighborhood near the Mt. Scott Neighborhood, but in MY neighborhood. Everyone’s neighborhood is THEIR neighborhood.

    Your portrait seems to be of the Modulaic Glistening Collaborative Highrise sharing laundry lines with Dinotopia Tree Houses, but I don’t think there’s any reason such such strong and immediate diversities would persist. People are free to be iconoclasts and sequester themselves in trial runs, but that’s the long tail. In societies of true open communication and association the vast majority experience is largely similar, they normalize into a soup of the best parts.

    We can talk a lot about what people would want right now if we were to free them of the state, etc. And we can talk about respecting the differently arising desires of different individuals. But all of that goes without saying. What people want changes. Not through some bizarre and unfathomable divine intervention. The fact of the matter is that cultures are ultimately information systems like any other and we can know pretty well in general terms how such things behave when you remove the environmental limitations.

    With regard to your dialectic: The good aspects we both see in The Local will always show up (insofar as they are needed) as a byproduct if you focus on The Global, but the reverse is not inherently true. Focusing on The Local will not necessarily end up giving you The Global.

  19. Aster

    Actually, Charles’ synthesis is fine with me. I can see the value in people cooperatively working on lasting social institutions, and in fashioning collective human environments which suit their specific values.

    I can’t accept a society in which I can’t walk the street without harassment, where I can’t get a straight job, respectful medical care, or can’t get an apartment without playing games to get someone else to have their name on the lease. But I don’t object to local colour as such, and I do think it has virtues which don’t necessarily have to go along with bigotry and small-mindedness. Actually, it’s been the anarchist community and many wonderful people in New Zealand who have shown me this, and I’m really starting to get why ‘responsible’ people like these things.

    If I get what I want, I’m perfectly cool with people who like local life getting what they want- as long as it isn’t at the expense of the positive liberty (see note, below) of wives, children, and minorities.

    (note) To Jeremy: by ‘positive liberty’ I mean the actual possibility for a person to pursue self-actualisation, as opposed to ‘negative liberty’ as the formal right to act without legal constraint. I do not mean ‘positive liberty’ as the ability to do what one rationally ‘ought’ to do, as in Kant’s resketching of Christian dualism. I don’t think there are any ‘oughts’ of this kind, and if I did I’d probably be with the other party.

  20. Jeremy

    However, I think it’s devisive and counterproductive for those devoted to particular lifestyles to denounce as “close-minded,” “bigoted,” or worse, and/or seek to excommunicate those others within the anarchist/libertarian movement —- who appear to wholeheartedly agree that any ongoing interventions adversely effecting said lifestyles should be repealed/ceased and appropriate restitution extracted —- simply because these others don’t appear share all of the same cultural viewpoints, priorities, or enthusiasms (say, because these others appear to favor small town life, a settled existence, organic community, family life, traditional practices, and/or craft production).

    Amen, Araglin.

  21. Darian

    Re: transhumanism and primitivism -

    Can I be a primitive transhumanist? “I’m a steam-powered wooden robot, just the way nature intended.”

    In seriousness though, creating cybernetic eyes is just as natural as wiping your ass with oak leaves, though probably best construed as different ways of interacting with the rest of nature. I’d like a world with both. Of course, I don’t usually reach for the oak leaves. I’m also not totally into transhumanism, though I’m glad other people are. I kind of have a sentimental attachment to my homegrown parts, but this could just be that they work well enough for anything I do, and when they don’t work as well as they could it just brings the thrill of challenge.

    However, I’d rather have low-maintenance cybernetic eyes than glasses, and some form of longevity extension at least will likely be essential to long-distance space exploration, which I hope to see in my lifetime.

    And while we’re immersed in the future, globe-spanning urbanism doesn’t really excite me. A diversity of megaopolises (megaopoli?) mixed with areas of low-human inhabitance is more my style. Somewhere quiet to get perspectives that aren’t determined by other humans is essential to my life experience - probably less so than the internet has been, but I wouldn’t give up either.

