Open thread on: localism, decentralism, anarchism, thick conceptions of libertarianism, and the U.S. Constitution
Here's a pretty old post from the blog archives of Geekery Today; it was written about 14 years ago, in 2009, on the World Wide Web.
There have been several lengthy threads of conversation going on in the comments of some of this week’s posts. The purpose of this post is to disentangle one of those threads to make the conversation more easily found and more easily followed.
Speaking as the editor, I will mention that I’ve done a bit to prune off some diverging conversations — e.g. some interesting discussion about
group rights and individual rights — that began in some of the comments I’m posting, and have excerpted (with editorial marks) accordingly; you can follow those discussions on the original thread. It’s not that I don’t care; it’s just that the purpose of this post is to try and extract a kind-of straightforward thread of conversation, leaving things that go off at a 45 degree angle to be discussed in spaces of their own. Also, I’ve tended to mash together comments that were made by the same person when one was made right after the other.
Anyway. Branching off from a conversation, in the comments on GT 2009-04-22: Direct action gets the goods, about Greens and Reds and cliques and tendencies within the existing Anarchist scene, and how it all relates to market anarchism, William Gillis mentioned:
... Of course the major MA influences in the Twin Cities were all pro-tech, pie-in-the-sky post-scarcity futurists and inclined to gloss over the more localist, Carson / Hess sort of interpretations.
I didn't feel a strong inclination either way from Kyle or Sarah.
If that is the case, then thank Prometheus for that. As wishful as it sounds, it's a welcome antidote to the left-libertarian tendency to treat localism and decentralization as THE POINT rather than an instrumental tool to some more fundamental desire. That shit's also vulnerable to corruption by every kind of village fascism under the sun. Hence the enabling attitude toward things like National Anarchism coming from Keith Preston and Jeremy Weiland that almost makes ANTIFA-style gang beatdowns seem like a more intelligent response to the phenomenon.
Oh, and speaking of Sarah, I hear she's going to be living on a farm in South Dakota. Not exactly futurist utopia.
–[Soviet Onion (2009-04-24, 1:39am / 2:20am)]
All of this is well put.As wishful as it sounds, it's a welcome antidote to the left-libertarian tendency to treat localism and decentralization as THE POINT rather than an instrumental tool to some more fundamental desire. That shit's also vulnerable to corruption by every kind of village fascism under the sun. Hence the enabling attitude toward things like National Anarchism coming from Keith Preston and Jeremy Weiland that almoAst makes ANTIFA-style gang beatdowns seem like a more intelligent response to the phenomenon.
It is hard for me to express how much I appreciate your speaking out against the national anarchist Trojan horse. Thank you.
And that's precisely it- replacing rights with decentralism completely throws out the principle of liberty. I want the implementation of a specific social system which guarantees individual rights and supports individual autonomy. I'm not interested in a politics which switches this for the goal of acceptance of existing social systems. whether individualist or not. Liberty requires a conscious and rational set of values and institutions which are incompatible with traditional organic society.
I'm a moderate on decentralisation- actually, I think the original 1789 American federal system buttressed by an extensive and enforceable Bill of Rights fully incorporated against local tyranny is a fairly good model. I'm at the moment inclined to say yes to decentralisation in economic matters, no in educational matters, and to favour a mixed system in politics. I think we do need broad regional social organisation in a form which maintains an easy flow of goods, people, and ideas- I think this aspect of the Roman, British, and American empires was a good thing (have you read Isabel Paterson's God of the Machine?).
William Gillis (in reply to Soviet Onion):
As wishful as it sounds, it's a welcome antidote to the left-libertarian tendency to treat localism and decentralization as THE POINT rather than an instrumental tool to some more fundamental desire. That shit's also vulnerable to corruption by every kind of village fascism under the sun.
Whaddaya expect from me aside from twinkles. We agree, of course. I'd write more on the issue but you're particularly eloquent on this and I've never entirely felt it was my place to start shit in the ALL. Left-Libertarianism is someone else's parlor. I'm a post-leftie transhumanist utilitarian who wants to slaughter the rich, turn their mansions into coops and then enact full blooded Anarcho-Capitalism as a door prop on the long road to actual Anarchism. I've never fully belonged to the Carson/Long project. If you want to start something, either calling shit out or strengthening the foundations of an alternative Left-Libertarianism then, by all means I urge you to.
As wishful as it sounds, it's a welcome antidote to the left-libertarian tendency to treat localism and decentralization as THE POINT rather than an instrumental tool to some more fundamental desire. That shit's also vulnerable to corruption by every kind of village fascism under the sun.
I agree that localism and decentralism ought not to be fetishized at the expense of other goals (either respect for rights or other cultural goals that my thick conception of libertarianism is entangled with), and that the value of localism and decentralism ought mainly to be treated as a strategic value, not as something that is desirable in itself. (When it ends up being something I'd consider desirable in itself, and not merely strategically, it's because certain forms of centralism and antilocalism are themselves expressions of classism, racism, or other forms of elite bigotry, all of which I do consider objectionable in themselves, apart from any strategic considerations.)
For reference, when you refer to aleft-libertarian tendencyto fetishize localism and decentralism, do you have anyone particular in mind, other than Jeremy Weiland? (There's also Keith Preston, presumably, but he doesn't consistently identify as a left-libertarian, and in any case I'm not willing to grant him the description.) If so, whom?
I'm a moderate on decentralisation- actually, I think the original 1789 American federal system buttressed by an extensive and enforceable Bill of Rights fully incorporated against local tyranny is a fairly good model.
It doesn't seem to have worked out very well so far.
And, for the record, I'm not a supporter of National Anarchism. I disagree with them (mostly in the sense that I refuse to take a positive position on what afree societylooks like, nor will I work towards that vision in lieu of actually freeing humans. But I would consider working with them on a case by case basis if it served my interests). I don't know what you mean about "enabling" them, though, so I can't say whether or not I do that. I'm aware of the fact that many groups exist whose ideologies I disagree with, and I see no reason to elevate their existence over the existence of more concentrated, institutionalized power structures as a motivating issue for me.
As for decentralism ...
I think it is a powerful tool, but not an end in itself.
It is harder to criminalize acts, let alone criminalize people, when people can walk across the border and out of reach of the criminalizers.
I think intentional communities can be important.
That said, there is an incredible difference between asserting the right of the individual to seek better communities, and claiming a right of a community to condemn certain individuals.
In my admittedly incomplete understanding, collectivist anarchism has historically involved either or both of two kinds of community control. The first being near-monopolistic but temporary; a transitional confederation instead of Marx's transitional state. I think this was Bakunin's pragmatic proposal. The second being community control of specific institutions, but neither requiring participation nor forbidding competition.
I think Parecon has sowed the seeds of Prestonism, because it imagines a permanent system which subjects individual choices to community decision, and forbids independent exchange. ... And the primitivists like that!
My name is being mentioned far too often in this thread. Color me uncomfortable.
I don't fetishize localism or decentralism – I simply see it as a means to an end. I may place a higher importance on those means, but so what? I don't see anybody else demonstrating a better strategy (it is just a strategy – if you want to talk about what thatmore fundamental desireis, we can do that).
What is the end, the core desire? For me, it's the standard R.A. Wilson line: achieving an honest society where people can tell the truth, or more technically, a society where individuals can maximally express themselves within the collective. For me, the end is authentic, sustainable society. Breaking up concentrations of power is just a means to this end.
Just so we're clear about where I stand, I part ways with you all mostly on your insistence on a universal morality against which one can judge affairs (thick libertarianismas a motivating ideology). I don't claim that there's arightway to live, and so I don't take, for instance, my opposition to fascist societies in some panarchist future as a directive for which I must find justification in morality or natural law or whatever. I'm quite comfortable opposing it because, well, that's just how I feel about the matter. I have my reasons, but ultimately they are grounded in something either arbitrary (and inaccessable) or intrinsic to reality (and therefore accessible without needing codification and legalisms).
The truth or significance of that feeling is something we can talk about, but it has more to do with my own journey than some ideology. That is where I feel I diverge fromthick libertarianism. I support most thick libertarian values because I support them, not because they'reright.
Prestonismis a reference, I must assume, to his core position that human beings are inherently tribal, and that therefore the most we can work towards is a cross-ideological alliance against the state rather than the everlasting victory of left libertarian ideology? Whether or not I like that view of humans, I must say it seems to map well to human history and experience. Most people don't give a damn about liberty, in fact. That does [not] preclude a left libertarian agenda in any way, I would think.
As far as I know, his critique of thick libertarianism has never been responded to, which is unfortunate; we could all benefit from a informed debate involving Johnson, Long, et al.
Well, I for one have indirectly criticized his essay:
I was more interested, however, in explaining my own views than in confronting his.
But I would consider working with them on a case by case basis if it served my interests).
Just out of curiosity, what do you imagine as a case in which it would serve your interests to work with National Anarchists?
Just so we're clear about where I stand, I part ways with you all mostly on your insistence on a universal morality against which one can judge affairs (thick libertarianismas a motivating ideology).
The thick-thin debate is not a debate about moral universalism. It's a debate about something else. Most people with a thin conception of libertarianism are moral universalists; they just have a different view of what kind of further commitments the moral virtue of justice might recommend. And it's perfectly possible (although I wouldn't recommend it; but that's because I'm a moral universalist) to be an anti-universalistic thick libertarian; indeed, it's quite possible to advance a view on which some form of anti-universalism or anti-moralism is one of the further commitments that libertarianism recommends. (That seems to be what some Stirnerite and Nietzschean anarchists believe. It also seems to be what you've spent the past several months arguing, while claiming that you're critiquing thick conceptions of libertarianism. The fact that you lay a lot of stress on a very broad-ranging form of social tolerance does not mean that you're opposing the bundling of further social commitments together with libertarianism. It means that you may disagree with those of us who have a more activist stance in the culture wars about what sort of social commitments ought to be bundled.)
As far as I know, his [Keith Preston's] critique of thick libertarianism has never been responded to, which is unfortunate; we could all benefit from a informed debate involving Johnson, Long, et al.
There are a lot of reasons why I haven’t yet published a response to Preston’s article. If I do it is likely to be a series of responses to short points rather than an attempt at extended dialogue in a single essay. I will say here that part of the problem with Preston’s essay is that it is an extended attack on something other than what he starts off claiming to be attacking; it’s not a critique of thick conceptions of libertarianism at all, but rather a critique of left-libertarianism (or more specifically some aspects of the cultural program advanced by, e.g., Roderick and me, as part of theleftcomponent ofleft-libertarianism). The two are not identical; left-libertarianism, at least as Roderick and I present it, is a species of thick libertarianism, but there are many other kinds; notably, as I’ve repeatedly tried to stress Hoppean paleolibertarians, and orthodox Objectivists are each advancing their own thick conceptions of libertarianism. What I differ with them on is notthick libertarianism— the idea that libertarianism is best seen as one strand within a bundle of interrelated and reinforcing political, cultural, or philosophical commitments, which is one of the very few ideas on which the Hoppeans, the ARIans, and I all agree with each other — but rather the specific commitments that they are trying to bundle in. There are several related and entangled but importantly distinct and conceptually distinguishable issues that Preston is attempting to treat, and I don’t think that the essay does a very good job of distinguishing them carefully. (Which is whythick libertarianismends up getting used over and over again as if it named a distinctive ideology, rather than what it is, a cluster of picky philosophical distinctions that might help categorize a number of different ideological positions. It’s also why the essay jumbles together several different arguments about several different topics, with very little in the way of anything that actually attempts to engage the work I did on distinguishing, explaining and justifying several different kinds of relationships that might connectthe struggle against the statewith othervaluesin the thick bundle. This kind of jumbling makes fruitful discussion much harder to carry on, and much more work to prepare.