    All we can say for sure about the post-state future is that it will reflect market demand much more closely than the world does now. This implies that a)tech-utopianism, mobility, and neighborliness will likely all have parts to play as many people desire these things, b)we should try to shape the prevalent ideas so that the market doesn’t provide social authoritarianism, and c)with the market being the mechanism of society, people will be encouraged to be more entrepreneurial, and likely want a bigger stake in their economic life than workplace hierarchy allows.

  22. Soviet Onion

    Will,

    When folks like Soviet Onion talk about polycentrism in this context, my reading of that is not a center over here and a center over there but every possible perspective a valid center.

    Right. The center is not the town square, the center is everywhere and in everyone any time an interaction is going on, and infinitely scalable as long as the lines of communication and transport remain open. I keep bringing this up in relation to things of heavy social importance, like law and dispute resolution, because I think those stand to benefit the most from this kind of worldly inclusion vs local consensus.

    Your comment about adjacent communities of cavemen and spacemen not being able to retain their distinctiveness in the face of open interaction actually harkens back to what market anarchists have been saying about PolyLaw since the Tannehills; that the need for people of diverse backgrounds to cooperate without one being able to force another’s hand would shape the bylaws that spring up between them into something vaguely “classical liberal”, and eventually universal across the entire human continuum. And reading some of these comments, I can’t help but think that scares the crap out of some left-libertarians, because it’s an affront to distinct local communities (as stable and contiguous regional, cultural and economic blocs).

    To paraphrase Will, there’s “community” in the sense of an unbounded, empathetic human process, and then there’s “community” as in the reification and fetishism of boundaries between humans.

    Likewise, there’s “diversity” as in simple individual difference, and then there’s “diversity” as in reified constructs that need to be defended against the erosive effect of individuals experiencing things outside them. It substitutes the preservation of cultural “artifacts” for an actual cultural process.

    The moment you begin to talk about “community” as this discreet and contiguous entity, to any degree, you’re already allowing dangerous sentiments to smuggle themselves in.

    Oh, and I wish I could take credit for coining the term “Anarcho-Zionism”, but it’s been around for a while. I think it’s another one of Konkin’s.

    Would you and Aster mind including me in the email conversation? You’ve both got my address.

    Jeremy,

    So I can’t work with you against (fine, have it your way) “heteropatriarchal” militarism unless I sign your thesis that lays out the exact analysis of how all this fits together? I can’t have a different approach and contribute valuable help to the cause?

    You can’t work with me in the capacity of general social change if you plan on actively inculcating things that give birth to militarism as another manifestation of the same root problem. Not saying that you, specifically, are. It’s just a general statement.

    Now that that’s established, I’ll work with anyone who doesn’t actively do that, even if they don’t care about anything else that I do. “Neutral” is fine from a practical perspective, and I’m willing to go even broader than that if we’re talking about limited issue-based stuff. But if you’re going to call yourself a libertarian (one who promotes liberatory existence) or anarchist (one who opposes rulership), maybe it makes sense to care about more than just one narrow manifestation of one specific type of authoritarian power structure that only just dropped onto the scene of history. Because maybe that’s THE POINT.

    Put is this way: Gary North and Hans Herman Hoppe may oppose drug laws in addition to favoring lots of other horrendous things, but what really bothers me is the fact that they consider themselves anarchists or libertarians. We can sign the same petition(shudder) for medical marijuana, but I’m not going to work with them realize “our” vision for humanity, because at a very basic level we just don’t want the same things.

  23. Bob Kaercher

    With regard to your dialectic: The good aspects we both see in The Local will always show up (insofar as they are needed) as a byproduct if you focus on The Global, but the reverse is not inherently true. Focusing on The Local will not necessarily end up giving you The Global.

    William, maybe you can clarify what you mean by this. My primary focus, as well as the primary focus of my family, neighbors and friends, will always be predominantly the local, because that’s our sphere of perception and influence.