Aster: I'm a moderate on decentralisation- actually, I think the original 1789 American federal system buttressed by an extensive and enforceable Bill of Rights fully incorporated against local tyranny is a fairly good model.
Charles: Huh? Why? It doesn't seem to have worked out very well so far.
It depends what you compare it to. If you compare it to the best system I think human beings are possible of creating, undoubtably it’s inferior. But if you consider it in the context of that vast slaughterbench of individuals known as human history, it looks more like a miraculously achievement. Certainly, the system is on the edge of failing now. But the very partial, irregular, and inconsistent virtues which the system has shown in the last two centuries is still an unspeakable achievement in a world in which the norm is the closed society. I’m alive today. I can’t ever forget that in any previous age, given my ideas and gender transition, I would never have made it this far.
I think part of the difference in our outlooks is that I look at freedom as a positive construction. I don’t see a natural state of freedom which government, elites, or capital has stolen from us. I see a natural baseline of tribal dictatorship- animal society knows nothing of the individual- which humans have with slow and tortured cumulative effort managed to partially replace with a form of society which allows for some degree of human freedom. We should certainly work and demand more than what we have, but we should also remain aware that the creation of conditions in which the individual personality is even partially free to be herself requires a set of social and material conditions in tension with a state of nature.
I used to consider myself a borderline anarchist, but I don’t any longer. (let me stress that unlike orthodox Objectivists I am not hostile to anarchism). The reason has to do primarily with an experience in the anarchist scene.
Some months before I arrived in Wellington, a female anarchist accused a male anarchist of rape. Prior to this, everything I’ve seen suggests that relations within the community were entirely peaceful- zero aggression beyond the level of dishonestly leaving dishes for the next person to clean up. So when this happened, it was a social shock. People picked sides. People got accused of covering up for a rapist and/or damning someone as a rapist without evidence (I have a strong opiniong about who was telling the truth, but I won’t discuss it here). The result ruined friendships, hurt a community involving hundreds of people, and hovered like a ghost over every subsequent practical or ideological disagreement, long after the victim herself clearly expressed an authentic desire to move on.
The reason the problem kept reverberating is because there was no way to finally and publicly resolve the dispute. Any standing body which was recognised as making a judgement which counted would be… authority, heirarchy, a government. There was clearly a view that things should work themselves out, that things like this shouldn’t happen in a nonheirarchical community… and, indeed, this was a singular and exceptional occurrance within a very honest and safe group of people. But this one aggression had catastrophic results. There was no way to deal with it. And as far as I could see, it was all very tied to the idea that harmony was natural, that interference in that harmony felt wrong. The result of an informality of structure was that everyone ended up supporting their friends and allies and communal trust never entirely recovered. Ironically, the political result of all of this was the creation of a ‘safer spaces’ policy which worked as de facto law but without objective and accountable methods. And the de facto law caused more problems for human freedom than would a written law which explicity set up an authoritative institution.
The conclusion I came out of this was: law is valuable. I don’t mean enforcement, police, prisons, that sort of stuff. I mean that it is better to have publicly written institutions that set up standards rather than trusting society to work itself out. You need formal principles which don’t spring out of the ground, which have to be set up, written down, and applied in a regular manner within a community- for in the absence of formal rules, you get not no rules but tribal rules.
After this, and for other reasons, I started becoming very conscious of the fact that the social relations we take for granted depend on a prior structure of civilisation which makes public dealings possible. A civil society may, from a certain angle, be self-organising. But for that social organisation to work (especially if you want it to work in a dircection of individualism and freedom*) one needs a background set of institutions and values which have to be constructively built. And in that light, partially liberal societies start looking much more half-full than half-empty. Freedom isn’t a birthright that dark forces have stolen from us; freedom is a positive accomplishment made possible by the invention of better social structures. And if we wish- as we should- to seek more freedom, we should look at this not as tearing down but as building higher. Those who do think we will find our freedom primarily by breaking and tearing down are mistaken- and are easy prey for people who don’t like a free society and can abuse the naivete of radicals to make them dig their own graves.
It goes deeper. If you look at an anarchist community, one quickly becomes aware that one is dealing with unusually good people. Nice people. Considerate people. Idealistic people. People who don’t often think of stealing and lying as available options. And they’re often quite privileged people- people who haven’t known as much pain and others and for that very reasons are capable of being more kind and idealistic. That such people exist is a very good thing- the world desperately needs such people and would be very wise not to despise idealists and creators.
But precisely because most bohemians are nice, they create social systems based upon the assumption that their kind of psychology is a given. They take for granted a great deal of civilisation which is unconscious to them. But that social psychology is as a rule a product of favourable circumstances- such as an enriching, leisurely childhood. If one wants to be rude, it’s also sustained by flat out privilege- the characteristic ethical blindspot of bohemians is the assumption that the world owes us a living.
But most importantly, the anarchist way of life is built upon an immense complex of civilisation structure carried around inside the human mind. The better world for which anarchism advocates is built upon all the (to my mind, correct) assumptions of this one. When we fault the injustices of the states that came out of the liberal institutions, we’re right, but our capacity to be right is itself the product of the startling success of those revolutions- Thoreau says something like this in On the Duty of Civil Disobedience. Even our capacity to think and value more finely and treat others with more human dignity is a product of more humane conditions. Those who criticise the illiberalism of the best existing systems today are themselves the continuing success of those systems. We can criticise them because they won (and, if they fall, we will lose the right to criticise).
Yes, Americs and all the other liberal democracies were set up by rich dead white men who forgot to include anybody but themselves. But the fact that they included anyone is, by historical standards, an unspeakable improvement and a breathtaking experiment. Throughout human history poverty, superstition, fear, hatred, collectivism, atrocity, and war have been the order of the day. I find it horrible to think about what life for the average person- averaged over our entire history- has really been like. Everyone reading this is privileged beyond sane possibility by any previous standard. And that includes politics- we’re able to posit the possibility of stateless societies because previous social architects managed the feat of creating working liberal societies.
The success of anarchism would mean that we’ve completely humanised the human condition. The anarchist possibility is a hypercivilisation. Anarchism is not a negation of bourgeois tyranny- it’s an avante-garde continuation of the principles of the older bourgeois liberal revolutions. The revolution (at least one we want) will not break the structures of oppreesion. It will build the structures of freedom another level higher. Anti-racism, feminism, LGBT rights are some of the most recent, the most fragile, and the most difficult of these accomplishments. They are not reversals of the betrayals of 1776 and 1789; they are their most wild successes. And the fact that life after 1776 and 1789 was still a tytannical Hell for most people isn’t something I’ve forgetting- again, I could never have survived if I has been born even one generation ago.
And in that context, I’m grateful to those dead white men and their state- even if to get my freedom, it is them I have to fight with extensions of their own principles.
America’s dying today- but it’s dying precisely because it is guided by people who have abandoned the spiritual infrastructure of liberal civilisation- by a ruling class whose level of thinking is an illiterate mess of delusion and pragmatism incapable of sustaining a free society. Any system would fail in the direction of tyranny under the same circumstances.#
One technical point- what I was broadly praising wasn’t the actual American system (past or present), but an ahistorical conjunction of the best parts from different periods- an 18th century ‘conservative’ limited government with 20th century ‘liberal’ provisions for rights enforcement. If I was going to write a model political blueprint I’d change any number of things (a longer bill of rights, proportional representation, a parliamentary system, nix the stupid electoral college).
But I still think what we need is a consciously selected society based upon specific and rationally validated values. A society in which individuals may do what they wish requires an insistence that societies operate by individualist principles, with an establishment of appropriate civil and formal institutions. You can have a society whee individuals are left alone or you can leave societies alone to dispose as they please with individuals- you can’t have both.
It depends what you compare it to. If you compare it to the best system I think human beings are possible of creating, undoubtably it's inferior. But if you consider it in the context of that vast slaughterbench of individuals known as human history, it looks more like a miraculously achievement.
I don’t think that it worked out better than other competing proposals which were made at the time would have worked out. For example, if we’re comparing different proposed governments, then it ought to be noted one of the chiefaccomplishmentsof the United States Constitution, as compared with the earlier Articles of Confederation was that the U.S. Constitution was deliberately designed to substantially increase centralization, in particular to grant the general government wide powers to impose national taxes and to pass and enforce Fugitive Slave Acts. The first was a substantial reason for its political success at the North; the second was a substantial reason for its political success at the South. I don’t consider either of these an advance over what came before.
How much of an achievement it looks like depends on where you’re looking at it from. There isn’t much of a miracle there for the Shawnee, or the Lakota, or for Africans, or for African-Americans, or for the Filipinos (1,000,000+ dead thanks to a war that could not have happened but for the war machine that a centralized U.S. made possible), or for the Vietnamese (4,000,000 dead from the same cause a few decades later), not just because it failed to improve things but because it made things actively worse than they were before under the status quo ante. It’s not enough to say,Yes, that’s terrible, but the alternatives were just as bad or worse.They weren’t, not for the people who have gotten the heel of the boot under the U.S. government. It’s one thing to say that the ideals that motivated some aspects of the founding events of the U.S. could, if radicalized and universalized, bring liberation for everyone (I agree with that, and often say so); but it’s important not to miss the fact that not only weren’t they, but in fact the selective versions were often used to enable the elite to inflict much more violence, sometimes genocidal violence, on those who were cast outside of the magic circle.
If you want to go looking for less-lethal states, they exist, but I don’t think that anything like the U.S.A. could possibly qualify. San Marino, maybe; Switzerland, maybe. I have problems with these states, as I do with any other, but I can see citing them as examples of societies which manage to rise above the general bloodbath of recorded history. But certainly not anything that has ever been done under the United States Constitution.
America's dying today
Q: When was it ever alive?
I think part of the difference in our outlooks is that I look at freedom as a positive construction. I don't see a natural state of freedom which government, elites, or capital has stolen from us.
But that’s not my view either.
I’m not trying to recover a primordial state. I view freedom as an achievement for the future; the question is by what means it can be achieved. My complaint is not that you’re proposing a structure; it’s that you’re proposing a structure which has been tried and found wanting, and which there are good reasons to consider structurually predisposed to the slaughter, enslavement, war, and torture that has been committed under its name since the day that it was signed. The reason that I want the State to get out of the way is not because I expect everything to fix itself automatically once people are left alone. It would do a handy job of automatically fixing some things — nobody but states builds atomic bombs; nobody but states starves people to death in the name of de-kulakization/industrial modernization/intellectual property rights in DNA/opium prohibition/etc. But there are many things that need to be worked out through conscious effort and activism and the building of social structures and institutions.
So when you say:
The conclusion I came out of this was: [explicit] law is valuable.
I agree with you, but I don’t know why that’s an argument against anarchism, or in favor of the United States Constitution. Anarchism doesn’t mean dispensing with all written precepts for social conduct or with any possible sort of juridical institution. It means dispensing with the State. There are plenty of ways of getting explicit law, and institutions which write down laws based on rational deliberation and criticism, and juridical institutions which apply law or judgment to concrete cases, based on consensual association and without any kind of state. That’s been precisely the point of market anarchist theory since the get-go. The idea is not to get rid of orderly dispute resolution, but rather to stop the State from violently suppressing alternative forms of it.
Without the State, you can’t have finally unaccountable juridical institutions, and you can’t have written laws which are passed off as binding solely because of the political position of those who wrote them down. But I consider that a virtue, not a defect, because the need for institutions which allow for holding aggressors accountable, and for settling disputes through deliberation about right, rather than by means of brute force, doesn’t just apply when it comes to encounters between one citizen and another. It also applies when it comes to encounters between the citizen and the State; but there’s no way to get that as long as the State remains a state. The state as such is lawless in its encounters with the people it claims the right to rule; so if you think that law is valuable, that’s a reason to oppose the state, not a reason to support it.
As for the particular case you mention, that’s awful, and all too familiar. I’ve encountered plenty of similar situations in anarchistscenesaround the U.S. in the past. I think existing anarchist scenes do a very bad job of supporting women and a very bad job of responding to rape in particular. But (1) so does the State, as we both know; (2) partly because of male supremacy, which is everywhere at the moment, but partly also for reasons that have specifically to do with the legal and juridical structure of the state (because state-centric criminal law handle crimes of violence as a matter of the State’s interest in preservingpublic order,not as a matter of vindicating the rights of individual victims; no surprise that D.A.s and cops are typically incredibly unresponsive to the needs of women, especially when it comes to a crime typically committed within theprivatesphere); and (3) the problems with the existing anarchist scene only suggest a problem with anarchism as such, or a reason to favor the state, if there are no realistically available ways to deal with a situation like this using anarchistic methods. But there are ways to deal with it. I’m all for people involved in organizing anarchist spaces getting together and writing down, and taking seriously, policies about how to deal with sexual violence or other issues that are likely to come up in a social space. (I’ve personally written plenty of policies, back when I was involved with planning an anarchist convention some years back.) Those people in the scene who think that any such attempt to do so amounts to government (for ill or for good) are, well, wrong — not just wrong about how to deal with the problems of interpersonal violence, but also wrong about what government is and what it is anarchism is opposed to.
But I still think what we need is a consciously selected society based upon specific and rationally validated values.
O.K. But isn’t that a reason to favor a form of social organization in which peaceful people are free to select their political institutions, rather than one in which a predetermined set of political institutions are violently imposed on them regardless of their consciously selected preferences?
A society in which individuals may do what they wish requires an insistence that societies operate by individualist principles, with an establishment of appropriate civil and formal institutions.
Anarchism does not preclude civil or formal institutions.
The success of anarchism would mean that we've completely humanised the human condition. The anarchist possibility is a hypercivilisation.
O.K., sure; but the question is how we get there from here. If what you mean as the process of civilization is something like, getting from a condition of chaotic or semistructured violence, to a condition of social peace, then I agree that building social structure is part of the process. But there are different kinds of social structures, and the state is only one among many. It’s only one among many possible structures; it’s also only one among many of structures that have actually operated in history. (Here are some others, which did not derive from a centralized state: the norms and institutions of academe, friendly societies, labor unions, churches, synagogues, the Law Merchant, the English common law of torts and contracts, etc. Some of these are beneficent, others baleful, and most are a mixture of the two.) The question is whether the level of social peace that some people are privileged to enjoy today was brought about by the state, or by other structures without the help of the state, or by other structures in spite of the state; I think the answer is mostly the last. And further, it’s a question of whether, going forward, centralized state methods are likely to advance or to hold back the cause of greater civilization and social peace. I think, looking at what the state actually does do most of the time it is doing something, and looking at what states are always going to be most likely to do, given the way that they are structured, that the question is not a hard one to answer.
One technical point- what I was broadly praising wasn't the actual American system (past or present), but an ahistorical conjunction of the best parts from different periods- an 18th century @@e2;20ac;2dc;conservative' limited government with 20th century @@e2;20ac;2dc;liberal' provisions for rights enforcement.
I hope that you’d also include some other innovations besides the Incorporation Doctrine that also weren’t part of the Founding elite’s interpretation of the Constitution ca. 1790 — for example, the Thirteenth Amendment.
That said, if we’re now going to be looking at political systems which have never existed at any point in history, and which to be sustainable would also (as you argue) require a different culture and civil society, which does not now exist and never has existed and would involve a really radical transformation of what does now exist — then it seems like I can help myself to the same sort of hope and activism for the sort of radical transformation in culture and civil society which would make anarchy practical, sustainable, and desirable.
Yeah, I was going to point out what Charles did for himself. You were attacking a strawman. The federated organizations imagined by anarcho-communists are fantastically consciously constructed. The minarchist-market anarchist debate is over whether competitive defense services can achieve a individualist liberal rule of law — not over the desirability of orderly proceedings per se. There are also a lot of relatively minor disputes in life where the state doesn't intervene without chaos resulting. A serious rape accusation is arguably something for an objective court of law, but a verbal scuffle with my mom isn't.
How would you answer a person pointing out Lawrence vs Texas, Brown vs Board of Education, and civil rights legislation passed on the national level?
Incidentally, the Brown vs Board of Education decision occurred in the context of compulsory schooling. You were compelled via taxes to support a racist school structure — no doubt said taxes fell on black and white alike.
Bill of Rights, Amendment XIII, Aster’s edition.
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime where of the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the County of Bohemia, or any place subject to her jurisdiction. Actually, involuntary servitude even as punishment for real crime just makess people nastier and isn’t exactly productive. Forced labour as restitution for aggression is a maybe, but it sounds way open to abuse.
One more thing. It’s still involuntary servitude if you force someone to carry a gun and murder foreigners- actually, that’s even worse. And mandatory volunteerism- you guessed it, ‘involuntary servitude’!
Oh, and that includes your wife. And your children. Don’t give that look- no, your wife and children aren’t your personal beasts of burden or fuck-toys. I don’t care if ‘your culture’ says otherwise. Tough.
It’s still involuntary servitude if you make the kid go to a big ugly building and bore them to death and call it ‘education’.
It probably doesn’t count if it’s your dog or your cow, but we can discuss that issue. Maybe. Torturing millions of veal calves in factory farms does have a really bad slaveryish feel to it. Cats go under ‘implied non-applicability’- you can’t tell them what to do anyway. Actually, this amendment has an exception regarding you in relation to your cat. Obey her or else, not like you can resist.
The principle applies to places not subject to the jurisdiction of the County of Bohemia too, but this isn’t an excuse to bomb foreigners and take their stuff. Or to get other foreigners to ruin their livelihoods so they have to work in your sweatshops for virtually nothing. It even applies to BROWN people, believe it or not- and the fact that it took you this long to figure that out means you suck.
Section VII. Aster shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation. Actually, anyone who wants to stop a slavery situation should feel empowered to do it. Figuring out the enforcement and incentive structures will be a bitch, though- but that’s not an excuse for giving up and just letting slavery happen, Keith.
Section VIII: And the clever loophole in these rules you figured out is NOT OK. Slavery=BAD, if you were missing the point here.
Section IX: And if you were thinking that of course this principle applied to everyone but you- well, then you were wrong.
Charles, is that better?
Charles said most of what I would have. I’m very much in favor of polycentric law, specifically because I think it’s a kind of decentralization (not be confused with mutually-exclusive “localisms” a la Hoppestan/anarcho-communism, ’cause that shit’s wack) that manages to incorporate the entire cosmopolis in a competitive and collaborative project(+). It’s the kind of decentralization that incorporates multiple overlapping world-strands instead segregating into little chunks where oppressive conditions can entrench themselves. It’s decentralized only in the sense that the same globalized process is taking place everywhere. The center is everywhere. Perhaps a better term for this is “system redundancy”, or even just competition.
The standard market anarchist talking point posits a competitive system of law and security in which no one is compelled to pay for enforcement they don’t want or seek the services of a specific mediator. This would tend to simultaneously whittle away anything that wasn’t strictly directly related to the defense of person or property, while strengthening those remaining parts (since competition is more efficient than monopoly), resulting in something that would unconsciously grope toward an approximation of a market liberal order, even in the absence of conscious endeavor (and the Lawyers in the crowd would see that as an almost mystical proof of Natural Law, but that’s also wack).
But the same thing would tend to happen culturally. By subsuming more and more people from larger cultural and geographic groups into the process, and forcing them to reason and persuade in an open environment wherein individuals are presented with a realistic possibility to run to the highest ground, you dissolve taboos and meme-traps to wind up with a code that should tend toward something more respectful of rational individualism, irrespective of whatever local aberrations may have been there initially. That ties into what I meant earlier about competition giving people so many options to run to that it forces all options to become better, because it becomes harder to put the cultural clampdown on anyone.
You see, this is why I’m not a good writer. I just ramble. To answer your point, I can see reasoned, macro-level cosmopolitan sentiments manifesting themselves best through this kind of anarchist decentralization. You don’t need to choose between an (unstable) monopoly state or an (undesirable) organic tribe.
(+) It’s no surprise that most of humanity’s early philosophical development took place in violently antagonistic environments like ancient Greece, China, India, Renaissance Italy etc. Competition is just a way of reconstituting this dynamic without violence, anarchist peace being the perfection of what we now call war, as Proudhon would say. Marxism tries to wish this discord away rather than harness it as an engine of progress (and even they recognize that it an engine of progress, but only to envision an end state that transcends it).
Note: I'm the last person to say that cultural change doesn't matter, but this system is likely to be the most stable and compatible form in which to help preserve and extend it. Certainly more than your description of decentralization would indicate.
In a loosely related note, I attended the Finding Our Roots anarchist convergence today and something in one of the workshops caught my ear, a word I hadn’t heard in a long time: Globalization. It was in the context of someone describing anarchism as advancing an alternative vision of globalization to the neoliberal one, and this person spoke in kind of a tongue-in-cheek fashion, because he knew that this had already become a cliche.
Now, left-libertarians do try to present themselves as real advocates of “free-trade”, “free-markets”, “privatization” and sometimes even “property rights”, all in an attempt to redeem these (more or less) valuable concepts from their hypocritical usurpers, and present them as an Unknown Ideal toward which we can aspire with all the genuine radicalism that it deserves.
But I’ve never seen left-libertarians do the same withglobalization.
Isn’t it odd that a group of people who advocate mostly local, self-contained, territorial forms self-government and economic relations still felt that the wordglobalizationwas worth redeeming, and left-libertarians haven’t?
I think giving up on the anarchist project because of one specific instance in one specific scene where some folks failed to have a good response to an instance/charge of rape is a little, well disappointing.
No one ever pretended that the present-day movement has already found all the habits and organizational tendencies necessary to resolve every dilemma before a functioning society. Our only claim is that such models exist to be found.
I think these problems of justice can be solved theoretically but because of the emotional immediacy and the relative perpetuity of sexual assault in our culture the movement has opted for a trial and error approach with various cities trying various solutions and engaging in an — albeit limited — dialogue. There are collectives and mediating bodies in dozens of cities across the united states with experience dealing with precisely these kinds of situations, often to impressive ends. Your example is a classic one, but it’s one that’s recognized as such. For all of Social Anarchism’s annoying self-limitations they HAVE demonstrated over the last few decades a serious and proactive commitment to developing organic solutions. And as Market Anarchists we should be able to recognize that if even a free market can take a few iterations to generate and test solutions, a small cliquish group of people LARPing on weekends as though they were already in a free society might take a while longer.
The problem is not that there aren’t solutions, the problem is that these models and groups fall into disuse and their nuances aren’t conveyed to the next 3-year batch of radicals. Long distance (in time AND space) communication has never been Social Anarchism’s strong suit. But this is not a fundamental impediment but a reality of the movement’s size, culture and technological aptitude.
As to the rest.
I take seriously umbrage at your portrayal of the Social Anarchist movement as rife with naive kindness and idealism because of their largely pampered privileged bourgeois upbringings.