    I’m not sure how we can be expected to make “The Global” our primary focus. What we all do locally affects the larger global scene, and vice versa, but I don’t know how I’m supposed to keep the other side of the world foremost in my thoughts considering where I actually live and act. (I always thought this was the main epistemological insight of decentralism.)

    I detect in your reference to “The Global” that you have some concrete idea of what “The Global” is supposed to be.

    But maybe you can clarify.

  24. Darian

    Probably should have read over the above post, but I got excited.

    I should have made it more clear that I hope for a gradation from megaopolis to desert, with lots of choices in between (and of course in space). Though hopefully there will be fewer homogeneous “residential-only here, strip mall there, cars only” suburban-type landscapes. The end of zoning laws and other laws that enforce the separation business from home, combined with market management of the transportation system ought to minimize that kind of lameness.

  25. Darian

    grrr Probably should have read over my above post.

  26. Gene

    I’m rather ill so please forgive my lapses in coherence and style.

    William: “In societies of true open communication and association the vast majority experience is largely similar, they normalize into a soup of the best parts.”

    Melting pot? The final stamping out of diversity? ;) I have no interest in a uniform utopia. I don’t see the inherent evil in speaking different tongues or bowing instead of shaking hands.

    I like Charles’s vision. Variation and differentiation in harmony. It needn’t be harmful—I think there’s fun and value in a little chaos and multiplicity. Also, I thought the objection to localism was its supposed parochialism? That we should travel far and wide to experience different cultures? If the aim of that is only to produce some perfect synthesis, that’s seeing those cultures as means rather than ends, and I don’t care for that way of thinking. Then again I’m also anti-utilitarian, so the whole slant of seeing people as uses is a little offensive to me! Even if a synthesized monoculture were attained, it would soon split apart. Linguistics alone tells us that—we are always changing the language and splitting it off into dialects. Moreover, no two people speak the same—we each have our own peculiar idiolects, a lifetime’s experience encoded in our way of speaking. We’re individual! As a Buddhist I’d say there isn’t even a core of sameness in people, but I suppose that’s off-topic.

    Despite all that, I am not a strict localist or anything like it. I favor polycentric and non-geographically bound law to geographic community-based law. There’s certainly a potential for oppression in the latter, and I’m glad it’s being discussed, so kudos to William and Soviet Onion and anyone I’ve missed for raising this question.

    At the same time, if free people want to live in a commune or a monastery, why should we rail against them? The panarchy idea is one that has immense draw for me and allows us to include anarcho-communists or religious anarchists in our ranks. I think it was Kevin Carson who said a commune or collective from the outside is like any other firm.

    One question, though: how would non-geographical polycentric law deal with competing property rights systems? If I’m a mutualist and you’re a Rothbardian, we have different standards of ownership/abandonment. Wouldn’t like tend to geographically cluster with like when it came to property rights systems?

  27. Soviet Onion

    However, I’d rather have low-maintenance cybernetic eyes than glasses, and some form of longevity extension at least will likely be essential to long-distance space exploration, which I hope to see in my lifetime.

    I could probably do with some immortality myself, even if it means Matrix-jacking myself into Second Life.

    And while we’re immersed in the future, globe-spanning urbanism doesn’t really excite me. A diversity of megaopolises (megaopoli?) mixed with areas of low-human inhabitance is more my style. Somewhere quiet to get perspectives that aren’t determined by other humans is essential to my life experience

    Dude, that’s what the holodeck’s for.

  28. Jeremy

    You can’t work with me in the capacity of general social change if you plan on actively inculcating things that give birth to militarism as another manifestation of the same root problem.

    OK. But that’s not very clear. What do you mean by “general social change”? What do you mean by the “same root problem”?

    This is my point. We will never all agree on the whole philosophical approach. The most we can do is hope that our minds find common values and priorities that allow coordinated action against the ills we perceive.