Practically everyone I work with or run into on a regular basis come from backgrounds of seriously fucked up shit. I may think I have the slightly worse extreme stories of childhood homelessness, starvation and abuse, and there may be an annoying rash of privileged upper working-class kids scattered around the scene for good measure, but I am really fucking sick of folks who briefly slum it with the cliques most immediately accessible to them and use such unrepresentative anecdotes to write off the entire movement.
It’s not about naivety. It’s precisely because we’re intimately aware of the sheer depth of horrors in the sociological/psychological composition of our society and how they function that we endeavor to prove another world is possible.
Yes America is a pretty damn amazing accomplishment and a great improvement. We can measure things against Anarchy, Full-blown consciousness-outlawed Fascism, or how things were previously in history. America obviously fails against the first but triumphs amazingly against the latters. As far as world empires we could have at this state of technological development America is practically a divine miracle.
But as you well know it’s a strawman to argue against Anarchists as though we want to immediately whisk away the state and its various forms of control. We’re not, nor have we ever, argued for some police-strike. The civilizing process will take some damn time. Probably millennia were we destined to remain at roughly this level of technological capacity.
That being true it’s tempting to throw up one’s hands and become a social democrat for the duration. (And we CAN argue for reformism and certain improved models of statism without being hypocrites.) But the reality is that the statist or liberal paradigm is one of fetishizing immediate advances or ameliorations in ignorance or apathy of their long term consequences. Simply put, the game of statist reform threatens to paint us into a corner from which we cannot emerge. Being an Anarchist is differentiated from Liberalism or Minarchism because while some of us may give to the EFF / ACLU, vote for lesser evils or get involved in political campaigns we navigate these contexts constantly mindful of our pursuit of an end far beyond them. We can’t choose means that cripple our ultimate ends.
Now, setting aside my editor hat and putting my contributor hat back on, a few notes on the discussion.
I’d still be interested in hearing from Soviet Onion whether he has anyone else in mind when he talks about a
left-libertarian tendencyto inappropriately fetishize localism and decentralism, and if so, who.
In reply to Aster, I oppose debt slavery, including debt slavery to pay off restitution. Otherwise, sounds fine, and, speaking as head of state and a supermajority of the provincial councils, I’m happy to incorporate it into the Bill of Rights of this secessionist republic of one. Probably was already hidden under a penumbra somewhere, but a little repetition never hurt anybody.
In reply to Soviet Onion, I agree with you, and you are unjust to your own writing. Except there’s no such thing as a
meme-trapbecause there’s no such thing as memes. I agree that the non-territoriality of anarchist justice and defense associations, institutions for deliberating about right, and so on, is important to stress;
decentralismmeans the lack of a fixed center, not a proliferation of millions of fixed centers with a small stretch of turf.
globalization,well, I dunno; but for what it’s worth, Southern Nevada ALL does distribute Free Trade Is Fair Trade and one of the main issues we focus on locally is immigration freedom. I agree that the discussion of counter-globalization or alternative globalization doesn’t get as much talk as it ought to, but I don’t think that tendencies among left-libertarians are really the problem here; I think the problem is one that exists throughout the anarchist movement, and that we’d be talking about it more if more of our interlocutors were bringing it up in their own conversations, and I agree with Shawn’s point in
What ever happened to (the discourse on) Neoliberalism?that
the critical narrative seems to have bumped into some obstacle in the collective memory of radicals.(Speaking only for myself, I suspect that the reasons why have a lot to do with the political events of the last 8 years, and with some bad decisions that we made, or that were made for us by our conversation partners, going into the anti-war movement.)
What do y’all think? Fire when ready in the comments.
Way to kill the thread Charles. ;)
Nick Manley /#
I say Charles moved the thread to the front and center.
Rad Geek /#
Damn, and I didn’t even have to drown it in a flood of new, picky conceptual distinctions.
Oh well. Feel free to start some shit. If you hum a few bars, I’ll try to play along….
Nick Manley /#
Not sure if you were joking or not, but I don’t think murdering the collective rich is a good way to create social change.
Aren’t freed markets supposed to whittle away genuine monopoly power?
Rad Geek /#
One thing that I forgot to mention in the post above was my reply to Nick’s questions about federal enforcement of pro-liberty Supreme Court rulings on the several states over the objections of their state governments.
I previously discussed Lawrence in an earlier go-around about decentralism in the comments for GT 2006-03-27: The Conservative Mind (Sin Fronteras edition). I’ve frequently made similar remarks about Roe (as, for example, in the comments on GT 2008-01-22: Roe v. Wade Day #35, or on GT 2006-03-08: Abortion on demand and without apology (Dakota Remix), which also discusses why supporting a court ruling like Roe is importantly different from politically depending on it). Brown is a little more complicated because unlike Roe and Lawrence it doesn’t simply strike down a single illegitimate law; it has to do with requiring one form of administration for an illegitimate government school system in place of another form of administration. But see my exchange with JTK about it under GT 2006-04-09: Freedom Movement Celebrity Deathmatch.
Looking back over the comments, I’d say that they all still express my views on those specific cases. Generally speaking, my position is this: I support any pro-liberty ruling by the Supreme Court, so long as all it does is to abolish an invasion against individual liberty, even when those are committed by state or local governments. I couldn’t care less about how those rulings relate to the division of powers set out in the U.S. Constitution, because I don’t acknowledge the authority of the U.S. Constitution.
If state governments don’t like the pro-liberty ruling, then they will just have to grin and bear it unless and until they are ready to buck up and secede over it.
If they do secede, I will support their right (+) to do so without being marched back under U.S. jurisdiction at bayonet-point.
However, as soon as they do secede, besides supporting their right to do so without an invasion from the federal government, I will also turn around and avidly support the right of any county, city, neighborhood, or individual woman, queer person, person of color, or anybody else who wants to secede from the state’s authority and from its attempts to impose asinine forced pregnancy, sodomy, or segregation laws. If the state government tries to use invasion or occupation to stop them from seceding, then I will oppose the state government’s invasion even more fiercely than I would oppose the federal government’s invasion.
(+) I mean the rights of those individual people who compose or ally themselves with the state government; of course the state government itself is a criminal enterprise, and has no rights at all.
(My position here is similar to that advocated by the radical abolitionists who supported disunion, or those who later opposed the Civil War. Spooner, for example, believed that the Southern state governments should have been left to secede without a Federal invasion — and that abolitionists should have then turned around and provided aid to fugitive slaves, slave uprisings, and guerrilla resistance against the slavers, in the newly independent South. That is, to resist slavery through solidarity, rather than through paternalistic attempts at rescue.)
Hope this helps.
Roderick T. Long /#
For William: I’m not sure what the “Carson/Long project” is that you disagree with. For one thing, there’s nothing anti-tech about decentralism; for another, Kevin’s decentralism is more thoroughgoing than mine anyway. (And he’s thought way more about fertiliser than I have.)
For Jeremy: While I do believe there’s a correct morality, I’ve never claimed — in fact, I’ve vehemently denied, at length — that thick libertarianism as I understand it requires widespread adoption of the correct morality across the board. That was the point of my line “generic universalism, specific pluralism.”
For Aster: Aren’t you confusing statelessness with lawlessness? Most anarchists of the free-market type don’t deny — on the contrary we affirm — the importance of publicly known rules, established and predictable adjudication procedures, etc. Indeed we claim we’d get better and less distorted versions of that under anarchism.
Sorta joking, sorta not. Obviously, yeah, dynamic free association whittles away at power structures, and old fashioned Class War even devoid of some Proletarian State is all kinds of sketchy if not potentially horrifying in the broader consequences those sort of approaches take. But every time I see Roderick fight it out with Kinsella and the like I’m profoundly annoyed by the assumptions that get thrown around. One of the broadest is the notion that we (the more Social Anarchist sections of the ALL, as well as the broader Social Anarchist movement) need to be rehabilitated and defended as True Anarchists / True Libertarians based on a litmus test of divine respect for Property Rights unto themselves. This is exceedingly obnoxious because if you want to be pedantic about it I don’t support property rights, I support markets. I support, to turn to the old fashioned ;) terminology Shawn’s been using recently, many minded systems as opposed to the sort of collective and federative decision making and distributive processes currently defaulted on by most social anarchists. I appreciate property titles as an extremely useful social tool but have qualms about some of the more nuanced limitations to them and extreme qualms about justifying deference to them on something as strong as even a Rule-Utilitarian basis. I’ve mentioned a few times in a few contexts that I imagine the correct way to approach property titles is to see them as emerging out of a more basic market in reputation, something that sidesteps the ugly acrobatics of all that Self-Ownership and Labour-Mixing jazz and — I hope — provides a way to deal with the nasty fringe conditions in Property Rights.
Rothbard does his little bit where he agrees that if the State controls everything and just “privatizes” it by turning it over the property titles to itself or an elite oligarchy, nothing’s been fixed and we probably shouldn’t respect those titles. Of course he says this because by his system those titles are illegitimate, but he ALSO invokes the consequentialist argument that it wouldn’t be a market and the concentration of wealth would be SO EXTREME that there’d be no realistic way to dissolve it by purely market means. The question is where does this end? I think a freed market — and even a semi-free one — can eventually grind down anything less than a 100% concentration of control over material wealth, but I think the speed at which it is capable of doing so is critically important. I’m not about to sit by and wait while people are starving to death. And I wouldn’t be able to look my friends in the face if this were my position or if this were truly the limits of the Market Anarchism I’ve been defending. Voltairine’s exclamation wasn’t “Take Bread! …But only from those that have directly benefited from Government privileges, that you can point to as being widely documented on paper and easily measurable in wealth, all overseen in a studious, orderly and legalistic manner.” I mean WTF.
I hate the rich and the bourgeois, not out of envy for their opulence — which I could give a shit about — or even justice for their parasitism, but out of despite for their insipid culture and smugly limited intelligence. I simultaneously cherish and admire the faint sparks of entrepreneurial spirit and the creative construction to be found scattered among such wealth. I approach strategies of violent social revolution / insurrection that aren’t based on defense of existing property titles extremely mindful of potential consequences that would squash or create a context hostile to such entrepreneurial forces — as such could seriously undermine the very possibility of reaching Anarchy. But I emphatically disagree with the premise that such strategies should be written out of our vernacular completely. And I think whether or not folks like teh Mises crowd like it, they should damn well accept that it can be a validly Anarcho-Capitalist position to advocate violent (“aggressive” even, lawls) redistributive effort PRIOR to the enactment of a Freed Market.
I don’t have a stake in doing things that way or some purely agorist fashion, some gradualist way, or any of the vast spectrum of composites. My only stake is what is most efficient at getting us all the way to Anarchy. But I think the “Slaughter them all and then crack open Mises and Rothy” is position that can only be placed correctly under the flag of Anarcho-Capitalism. Obviously it 100% contradicts their movement’s historical cultural alignment with the bourgeois status quo. But that’s a good thing. They need to be forced to squirm on that account.
There’s a lot more for me to address, but I have to take off now.
Soviet Onion /#
Sure, but in this case it either is, or a some of the people I’m thinking of are definitely conflating the two.
A world in which peasants had held onto their land and property was widely distributed, capital was freely available to laborers through mutual banks, productive technology was freely available in every country without patents, and every people was free to develop locally without colonial robbery, is beyond our imagination. But it would have been a world of decentralized, small-scale production for local use, owned and controlled by those who did the work–as different from our world as day from night, or freedom from slavery. — Kevin Carson, The Iron Fist Behind the Invisible Hand
and this . . .