    That is the power of a cross-ideological, single-issue coalition; we don’t have to agree on what “the good life” is or how many varieties of evil exist in the world. We don’t have to approve of each other. We just all throw our rocks in the same direction when we’re together.

    But if you’re going to call yourself a libertarian (one who promotes liberatory existence) or anarchist (one who opposes rulership), maybe it makes sense to care about more than just one narrow manifestation of one specific type of authoritarian power structure that only just dropped onto the scene of history. Because maybe that’s THE POINT.

    Look, S.O., here’s the deal:

    (1) I have never thought of myself as solely a decentralist / localist. Those are your words, so you’re lecturing me about the definition you bestowed on me, not the one I chose for myself. This is more than just a rhetorical point: it speaks to a similar narrowness in your analysis that you’re applying to me. Even if I was focused solely on decentralism and localist autarkism, well, that doesn’t mean we cannot work together on certain issues.

    (2) I care about many things. My time and energy is slightly more constrained. The ills of the world will not all be vanquished by me. So there is a role for strategic thinking, resourceful allocation, and deep digging within the tease out the values that would govern action. Perhaps I can oppose patriarchy and the state on the same terms - but I guarantee you in the world of real action one cause is going to tend to save more lives.

    (3) I agree wholeheartedly that the westphalian nation state is just one manifestation of an authoritarian power structure. Granted. But stressing its abolition is not a principled position - anymore than choosing to protest in Mathew Sheppard’s town means that there’s something special about his tragedy. Effecting a change in political conditions means acting in the less-than-ideal, imperfect world.

    Put is this way: Gary North and Hans Herman Hoppe may oppose drug laws in addition to favoring lots of other horrendous things, but what really bothers me is the fact that they consider themselves anarchists or libertarians. We can sign the same petition(shudder) for medical marijuana, but I’m not going to work with them realize “our” vision for humanity, because at a very basic level we just don’t want the same things.

    Dude, is anybody at the point in their activism where they’re working on “their vision of humanity” directly (besides the Illuminati or the Fabian Society)? We’re all just trying to get to the point where we have some fucking freedom. I’m not a central planner, and I sure as hell don’t have a “vision for humanity”. I simply want to get closer to voluntary society in my lifetime, not because it’s “the right thing” but because authoritarianism is most certainly “the wrong thing”. I just don’t have enough certainty to dictate who’s right and wrong, let alone to think that I have the secret sauce to make the world A-OK. I shudder at the thought that somebody might expect this of me.

    So to eschew working with them because at some theoretical point in the future they may work towards something you disapprove of is just kind of lacking seriousness, IMHO.

  29. Roderick T. Long

    Soviet Onion,

    Gary North and Hans Herman Hoppe may oppose drug laws in addition to favoring lots of other horrendous things, but what really bothers me is the fact that they consider themselves anarchists or libertarians.

    Certainly Gary North is neither a libertarian nor an anarchist, but I don’t believe he has ever claimed to be. I do think Hoppe is both a libertarian and an anarchist. Hoppe’s proposals are intended to be squared with the non-aggression principle (even if, in our judgment, his attempts so to square them fail). North has no commitment to the non-aggression principle whatever.

  30. Roderick T. Long

    P.S. - It’s worth noting that the question of whether someone is a libertarian or not and the question of whether we should ally with them or not are different questions. There will doubtless be libertarians we don’t want to work with and nonlibertarians we do want to work with.

    There’s also, of course, the question “work with on what?”

  31. Nick Manley

    “Would you and Aster mind including me in the email conversation? You’ve both got my address.”

    Does anyone mind including me? I don’t want to miss the continuation of this intellectual gorefest. At the minimum, I’d like permission to see the final results from all of you — Soviet can send me it

    Don’t hate and discriminate…

    ( :

  32. william

    Roderick,

    I do think Hoppe is both a libertarian and an anarchist. Hoppe’s proposals are intended to be squared with the non-aggression principle (even if, in our judgment, his attempts so to square them fail). North has no commitment to the non-aggression principle whatever.

    I realize you could be invoking the NAP as a litmus for Libertarianism alone, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard you clarify your position on Social Anarchists who (it’s true almost across the board) don’t subscribe to the NAP and are unlikely to. (Although that we would functionally once having reached anarchy is, I think, beside the point.)

  33. william

    Like Soviet, I’m losing track of which responses go in which thread. And I’m falling precipitously behind in composing answers to the most substantive things. (Also, the damn thread is taking forever to load each time so it’s getting harder and harder to read with more and more things slipping through the cracks.)

    Anyway, I just added another crop of responses at the bottom of the Open_Thread which may, or may not, have relevance and quotes pulled from this one.

    http://radgeek.com/gt/2009/04/26/open_thread/comment-page-3/#comment-20090429182156

  34. Nick Manley

    I am a bit confused too.

  35. Roderick T. Long

    William,

    I think NAP is sufficient for being a libertarian. Whether it’s necessary is another question. I find that depending on the occasion I use the term “libertarian” with at least three different degrees of breadth, where NAP is sufficient for any of the three but is necessary for only the narrowest one.

    Of the two broader versions, one is very broad indeed, meaning something like “anyone who favours a fairly radical redistribution of power from the state to voluntary associations,” and so would include everything from social anarchists to classical liberals. The intermediate version means something like “the region of the broad libertarian spectrum spectrum reasonably near to or simpatico with the narrow libertarian region” and so would, e.g., include some social anarchists but not others (depending on their willingness to tolerate markets and such).

  36. Roderick T. Long

    P.S. - Oh, and re anarchism, I don’t think NAP is necessary for being an anarchist — though, ironically, the slight pull I feel in the direction of doing so has a social anarchist flavour. For social anarchists often deny that mere rejection of the state qualifies one as being an anarchist; that one must reject all forms of domination, including but limited to the state. And I feel the pull of that idea — enough so that I guess I use “anarchist” two ways too, one where all that’s required is rejection of the state, another where rejection of all domination is required. But the irony is that although the rejection-of-all-domination criterion is sometimes used as a stick by the social anarchists to beat the ancaps, I think the rejection-of-all-domination criterion actually entails (though it’s not exhausted by) NAP!

    Incidentally, Benjamin Tucker often defined anarchism as the rejection of “government,” where by government he meant something weaker than all domination but stronger than just the state — something pretty close to what ancaps mean by “aggression.”

    Given the relations of thickness I see between a) opposing the state, b) opposing aggression, and c) opposing nonaggressive forms of domination, I’m not that exercised by the need to determine which are and which are not strictly part of the definition of “libertarianism,” or “left-libertarianism,” or “anarchism,” or “individualist anarchism,” or what have you. There’s a package of interrelated values I’m concerned to promote, where the terms “libertarianism” and “anarchism” clearly apply to some portions of the package. I’m happy to work with people whose packages of values are broadly similar to mine even if they aren’t identical.

  37. Roderick T. Long

    Duh. When I say “including but limited to the state” above, I mean, of course, “including but not limited to the state.”

  38. Rad Geek

    Jeremy,

    I care about many things. My time and energy is slightly more constrained. The ills of the world will not all be vanquished by me. So there is a role for strategic thinking, resourceful allocation, and deep digging within the tease out the values that would govern action.

    Sure. Everyone’s got to choose their battles.

    But, if (for the sake of argument), you are equally concerned with X and Y on the same terms:

    1. There’s a difference between choosing to work more on X than on Y, and choosing to work on X through means that actively harm the efforts of those working Y;

    2. If it turns out to be the case (as Soviet Onion and I keep on suggesting, without much uptake from you) that some of the deep reasons behind X, as a social phenomenon, are closely connected or directly from Y, then you may need to find that you need to work on both after all, if you want to get anything lasting accomplished; and