Without subsidies to centralization and energy consumption, the labor currently wasted on distribution would be unnecessary to maintain the existing standard of living. Production would be on a much smaller, more efficient scale, and closer to home. Population would be dispersed and less mobile[???], and the extended family and stable local community would be revived [like in earlier times when familial and religious oppression was much harder to escape?].
In addition, the economic cycle would be much less severe in a decentralized economy of production for local use. To see why, let’s start at the smallest and most simple level. Imagine a truck farmer who lives next door to a cobbler. The two make an arrangement to exchange shoes for produce. Obviously, the farmer alone can’t absorb enough of the cobbler’s output to support him; and the cobbler can’t eat enough to support the farmer. But the two are at least fairly secure in the knowledge that their future needs for both vegetables and shoes are provided for with a high degree of probability. And they have a fairly predictable market for that portion of their output that is consumed by the other person. — Kevin Carson, Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, Ch. 9 Ends and Means
There’s some other stuff in there about how the internet is increasing the viability of networked resistance and coordination. Not a whole lot about how communication technologies are also breaking down barriers between people living in different areas of the world and sending a big ‘Fuck You!’ to “stable local communities” who don’t like that people are now better able to experience things outside the acceptable bounds of behavior; how it allows me to talk to my Lebanese atheist friend who eloped with a Czech girl against his family’s will etc. I mean, if you’re going to talk about the internet, then
Really, the only people who could romanticize these conditions are the ones who’ve been privileged enough to never have experienced the ugly side of them, or to never have been on the bottom rung of such arrangements. It’s kind of like how middle class liberals think gun ownership is stupid and that gun owners are deranged or paranoid individuals only because they’ve been fortunate enough to live in safe communities and be protecting by a friendly police force that doesn’t view them as The Enemy (why are guys like this asshole considered to be the type of person who would buy a gun and not, say, a Black Panther?)
If I’m misreading these passages, then apparently I’m not the only one. Here’s Sean Gabb’s comments on the Libertarian Alliance Forum yahoogroup regarding what Kevin’s work has meant to him:
Where I do agree with you, however, is your central message that a free society is something utterly different from what we have. The enemy of human contentment is not merely big government, but also big business. Freedom is not Tesco/Wallmart minus the state.
Good so far.
It is a world of small, often self-sufficient, communities, in which certain technologies will progress at slower speeds than they do, and in which certain technologies will not exist.
So apparently the notion of people coming up new ideas more quickly is somehow considered threatening to the ideal social order. Innovation is scary, stability is good.
I also reposted one of my criticisms of this in on the Forums of Libertarian Left and one person told me that my “caricature” sounded like something coming from Kinsella.
I came up the term “many minded” back in December in a post I made on the Forums of the Libertarian Left entitled “This is what bureaucracy looks like” designed to slam the coffin shut on syndicalist economics ideas. I’m pretty sure he copied it from me.
The gist was pretty much the Misesian critique of state-socialist central planning applied to social anarchist “economics” to argue that even a central planning agency staffed by elected facilitators will just end up evolving into a permanent staff of technocrats and inevitably ossify into a de facto Gosplan bureaucracy, and hence statism. And that that’s exactly what happened to the CNT-FAI.
I think gift-economies and full-on unregulated agorist markets have far more in common with each other than they do with that.
The question is where does this end? I think a freed market —- and even a semi-free one — can eventually grind down anything less than a 100% concentration of control over material wealth, but I think the speed at which it is capable of doing so is critically important. I’m not about to sit by and wait while people are starving to death. And I wouldn’t be able to look my friends in the face if this were my position or if this were truly the limits of the Market Anarchism I’ve been defending. Voltairine’s exclamation wasn’t “Take Bread! …But only from those that have directly benefited from Government privileges, that you can point to as being widely documented on paper and easily measurable in wealth, all overseen in a studious, orderly and legalistic manner.” I mean WTF.
Yes!! Thank for laying that out. I will also say once you’re below a certain threshold (wherever it is exactly), there’s a utilitarian argument that confidence in the security of property in a given case now become more worth it if the end result is to produce greater bread availability, either immediately or in a short-enough order.
But in any case, the freed-markets and post-scarcity economics meet when you get to the point where ownership is beside the point, because all that past and continuing profit-mongering and starry-eyed entrepreneurship has made it all cheap as air (turned it from private property to the communal product of a “New Nature”, paraphrase Bastiat with some futurist spice).
Shawn P. Wilbur /#
Soviet Onion First of all, yes, indeed, the “many-minded” comment (which must have been in the van on the way back from the bookfair) was a reference to that FLL thread, which I think we talked about explicitly. I’m still not convinced by your argument, but have been extremely grateful for the questions it has raised for me.
As for extent to which left-libertarian approaches to decentralization involve local self-sufficiency or are at odds with some form of (counter-)globalization, obviously we vary considerably, as one would expect in an individualist movement. I’m all for constructing sustainable urban centers, since that seems to be the way to balance individual freedom and efficiencies of scale. And since we essentially know how to build a fair amount of self-sufficiency into a city block or a single building, local production doesn’t have to be opposed to the more cosmopolitan pleasures of urban life. Kevin has been talking about flexible technology, which could be applied to any number of general social arrangements, and has the potential advantage of putting relatively powerful modern manufacturing power into the hands of small groups. Whether or not we want, ultimately, to decompose our societies down to some level of local self-sustainability, it strikes me that the possibility of doing so is worth pursuing for freedom’s sake. Personally, I want the “means of secession” in as many hands as possible. I believe that a free society will have rich social interactions, but I want to see them arise from individual pursuits of individual interests.
As for globalization, or counter-globalization, it’s always been a fairly hard sell, even in social anarchist circles. We’re still in the middle of a neoliberal world-economy, where capital moves freely and labor moves from checkpoint to checkpoint, when it isn’t stuck behind a security wall of one sort or another. (This, btw, is the world that Walmart and the rest of the big boxes were born to and for.) Recognition of, and opposition to that ought to make internationalists of us all (to use some really old-fashioned language.) This is where your antagonists, the syndicalists, would have it all over most of us, if notions like “an injury to one is an injury to all” were observations, rather than just slogans.
There’s probably more, but my corporate masters have seen fit to start really sweating us this week, and I’m tired.
Roderick T. Long /#
Well, yeah, those quotes are among the reasons that I say Kevin’s decentralism is more thoroughgoing than mine. I am, to the extent that I can manage to be, a high-tech globetrotting geek.
Still, I don’t think Kevin is saying that innovation is bad; he’s saying that the pace of innovation in certain fields has been artificially promoted by the state. (Analogously, when libertarians criticise 19th-century railroad subsidies, we’re sometimes accused of being anti-railroad. We’re not, of course — but it is true that, absent those subsidies, the growth of railroads in the west would have been slower than it was (since people would have spent that money on something they valued more).)
Also, when Carson talks about people being less mobile, I don’t think he’s talking about making it harder to escape local oppression; rather, he’s talking about there being less need for people to constantly travel long distances for economic necessity.
I’m not saying Kevin’s right about those things — just that they don’t strike me as being as primitivist- and local-tyranny-leaning as they seem to strike you.
Roderick T. Long /#
Clarification — my last post was for Soviet Onion.
Forgive me. I was speaking more to what might be called the following or intra-ALL tendency that has placed the interrelating work of you and Kevin front and center. Obviously you’re no primitivist or near Kevin’s degree of localism and I wasn’t trying to insinuate that. And I know you have differences, but the two of you are often read as two sides of the same project. Come to think of it, I don’t even really know the details of Kevin’s philosophical premises. Obviously as much as I cherish Kevin as a much needed modern titan of Anarchist theory, I do see his localism (and the localist tendencies as well as the cultural impetus found among some of your mutual followers) to be rather distressing. It may not be a big enough distinction to you to bother enunciating explicitly, but the fact that you haven’t does, I think, lead to the current interpretations of “Carson/Long” and give fuel to Kinsella and co.
Of course I could just be forgetting crucial bits of yours and reading everything from through my Jihadist Transhumanism v Primitivism (anything less) glasses.
Rad Geek /#
O.K. So I take it that you’re adding Kevin Carson, and perhaps Sean Gabb, to theI was asking about, alongside Jeremy Weiland. If I’m mistaken in taking it so, I’d be happy to be corrected. If I’m not (or if I am), is there anyone else you had in mind?
(In case you’re curious, the reason why I’m asking for you to name names is because I think in a fringe-of-a-fringe as small as ours — particularly one where people are coming to it from so many different points of origin and along so many different trajectories — it’s probably more useful to talk about the views of specific individuals in light of textual evidence than it is to talk about gestalt impressions of amorphous tendencies.)
As far as technology goes, I think you’re being unfair to both Kevin and Sean. The comments from Kevin that you quote have nothing in particular to do with technology; insofar as they touch on the issue at all, they have to do with what Kevin thinks about the terms on which technology would be adopted in a free market without forced 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.) it’s generally quite positive, and focused on the liberatory aspects of things like PCs, the Internet, 3D printing, home canning machines, home energy production, and the like. Perhaps the one author he cites more than any other on technology is Michel Bauwens, a tech-happy net-utopian who writes on peer-to-peer technologies. What’s going on is not anti-tech, but rather fairly straight-up whatever, the main thrust of which is just trying to get excited about forms of technology without the military-industrial complex. and in which there were no patents and copyrights to restrict the free flow of information would certainly no be a world without technology, nor have I read anything by Kevin that would suggest to me that he thinks it would be.and government-driven When he does write about technology (hopping around randomly, see
On mobility and rapid transit, a couple of things. First, it’s important to remember that if something’s subsidized, it’s subsidized, whether or not you happen to like it. If government is subsidizing a large, rapid, reliable interstate transit network, and, as a side-effect, ordinary people can much more easily, at a much lower cost, move themselves and a lot of their stuff from one place to another, then I’m happy for those who are able to make their lives better by doing so (I’ve certainly been one of them), but I certainly think it’s likely that the costs of living like that are going to go up, and so the equilibrium quantity of living like that will shift down, when the government is no longer subsidizing long-distance trucking. As the capis never tire of reminding us, aesthetic preferences shouldn’t drive economic predictions.
Second, I certainly agree with you that it’s dangerous to romanticizeand living with less mobility. But there are two kinds of migration, which are importantly different from one another. Some people move because they want to — to find a place to live that’s better suited to them, to see the world, for love, or what have you. But also lots of people move, not because they want to leave, but because they are driven out of where they were by shitty economic and political circumstances — klepocracy, governmental or private persection, the economic wasting of their old home, the economic draw of the big commercial and industrial centers, etc. The first kind incentive for moving and instability is something to be celebrated and aided, and it’s largely produced by individual people trying to serve their needs and wants and longings. The second kind is something to be reviled, and is largely the result of government power-trippers laying waste to innocent people’s livelihoods, either directly, or through the ripple effects of neoliberal economic manipulation, starvation farm policies, latifundismo, hyperthyroidal state-capitalist patterns of production, etc. etc. etc. I would be much happier to live in a world where no-one is driven from her home by famine or joblessness or death squads. And any systematic look at emigration in the world today has to take into account that there’s a lot of the latter going on.
Of course, that’s no reason to revile emigration in those cases (which is a positive, often life-saving, response to a shitty situation); it’s just a reason to revile certain kinds of widespread incentives for it, and to look forward to a world in which people no longer have those kind of incentives.