    3. The fact that you have chosen, no doubt for good reasons, to focus your limited resources on X rather than Y does not mean that everyone else in the world has the same reasons for allocating their own limited resources (which are no doubt different resources and subject to different limits) to X rather than Y like you did. I am fairly sure that you will say, at this point, Of course; I’m only telling you about my priorities; you may have your own. But in fact, your writings on these subjects has repeatedly talked about priorities in a way which makes it clear that you’re recommending those priorities to others, not just reporting your own. And, even setting that aside, I’m fine with all this, when and to the extent that folks working full-time on X but not Y, and those working full-time on Y but not X, and those working on both, can all do work that complements the work of the others, so that the entire goal is realized by groups each working on a bit of the big problem in parallel to each other. But the problem is that that only works when they actually are working in parallel, so as not to actively harm the efforts of the others. On which, see #1.

    Perhaps I can oppose patriarchy and the state on the same terms - but I guarantee you in the world of real action one cause is going to tend to save more lives.

    What do you mean here? The revolutionary success of the cause as a whole, or the incremental success produced by your personal efforts on the margins?

    If the former, I think that you’re minimizing male violence against women, and that you should stop doing that. However, in any case, it’s unclear to me why considerations about global revolutionary victory in one or the other cause should be of much interest for the kind of hard-nosed strategic planning you say you want to engage in, rather than looking at the effects of your personal actions on the margins.

    If the latter, then I’d like to suggest that, as a matter of effectual action on the margin with limited resources, as a matter of fact, you would probably save more lives on the margins through your immediate personal actions by cutting a check to your local battered women’s shelter (which actually do save lives and stop murders, every day, in the world of real action) than you could possibly save by penning eloquent anti-war essays on the Internet, or by joining local war protest groups, or even by direct-action tactics like counter-recruiting and war tax resistance (which are all great, but which are not likely to produce even incremental results any time soon).

    Of course, my own view is that simple body-counting is not enough to determine where your efforts should be directed. I suspect that’s your own view, too, when you’re not getting defensive about your own prioritization of causes as against other people’s.

  39. Rad Geek

    William:

    When you talk of “neighborhoods” there’s a certain objectiveness and discreteness to such concepts that implies the presence of lines and boundaries (even if there may be contention or haziness as to their precise nature).

    I don’t think that there is, actually. Like I said, my aim here is to talk about neighborhoods, not strategic hamlets. Real neighborhoods aren’t just hazy or contested in their boundaries; they typically overlap, intermingle, subsume each other (do I live in the neighborhood of UNLV or of Tropicana or of my apartment complex or of my own home? well, all of the above; I have a lot of neighbors, and you can slice it up different ways, but each slice has some interesting and distinctive peculiar characteristics). Sometimes people draw sharp geographical boundaries for their own purposes (TriBeCa starts BElow CAnal street, by definition), but that’s the exception, not the rule, and typically the result either of past segregation, or of some ass sitting in an office thinking he can lay down neighborhoods like you lay down houses and hotels on a Monopoly board; there are other, different ways that neighborhoods can grow.

    I find this frightening. When folks like Soviet Onion talk about polycentrism in this context, my reading of that is not a center over here and a center over there but every possible perspective a valid center. So that I don’t live on the fringes of the Lents Park Neighborhood near the Mt. Scott Neighborhood, but in MY neighborhood. Everyone’s neighborhood is THEIR neighborhood.

    I’m happy to agree with that conception of polycentrism, but I don’t think it cuts against what I’m saying.

    My problem, though, is that your list of all the everyones seems to be a list entirely of individual people with idiosyncratic centers. That’s a good start, and it certainly acts to break down the coercive forms of centralization of perspectives that political forces work to impose; but it seems to leave out an important third category — the perspectives that emerge from mutual efforts, and which cannot be reduced to any one individual’s idiosyncratic aims, pursuits, knowledge, etc.

    Some neighborhoods have a distinctive local character because the neighbors are engaged in a project which is essentially collaborative, and from which certain distinctive features necessarily emerge, not because any one center is building a tower and forcing or browbeating the rest into it, but rather because a thousand individual bricklayers are each laying one or two bricks in such a way that all the bricks build a distinctive building. (But, importantly, they wouldn’t be laying those bricks where they do if they didn’t expect other, different bricklayers to lay the other bricks on top of or beside them. That’s why it’s irreducible to any one person’s solitary perspective.)

    A community of scholars, of the sort which actually-existing University campuses imperfectly try to realize, is an example of this sort of thing. Any University worth a damn has a campus which forms a very distinctive neighborhood, architecturally, culturally, and so on, indeed a neighborhood with an unusually strong sense of inside and outside, because it’s a hub for a certain kind of collaborative activity, and the activity involves creating a certain kind of shared life and shared space. That creates a additional perspective, not instead of, or superior to, the perspectives of each individual person, but rather in addition to them, as an emergent center that results from the shared activity, and which ends up profoundly shaping how distinctive the neighborhood tends to be.

    Your portrait seems to be of the Modulaic Glistening Collaborative Highrise sharing laundry lines with Dinotopia Tree Houses, but I don’t think there’s any reason such such strong and immediate diversities would persist. People are free to be iconoclasts and sequester themselves in trial runs, but that’s the long tail. In societies of true open communication and association the vast majority experience is largely similar, they normalize into a soup of the best parts.

    (1) How similar the experience ends up being depends on how universal the bestness of the parts are. There are some things which are best for everyone and other things which are best for some people and not for others based on fairly particular features (age, season of the year, life experiences). And there are some things which are best for some people and not for others based on arbitrary, creative, or otherwise unpredictable features. Of the last, those unpredictable features may be idiosyncratic (in which case it’d all get centrifuged out to each individual depending on taste or preference, regardless of neighborhood clusters; or they may be associational, produced from particular interactions that aren’t 1:1 reducible to shared individual preferences, in which case you would get neighborhoods).

    Many of the benign kinds of cultural difference — shaking hands versus kissing on the cheek, that kind of thing — are examples of this last case. Of course, cultural diversity is mainly associational, not territorial; the connections may be either geographical, as with local customs, or non-geographical, as with the customs and norms of, say, Star Trek fandom, or open source, or academe, or whatever. Of course, the more open the communication of knowledge, the more cultural exchange there is, and that can radically affect, e.g., the extent to which geography does or does not matter — fuzzing up all the boundaries, and amalgamating some, and so on, and so on. Which I think is all awesome. But it also tends to dissolve or centrifuge others — network standard English is currently dying in America, precisely because of the crack-up of rigidified media monopolies, and global English is growing luxuriantly in all different directions. In the world of the future, if things keep going as they have been, everyone may well speak English, but damn there are going to a lot of different accents and a lot of different dialects. And, also, see below.

    In societies of true open communication and association the vast majority experience is largely similar, they normalize into a soup of the best parts.

    (2) That’s the equilibrium point. But if the Austrians have taught me anything, it’s that all the interesting stuff is about the processes in disequilibrium, not about the results in a state of equilibrium. What people do when they’re off-kilter in order to try balance themselves, and what sorts of thing constantly shift the equilibrium point before you can catch it, and so on.

    Hence my interest in neighborhoods. Maybe the end-state of Dinotopia and Metropolis, given access to information and freedom to travel and so on, is a mash-up of all the best in each, or an idiosyncratic distribution of what works best for each individual person in between the two, but nobody ever reaches that end-state (equilibrium points shift), and the entrepreneurial process of finding the best in each,dispersing it to them as want it, adapting it to what folks want on the margin, etc., is a matter that has actually ends up having a lot to do with intimacy with, and care for, localized diversity.

  40. Jeremy

    There’s a difference between choosing to work more on X than on Y, and choosing to work on X through means that actively harm the efforts of those working Y;

    Of course. I’m unclear on how working against empire with a broad coalition of people would, for example, impair the struggle against patriarchy by those who see that struggle as valuable, but it’s certainly a possibility.