SO, you’re being really uncharitable in this one. Gabb’s statement is a a truism and says nothing like what you’re reading into it. I’m quite sure that in a free society, there will be few or no atom bombs. I’m also sure that in a free society,technologies will develop more slowly than they do in our world. Saying that certain technologies will progress at slower speeds and others will not exist is just a matter of saying that certain technologies are driven mainly by repressive interests, which anarchism aims to abolish, or by corporate priorities, which left-libertarianism aims to undermine by kicking out the coercive props that hold them up. It’s a matter of what is seen and what is not seen; when those technologies slow down or stop, other technologies (presumably, technologies that better serve the interests of individuals and human-scale cooperative enterprises, of which there are many) will be invented, or speed up in their development.
Rad Geek /#
Can I ask what specifically you have in mind when you describe Carson’s localism as distressing? I mean, there’s a lot of different things thatmight mean in this context; e.g.:
Carson’s economic prediction that production for everyday needs will tend to be much more localized, with most food grown and most manufactured goods manufactured, geographically near their point of consumption.
Carson’s demographic prediction that people will tend to move around less in a free society
Economic localism, in the sense of going beyond Freed Market predictions and actively favoring entrepreneurial and activist promotion of local forms of production and distribution in the here and now (LETS, CSAs, food miles, Think Local pro-cotts, blah blah blah), as somehow better for human beings and other living things than conventional multinational corporate bidniz models.
Political localism, in the sense of a prediction that most of the important institutions for community life will be conducted at a smaller scale (town hall meetings rather than state and national politics)
Cultural localism, in the sense of a celebration of relatively stable local communities, with a fairly distinctive sense of local identity, and the community institutions and traditions associated with them
I’m asking because I’m not sure I see the problem with the first and the second seems like it is at least true as a ceteris paribus claim (I’m not especially convinced that ceteris will be paribus; but I also wouldn’t be particularly distressed by someone who was). The third no doubt depends on local circumstances and the person’s own needs (if I tried to practice Buy Local in any rigorous sense, I’d be eating nothing but nopales and tunas until I died of dehydration; that sort of thing is also a lot less practicable if you have to devote any significant amount of resources to serious medical conditions or disabilities, etc.; but I figure it’s nice enough for those who are positioned to enjoy it). The fourth seems like a straightforward analysis of empire and an application of the federative principle, as long as one doesn’t fetishize specifically territorial forms of organization as the only sort of small organization you could have. And the fifth seems like it is itself a mix of a whole lot of different things, some of which are benign (hey, cool, people celebrating local dialects and barbecue sauces that aren’t swimming in molasses), others of which are both hopeful and dangerous (a lot of the celebration ofis a tricky business that depends a lot on just whose experience of the locale you’re focusing on), and also some of which can get quite nasty if indulged in (hey, apologia for FGM; hey, League of the South; hey, anarcho-fascists; hey, front porch heteropatriarchy). But how much Kevin sorts those out from each other, or how much those sorts of cultural concerns matter to his overall picture, is something that would need a lot of further discussion. I think it’s pretty easy to slip from Kevin’s writing about the first and second and third sort of thing into thinking that he’s pushing something like the fifth, even though, as far as I can tell, it plays a pretty small role in how the whole picture actually fits together.
I think it’s certainly fair to say that the individuals we’re addressing hold up “alternative” technologies, my perception is always that they reference them as need be to offer props to the functionality of their own alternative systems. This seems to be jumping on or cherry picking those technologies they personally see the most use in (involving interchangeable localized production) and dismissing the rest. The emphasis is on which forms of technological development the state has financed and far less — if at all — the ways the state is holding development (across the board) back.
I think technological development would speed up enormously in an anarchistic society, far more so than even Konkin’s delicious quote, “If the State had been abolished a century ago, we’d all have robots and summer homes in the Asteroid belt.” I think Anarchy would bring a radical instability to the sort of communities being advocated, and I love this. You talk about people being forced out and folks choosing to group up with like minded folks as major forced behind migration, but I think you overlook the force behind and desirability of the other option: that people associate with one another not out of a desire for stability but out of a desire for instability. And the growth and development that entails.
Kevin spotlights the ways that certain overlooked technologies can bolster local autonomy, but I don’t think it’s unfair to say that he overlooks those that pose a threat to the stability of regional communities.
Frankly, when Kinsella gets all huffy-puffy about the threat of inefficiencies in Kevin’s Mutualism given the technological and infrastructural realities of our current society I’m emotionally inclined to side with him.
Sorry that I appear to be falling behind your latest.
Obviously I mean Kevin’s endorsement of folks moving around a lot less and consequently associating more prevelantly with likeminds, as well as his economic argument about the transfer of goods going too far (I see the historical substance to his subsidized roads argument, but it sketches me out completely), as well as his push for political localism… As I want to abolish politics completely and don’t really see any inherent limitations to the atrocities possible with fractured power versus centralized power. I see face-to-face interactions as being just as prone (if not moreso) to power than say our constitutionally limited republic. Granted American Empire stomps up and down on a bucket of babies daily, but the sort of Bookchin-esque Munincipalism and Direct Democracy have always struck me as far more dystopian.
Not so tangentially it’s worth mentioning that I am most definatively NOT a seccessionist. I don’t think there’s much hope in that strategy leading anywhere other than right back to the state or worse. That said I’d rather continue composing the full length and breadth of my argument against Preston than stumble into the particulars right now in this venue, but in summation, yeah I think for Anarchy to work we have to be in constant contact and dialogue with one another, not clustering off. And certainly not turning to politics and social decision making processes on a territorial or ideological lines.
LETS, etc are nice, but I see that kind of discussion as being more about our form of the Transitional Marxist State than about where we’re ultimately trying to go.
Eh, my writing’s getting slurred. I’m going to take a break for a bit and come back.
*(25-04-09) Sometimes, I feel you paint a far harsher view of American reality than my own sense perception or understanding shows.”
Does anyone else ever feel like that guy in Rent singing ‘Dying in America?'”
I am privileged to know two Nick Manleys.
For I own, not a notion; I escape, an ape, content. I don’t own emotion: I rent.
Besides, we have somewhat court regulated slavery with the Federal government. Convicts with “criminal” records consisting of drug violations making license plates or working corporations exploiting prison labor. Every hour I and other proles will have to work to pay off the national debt created by bailing out Wall Street.
“Convicts with ‘criminal’ records consisting of drug violations making license plates or working corporations exploiting prison labor. Every hour I and other proles will have to work to pay off the national debt created by bailing out Wall Street.”
I agree with everything you say here.
I think the U.S. should repudiate its debt, for the same reasons that Mexico should repudiate its debt- both are debts contracted at something not very far away from outright gunpoint. and both by the same (disproportionately American and Western) elite.
What is more likely is that the elite will continue to import the raw kinds of oppression used in the neocolonial periphery into the homeland, as they more completely reestablish the pre-democratic kind of relationship between governor and governed.
None of this means that we should lower our guard against other forms of human oppression which we have had some historical success at overcoming, or give sanction to those who wish to fully re-normalise those oppressions.
Soviet Onion /#
Kevin Carson’s localism tends to be accepted to varying degrees by most left-libertarians almost as a definitional requirement (I’m not talking about the specific economic analyses, because he draws on a different people who for some reason don’t arrive at the same localist conclusion, or evoke the same sentiment). If you want me to name names, I would say practically everybody leans that way, including myself to a small degree.
The general accusation I’m making as to a “tendency” is exactly what I said in my original statement in the comments of your other post:
My point wasn’t so much that people are explicitly claiming support for localism, it’s that getting small is treated like the ideal. The goal behind of all this is to get a state where we can feel comfortable knowing that the institutions that surround us and effect our lives aren’t too big for us, and that they won’t change too often or offer us something new. That’s it. That’s what it means to be free, that’s the fiery dream behind it all.
Now, if the ideal was something more fundamental, like “maximizing the potential for universal self-actualization of every individual and each of us feeding into each other in a glorious florescent hum of human potential” or “dissolving the arbitrary barriers based on race, sex, class, sexual orientation that limit the acceptable range of human empathy and understanding, in service of the same”, that’s a little less vulnerable to corruption, and to avoid attracting such corruption in first you have to take care to make this clear.
The overly narrow view that is actually being given primacy, based on something that could at best be considered an instrumental goal, isn’t manifested so much as an explicit position as is in what people like Kevin, Jeremy, Brad, and Sean are consistently choosing to emphasize and what they aren’t, which then tends to reinforce itself inside the movement echo chamber (what I initially meant by “meme-trap”; best way to cure is to simply smash the walls).
You (especially) and Roderick are exceptional in that regard because you do consistently talk about the essential importance of culture and psychology (Roderick’s recent Why We Fight (the Power) post is just wonderful), and look at how much internal controversy those things have generated relative to, say, the claim that Wal-Mart would be less powerful in a freed-market? The only questioning of that seems to come from “outsiders” like Kinsella. Just questioning the localism-as-focus motif got me intuitively compared to him.
(And really, everything should always be up for question all the time, but you can usually tell what people feel strongly about by how strongly they react when challenged.)
Now, you could say that decentralized tech is just some peoples’ forte and cultural matters aren’t, and I’m completely cool with that. But if their love of both springs from the same core individualism, and somebody comes around and pisses on something in a way logically contradicts that, and a given left-libertarian reacts with either no passion or act like there’s no big deal, would you really say that’s what s/he cares about? You’d still expect them to take patriarchs and racialists to task when they wander into view, to at least to same degree that they do big business fetishists . . . but they don’t.
And if someone tried to claim the title of “left-libertarian” while advocating things that ran counter to human freedom, you should reasonably expect most of us to pop our tops over that. I haven’t seen many people do that either.
The logical end result of a political identity that posits its “primary cares” like this is to end up attracting people who are down with the economic relations, but for all the wrong reasons, and who simultaneously want to establish (or have no problem supporting those wanting to establish) totally horrific social conditions at that small scale, because in the end you’ve chosen to be compatible with everything. Do we know anyone like that?
That problem’s not limited to “our side”. Social anarchists may do a better job of keeping some forms of aberrant collectivism out, but they still ultimately leave themselves vulnerable from another direction. They envision this idealized organic community of individuals based on mutual love, aid and respect for autonomy, and then proceed to act like the physical communities they inhabit already embody this and just don’t know it. ‘Cause you see, their “true” desires have just been suppressed by capitalism and hierarchy, and they’ve been led astray by religion and consumerism. All we have to do is get the State and capitalists out of peoples’ way and it’ll manifest itself.
And that’s just obvious bullshit. If the State disappeared tomorrow, people would still pay the cops to crack down on prostitutes, keep the Devil Weed out of the childrenz’ hands and deport members of ethnic group X to the outskirts of town. The supposedly insurmountable free-rider problem would be easily rectified through communal town meetings (exactly like they advocate) in which the self-appointed “respectable” members of the community pass around the collection plate and gaze sternly at each new person it goes to, making sure they pay their dues in exchange for NOT being treated like “one of them” (whoever they are).
Participation in rites like the gazing is also required.
The mention I described happened yesterday, and I thought it was a beautiful encapsulation of what I, at least, want.
DECENTRALISM IS DEAD!! LONG LIVE POLYCENTRIC GLOBALIZATION!!
When the statement is juxtaposed against talk of “small, often self-sufficient communities” and against bix-box retailers, I think it’s clear that he’s not talking just or even primarily about the weapons technologies.
Soviet Onion /#
Yeah, something like that. Everybody direct your attention to the more eloquent writers in the room.
One of the things I’ve never seen anarchists address is the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Sure, Mao might have officially called for it, but all of the most horrible atrocities; the executions, torture, public humiliations, arson, all of it was initiated and sustained by small groups of people (predominantly students) acting autonomously, without any greater degree of hierarchy than exists in present-day anarchist clique. It got so bad that in some cases the government actually had to send in the army to make it stop.