    One of the conclusions I’ve come to in the past year or so is that I don’t have enough information to guarantee that my actions or activism will not lead to unintended consequences. So, I can accept your critique without deeming it sufficient to deter me from my course. I would also caution you that your activism almost certainly has opportunity costs and unintended negative consequences, and that I don’t expect you to necessarily answer for each and every one of them (let alone those I vaguely hint at occurring at some theoretical, predicted point in the future).

    In other words, we’re human beings, and we don’t know enough to be certain.

    If it turns out to be the case (as Soviet Onion and I keep on suggesting, without much uptake from you) that some of the deep reasons behind X, as a social phenomenon, are closely connected or directly from Y, then you may need to find that you need to work on both after all, if you want to get anything lasting accomplished

    Ah, yes - you’ve wisely chosen to qualify this with, “if it turns out to be the case”. I appreciate the lack of universalism inherent in that statement. I appreciate the sentiments that we’re all in the dark here, doing the best we can. That is precisely the spirit in which I, as a fallible human being, suggest the desirability of this cross-ideological project.

    I could be flat-out, 100% wrong. This is true.

    The fact that you have chosen, no doubt for good reasons, to focus your limited resources on X rather than Y does not mean that everyone else in the world has the same reasons for allocating their own limited resources (which are no doubt different resources and subject to different limits) to X rather than Y like you did. I am fairly sure that you will say, at this point, Of course; I’m only telling you about my priorities; you may have your own. But in fact, your writings on these subjects has repeatedly talked about priorities in a way which makes it clear that you’re recommending those priorities to others, not just reporting your own. And, even setting that aside, I’m fine with all this, when and to the extent that folks working full-time on X but not Y, and those working full-time on Y but not X, and those working on both, can all do work that complements the work of the others, so that the entire goal is realized by groups each working on a bit of the big problem in parallel to each other. But the problem is that that only works when they actually are working in parallel, so as not to actively harm the efforts of the others. On which, see #1.

    I am recommending a course of action, yes. But if I understand the critiques so far, they have not been arguing that the course I’ve chosen is wrong; it’s that the course doesn’t factor in the correct ideological, political, and philosophical analysis. In other words, it’s not that my strategy is wrong for you; it’s that it’s wrong for me. That’s where I see the source of conflict coming from.

    What do you mean here? The revolutionary success of the cause as a whole, or the incremental success produced by your personal efforts on the margins?

    I mean the former.

    If the former, I think that you’re minimizing male violence against women, and that you should stop doing that. However, in any case, it’s unclear to me why considerations about global revolutionary victory in one or the other cause should be of much interest for the kind of hard-nosed strategic planning you say you want to engage in, rather than looking at the effects of your personal actions on the margins.

    Well, think what you will. I don’t see the point you’re making that, because I disagree with you on priorities, I have particular value judgments about women. It does not minimize male violence against women to say that the state is a more vital target to undercut the institutionalization of violence and brutality. It’s not one or the other; it’s simply that the one is more actionable in a given context. This isn’t a debate of the relative merits of work on either issue (and I think it’s bad faith, frankly, to superimpose that into what I’m saying), but of where the possibilities lie at present.

    Of course, my own view is that simple body-counting is not enough to determine where your efforts should be directed. I suspect that’s your own view, too, when you’re not getting defensive about your own prioritization of causes as against other people’s.

    Of course. Let me be crystal clear here: the selection of the state as a target around which to rally has nothing to do with the merits of the case against the state vs. the case against male violence (this has been a confusing point, because I haven’t been clear that the “body count” is only significant because there is a body count with the state, whereas we don’t have that kind of strong, empirical data in analyzing the effect of patriarchy). The only difference is that the state provides a big, honking thermal exhaust port which we can rally against so that Skywalker can fire those photon torpedoes and cause a chain reaction that destroys the Death Star. The state furnishes revolutionaries with an established concept we can rally against; anti-patriarchy, for example, requires much more propaganda work - work not suited to those who have, well, patriarchal approaches.

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