Soviet Onion /#
Regarding local production/distribution, I think Kevin’s made a good case for it as a likely and in some cases preferable outcome, and I’m open to being convinced otherwise by Will.
‘Cause you see, that’s not the point. That’s an instrumental.
I’d nuance that slightly more important than the sort of people this appeals to now are the sort of people it will open doors for in the future.
I’m not strictly opposed to it; at the end of the day I want the complete means of production in the hands of every individual, individually. But I don’t feel that it’s worth trading even one ounce of our capacity for technological/scientific/etc development off against.
I think that’s a bit harsh, particularly given what we’re implying about said localism. I know a of few H+ Market Anarchists not overly active or even frequent visitors of LL circles who nevertheless feel a lot of goodwill towards and would even identify (insofar as they do with anything more specific than MA) as Left Libertarians.
I find your own writing increasingly interesting. For one thing, you’ve nailed precisely my own uneasiness with Kevin Carson’s project.
I completely agree with Kevin’s critique of ‘vulgar libertarianism’. His mutualism is fairly close to where I would draw a golden mean between left-anarchism and anarcho-capitalism, even if I lean towards minarchism rather than anarchism. I think his historical understanding of state capitalism is superb.
I find the notion of the labour theory of value slightly mystical, but I can’t see that anything very important turns upon the issue. On the other hand, a labour theory of value could well be another way to understand the respect for Randian respect for producers and creator- but minus the classism Rand usually brought to the issue.
But I feel the same broad uneasiness with the localism, the suggestions of moderate traditional values, the ambiguous attitude towards technology. I’m not quite as critical as you may be, but I am uncomfortable. I feel a little warmer after his excellent ‘Authortarians in Libertarian clothing’ article’. But I would feel much better if he were to state his position on such things as feminism, sexual freedom, childraising, religion, social openness, tolerance of alternative lifestyles- and perhaps his sense of the nature of the good life.
That said, I think that whether or not one agrees with Kevin Carson he has broken impressive historic intellectual ground, against a good deal of sometimes unscrupulous resistance. He has a first-rate human mind.
But I don’t think that’s the problem. Individualism is different from localism. What I think has the strongest potential to dissolve power relations is an individualist internationalism (I too <3 that old language) constantly in motion. And try as I might I just can’t imagine a society of individuals pursuing their spontaneous individual interests where they stay in the same damn towns rather than bouncing around the globe — unless those individuals were being forcibly cut off or restrained to some degree from non-local information. “Community” is great and all when it’s nothing more than empathy and goodwill towards one’s fellow man but when it becomes defined in terms of quantifiable social relations (by which I mean in this instance a common set of structures or lines of binding) to be maintained, reified, deified, or stabilized it always turns people to shit. I know no one discussing secession and local autonomy is thinking about recreating Salem Massachusetts, and that sort of talk comes bundled with opposition to backporch heteropatriarchy and the like, but damn that’s what you’re going to get. Except in an infinite plethora of new forms often invented from scratch.
I’m driving myself to bile in this thread and it’s unfair. The people we’re now critiquing (Carson and Preston being at the foreground for better or worse) have exceedingly good intentions and are really fucking great people who we all love to death to be sure. But I think it’s quite clear that there’s an important distinction emerging in the ALL between those of us focusing on a global, internationalist, dynamic, fluid, motion-filled anarchy where the focus is on ingenuity and striving … and those whose support and vision of an anarchy is primarily defensive, resisting Capitalism and the State in terms of impositions upon the state of regular life (as opposed to obstacles to the development of life). ^
Those of us motivated by pursuit of the former are, more than suspecting the latter of inviting all kinds of endemic failures insofar as they functionally diverge from us, clearly feeling marginalized and striking back without specifics.
^ I’m not trying to paint the ‘opposition’ here in regressive terms and associations, but I do think this is where my issue with Roderick’s Rights converges with my issue with Carson’s Localism. The place where the Empire, etc is painted as external. I’m sketched out by this in particular because of my time in the Anarchist movement experiencing how even among the best of people really nasty systems/dynamics of power emerge and are flamed directly from appeals to community and the limits of localism. The problem of power is rooted in the way that we think and it’s going to emerge and get nasty — undoubtedly eventually developing completely new organisms of thought worse than the state — even if we manage to wall ourselves off from certain forms of associations and actions, like say “aggressive” ones. We have to stomp it out at the root rather than rallying against specific kinds of brushfires.
Soviet Onion /#
One thing that makes localism especially vulnerable to explicit fascists or white supremacists now is that they know the greater society hates them so much that they can’t hope to change it all at once, and have to think small by necessity. I think that’s partially why we’ve seen a shift over the years from groups thinking in nation-state terms to manifestation in right-wing secessionist militias here and, of course, national anarchism(+) in Europe.
I prefer Konkin’s de-classed and universalized conception of entrepreneurship myself; less emphasis on the role of toiler and more on free-thought, creativity, self-direction and pro-tech connotations, but whatever works without sliding into slave-morality is OK by me ;)
I probably am being a little bit unfair to Kevin specifically in all this. I know he’s not an anti-tech nutjob suspicious of anything over the next hill, and a lot of what he’s advocating is really cutting edge. The issue here is localism and it’s harmful implications being conflated with the good aspects of decentralization, which is a much broader term. There’s decentralized as in self-contained communes, and decentralized as in a wide-ranging network of trade and communication with a lot of moving parts inside it. The former is more like a monastery. The latter is more like the Internet. Monocentrism vs Polycentism.
(+) I almost feel obliged to put scare quotes around “anarchism”, but that would look like an homage to Iain McKay, who can suck the exhaust pipe on Cleyre.
Soviet Onion /#
I should clarify that last paragraph just so that I’m not arrogantly speaking on behalf of anyone else: The issue here, as I see it, is localism and its harmful implications being conflated with the good aspects of decentralization.
Even more specifically, a monastery is a case of exclusionary Monocentrism vs the inclusive Polycentrism of the Internet. One is walled off and enables oppressive conditions to fester shielded from the erosive influence of the New and Different, the other is nothing but an active confluence of the New and Different. All surface area, and none of it walled.
I guess that makes us the post-leftists of the movement. Post-left libertarians.
Yeah, that’s my job. ;)
To be fair obviously everyone mentioned here or even alluded to obviously supports the internet. I just feel that the internet can’t come wrapped in a box in a corner, as a separate component, that sort of globalism if truly embraced will have far reaching effects if those are to be allowed. On the one hand it enables geographically spread out omni-production, but it also dissolves the entire notion of “stable regional communities” and also (I would hope) eventually “stable ideological communities”.
Nick Manley /#
No one ever said I was 100 percent consistent ( :
Well, I am not personally dying in America — dramatic moments of Arthur induced dread notwithstanding. The polity is — a much more nuanced meaning of the Rent quotation. Unfortunately, my follow up comment praising the spiritual strength of our commenters didn’t post.
Frankly, it’s very difficult to avoid aforementioned conclusions when reading Arthur. Arthur seems to have overestimated the extent to which the Democrats would be complacent — believe it or not. There is some uproar over torture on Capitol Hill — if only fleeting. Arthur’s work was a major factor in me not feeling any relief upon Obama’s election. I am not attacking him or anything. I am just saying the truth he espouses can often preclude celebration — one more reason not to devote one’s life to politics.
It’s a beautiful sunny day outside. Despite the fact that the crimes of American state are being perpetrated not too far away…
It’s funny. I hear about the greatest depression ever. I haven’t run into any destroyed lines of storefronts or shopping districts. Maybe, it’s the suburbs.
Well, I made an unclear objection to thick libertarianism. I perceive thick libertarianism – and many forms of libertarianism and ideology in general – as deriving from a belief in a universal moral theory. In other words, you have the secret sauce for what my rights and obligations are. I don’t think the human condition is that soluble or clear cut. I don’t advocate the abolition of Stirnerite spooks, per se – I simply don’t think we can really understand ourselves and our motivating values until we realize that they are spooks – arbitrary constructs that are not “essential”.
I support most of the ends of typical left libertarian thickness; what I object to is the extent to which they are “commitments” (that word truly, truly raises the hairs on my neck) which one can reasonably expect of others in the pursuit of a free society. To put it in a blunt, abbreviated manner, I believe formal “rights” lead to a desire for formal “enforcement” which leads to the formal state. I was trying to be clear on exactly where I parted ways with others (and where I agree with Preston) but in the course I made a sloppy generalization.
To answer Charles’ question, I would consider working with N.A.s on any number of issues, such as single issue coaltions (perhaps copwatch or anti-Federal Reserve education) or in any of the number of community service activities in which they engage (such as trash pickup). It truly boggles my mind to see left libertarians take radical anarchist positions that make them quite unpopular, and then get all hot and bothered about being “friendly” with certain types of people. I’m not an activist to win some popularity contest, for fuck’s sake.
The thing that people forget about Preston’s reaching out to N.A.s and the like is that his overarching project is a single issue coalition of the variety which motivates our working with anarcho-syndicalists / communists / primitivists / liberals / conservatives / insert-undersirable-group-here: to unite all manner of dissidents on the core issue of opposition to the state. To take Preston’s friendliness with N.A.s out of that context is like Kinsella takes our friendliness with the window-breaking anarchist movement out of context. Working with this coalition does not define me or Preston or anybody, but you’re free to draw your own conclusions and parcel us out into the acceptable and unacceptable cliques as you see fit to spend your time.
Gillis is right on: there is a growing rift in ALL. To me, it breaks down roughly along pro-progress and anti-progress lines, to use a pathetically inadequate term. By progress, I mean a specific analysis of where mankind should go beyond simply opposing the state, a menu of commitments that are right and true and correct to achieve, and without which the left libertarian project is unfinished. This has nothing to do with the values underlying the commitments per se, but their status as commitments (to my mind).
Think minority rights, anti-hierarchism, transhumanism and futurism, etc. I fall on the anti-progress side, in the sense that I think what unites us against the state is a much narrower agenda, and I have no formal or unimpeachable prescriptions for the society that comes after the state. I’m anti-progress perhaps also in that I suspect a free society would be less organized and more local, less global, and involve a wide variety of moral / organizational systems. I’m wiling to be wrong because I don’t fetishize what I think the “right configuration” is – it’s a prediction, not a prescription.
Rad Geek /#
I don’t think that what I was describing as the positive incentives for emigration had much to do with people wanting to group up with like-minded others. (The whole point ofis presumably to encounter difference; wanting to live in a place better suited to you may or may not have anything to do with how much people agree with you or like you.) I certainly agree with you about healthy instability. That’s great; it’s awesome; it’s part of the reason why in my own writing about local economies and mutual aid, let alone on immigration or global trade, I’ve never been much interested in some kind of stay-put, homebody sentiment. (I speak warmly of local alternative economies precisely because they are more ad hoc and more unstable than the rigidified, state-supported corporate economy. What I want to change is not the fact that they’re unstable, but rather that state violence and privilege currently make them unsustainable, precarious, so that the usually cashes out in their collapsing, rather than innovating and transforming.)
But. All that said. The fact of the matter is that there are also unhealthy forms of instability, into which people are forced by the hundreds of millions right now as we speak, and any critical analysis of mass migration has to take the phenomenon of mass displacement into account. Any description of what a free society might look like therefore has to take into account the fact that freedom will, thank God, mean complete freedom to travel where you want to travel, but that it will also mean freedom to stay where you want to stay, and an end to the awful history of diasporas, death marches, political exiles, and collective cleansings. I don’t necessarily agree with what Kevin chooses to emphasize in expressing this fact, but I think there’s an important issue there, and I can’t think of anything he’s said that’s goes beyond the horizons of appropriate slack-cutting. (*Keith’s* stuff on immigration and Fremderein community life, which is an explicit play on nativism and a proposal to ring those good ol’ stable communities with razor wire, is, of course, another matter entirely. But I hardly think that the one kind of localism entails, or even encourages, the other when properly understood.)
Well, I don’t know what to make of that last. If the argument’s a good argument, then you have good reasons to think the conclusion is true, whether or not you like its being true. And if people aren’t paying to travel when their choices are based on the full cost of non-subsidized travel, it’s because they are putting the money to something they value more highly, and, while I think travel is great and positively-motivated forms of emigration are great and bouncing around the globe is a great experience, there are lots of other things that are great too, and if people reveal their preferences for those other things, that doesn’t sketch me out in the least. Those who have a lot invested in traveling — for the what you speak of as the healthy kind of instability — will generally find ways to cover the full cost. It will help that in the Carsonian commonwealth, most folks will be significantly richer and facing a much less precarious economic position; hence more able to cover their costs. Alternatively, they can lower the costs. E.g., in a Carsonian transportation system, it might well be prohibitively costly to try to ship all my books and furniture cross-country from Michigan to Vegas; but it’s much less clear that it will be much more costly for me to get there with the clothes on my back, since the point of the argument has mostly to do with things like heavy trucking and railroading freight. But if I have a strong positive impetus to travel or move, then that’s not as much of a problem as if my main reason for moving were to try and keep from starving back home.
I agree that there is not enough critical attention to that, and that I would like to see a more activist stance on it. (After all, that’s most of what’s driving my work on thick conceptions of libertarianism — trying to mark out a conceptual framework for thinking about how the stressing importance of that kind of activism is compatible with, and indeed recommended by, libertarian principle. That’s part of the reason I’ve spent so much time promoting (for example) libertarian feminism as an important component of any left-libertarianism worth supporting, and why a large part of my advocacy for libertarian feminism just consists in trying to convince libertarians to read some of the important parts of the existing feminist literature.
I agree that there hasn’t been enough uptake on this. I would very much like to see more. I also think that the reasons why there hasn’t been aren’t really special to ALL; they have a lot to do with the male Left (and, mutatis mutandis, the white Left) in general. And I do think it’s important to be specific and careful about cases we’re worried about, though, and to carefully set out the area of concern. I’ve seen a lot of general top-popping over these things (engaged in some of it myself, on my bad days) over in the social anarchist scene (for whatever it’s worth I’m thinking specifically of several unpleasant go-arounds at InfoShop.org, and some typical movement shit that came up in the planning process for picking out and handing things over to the next year’s set of Southern Girls Convention organizers at the end of the SGC 2001). And I don’t think a lot comes of it, unless we get beyond the level of worry about broad tendencies, and into some serious nitty-gritty about a particular argument, thesis, action, or a particular person’s articulated set of views.
So what I’m driving at here is not trying to beg off on critique; I’m trying to encourage some more in the way of targeting.
No, I imagine that he’s talking more about technologies driven by state-backed corporate modernization, of the sort that Kevin targets for criticism alongside the weapons technologies, like RFID or DRM or mechanization of auto plants or advances in extruded foods orindustrial farming techniques or patented pharmies. But you can make the much same comments about those as you can make about the more directly security-state-driven technologies.
In either case, nothing about what he says implies anything like the sort of anti-technologism you’re reading into the passage, unless you start out by presuming that anyone talking aboutmust therefore be technophobic. But of course, that’s a conclusion that needs to be supported, not a premise.
Well, sure; and I was saying some things along these lines about the globalization debate just the other day after A-Cafe. But my point is, in spite of the one-off discussions that do still happen, the general level of this kind of discourse within the movement as a whole has fallen off, even though some people still remember the topic. Of course, I think that we ought to do our best to bring it back.
I think it depends a lot on what kind ofyou’re contemplating, and on the historical context. Secessionist movements played a pretty important and sometimes very positive role in the world ca. 1989-1991. They didn’t kill the State, but they killed a state — where one of the major issues was freedom of international communication and travel! — and thank goodness they did. In the U.S., if Northern secession movements of the sort that were popular amongst some around 1812-1859 had succeeded, then that would have been much better for everyone other than slavers and the Manifestly Destined.
I agree that in the context of contemporary U.S. politics, traditional states-rightser,approaches to secession have just about nothing to recommend them strategically, and aren’t worth much more than a general moral defense of the legitimacy of withdrawing from a nonconsensual central state. Part of the reason why just about every time I’ve mentioned secession in my writing, I’ve done my best to differentiate it from the states-rights bogosity that, for example, the Rockwellians have generally accepted as part of the package-deal. But there are other forms of secession that one can talk about (metropolitan secession, neighborhood secession, forms of secession based on non-geographical groupings like Indian nations or, hell, unions and whatever else you want), and other tactics (based on strikes and non-cooperation rather than conventions and political stagecraft) as well, which may be more productive.
Well, yeah, I agree with that, but what makes you think that secessionism involvesrather than ? Secessionism is an approach that has to do with analysis (applying what you know about empire to your situation at home) and targets (do you try to march on D.C., or focus on the federal building downtown?); it doesn’t entail cutting the phone lines or blowing up the bridges. Least of all does it entail cutting off communication with your geographically-dispersed comrades. Internationalists can communicate and affiliate across borders, whether those borders are the borders between the U.S. and Mexico, or the suggested borders between a seceding Cascadia and the rest of territory currently under the U.S.A.
Sure, but that’s true of any marginal political group who are written off as kooks or worse. Including, notably, Anarchists. I think that’s a big part of the reason why anarchists have (rightly) spent the past decade or two of our revival mostly forming up local groups with very looseor affiliations, and not giving much of a shit about, e.g., attempts to set up yet another set of big national anarchist federations: because communication with people from anywhere and everywhere is important, but we have no hope of influencing (halting) national politics unless we have first built up the connections and the networks to influence (halt) politics in our own hometowns.
One possible response is,Yeah; but we didn’t shut down the WTO. And I think the only lasting effect that the big summit mobilizations have had are the extent to which they’ve provided an opportunity for people to meet each other and get excited together (which is a matter of thinking small among a self-selected group of peers, not breaking into the mainstream all at once) and to gain on-the-ground experience in working together to organize things locally, by way of caravans, housing, convergence spaces, legal defense, etc.
Well. I’ll ask you what I asked Will: of the several different things that seem to be getting packaged in the termhere, which do you have in mind when you say it has harmful implications? If it’s more than one of the items I listed, then which items go with which specific harmful implications?
Rad Geek /#
Well, hey, I’ll work with all kinds of people on single-issue coalitions, but remember that successful coalition building is a matter of more than just making sure that everybody in the same room agrees with each other on the one issue. (Among other things, it involves cultivating certain kinds of working relationships.) In an important sense it’s different from principled advocacy; not because coalition building should be unprincipled, but because there are other things in addition to principle that you have to worry about once your concern becomes cooperating with other people to get shit done. If we’re talking about activist coalitions, rather than writing a blog on the Internet, then it does matter whether or not my actions in building the coalition are alienating more or better allies than the people that those actions may welcome in.
And, with that said, do you imagine that welcoming in National Anarchists (what, all 25 of them?) is likely to strengthen, say, your CopWatch group more than you’re weakening it by driving away the people who, for various reasons, aren’t going to be able to form a productive working relationship with people who believe what NAs believe, and act the way NAs act?
And, again, on thickening up libertarianism and universalism.
I’ll just add here that you seem to be confusing thick conceptions of libertarianism (which is a philosophical category about the interrelations between different political or ethical theories) with a different topic, specifically the strategic question of how broad or narrow the activist libertarian movement should be, and how much movement activities, rhetoric, and social connections should or should not be oriented around on a single lowest-common-denominator goal (e.g. opposition to the state as such, or perhaps to empire), as opposed to some more expansive platform (e.g. opposition to the state as such and all other forms of political violence and arbitrary authority, including radical feminism, gay liberation, anti-racism, or whatever else). While I disagree with what you have to say about the strategic question, the strategic question of who to ally with and on what terms to ally is actually a totally different question from the philosophical question about the structure of libertarian theory and its relationship to other political theories. “Thick” conceptions of libertarianism are primarily about the latter, not about the former. Someone who believes in Preston’s sort of all-out-against-empire, regardless of the fact that we don’t agree on anything else strategy may well still hold a thick version of libertarian theory. In fact, I would say, again, that your repeated arguments for backing off of activist stances in the culture wars in the name of some kind of broad-ranging tolerance, in favor of cultivating some form of moral relativism, in favor of expanding libertarian concern out from violent coercion to all forms of formalized institutions, etc. are all examples of a thick conception of libertarianism (not a conception I share, but a thick conception nevertheless), not an expression of opposition to it.
Soviet Onion /#
Whether you’re committed to them or not is a matter of how expansive your definition of freedom is. Don’t you think that things like widespread homophobia can have just as much of a limiting effect on a person as state agents or abusive employers, especially if it’s constantly beat into them from childhood on up?
I know, but what if, after the state is gone, one of these groups seizes power in an area and institutes objectively worse conditions for the inhabitants (or some of the inhabitants) than already exist?
If your notion of freedom goes deeper than just “not the United States”, then you can’t reasonably help something worse come into being and take its place, no matter how small it is. That’s not a question of universal principles, that’s a simple matter of consistently applying whatever principles led you to oppose the US in the first place.
Obviously any breakup scenario is probably going to result in nasty little groups existing on the fringes in some areas, that’s a given. But I’m never going to declare peace with them. I’m not gonna throw up my hands and say “Well, we got rid of the Big Baddie at least, so lets call it a day!” As long as one queer person is being forced by their parents to attend Mormon services, I am not free. And maybe, depending on what they do, violence isn’t in any way justified, or wise even if it is. I can still hand out fliers on the street, condoms in the high schools, or smuggle drugs in for fun and profit. Freedom means options for individuals, not the “right” of some reified community to enact boundaries around them according to some arbitrary, two-dimensional geographic division (which is bullshit anyway, because we live on a sphere, people.)
Then perhaps we just have a semantic distinction on our hands. No one here is saying that people should be coerced into liking something; that doesn’t work anyway, and could just produce a backlash.
But look at it this way: it may not be reasonable to expect normal folks to agree with this, but to the extent you are a libertarian, one who actively promotes liberty, doesn’t it make sense to care about all this inessential, tangentially related stuff, even though yeah, they don’t have to? And to the extent that you want more normal people to become libertarians, it makes sense to encourage them to care about these things, too?
I’m pretty sure there’s some point in your thought where you’re willing to just point the gun and say “No” to something, and that’s not even what thick libertarians are saying.
There’s always been a definitional tension in the ALL that breaks down into a few levels
1) Building a better Anarchism out of the Market and Social traditions.
2) Opening doors and connections between various tendencies all out to smash the state
3) Building a wider political alignment / Dichotomy between Libertarianism and the Left vs Everyone Else.
Roderick and I for example while significantly different both gravitate towards the first, you and Preston on the second. The third has less vocal or visible proponents these days but a good example would be the work between Badnarik and Cobb in 2004 or the Liberal-Libertarian stuff started on DailyKos. Strictly speaking I think the third is probably the most functionable role for the ALL, but the development and improvement of our hybrid anarchism has progressively taken such a center stage that the first is now probably the best description.
Incidentally I don’t
I’m sorry, but I just can’t see The State (westphalian, nation) as that important or that distinct of a concept or reality. It’s just too damn specific to a certain perspective on a very certain context. Anti-hierachism, etc are not a menu of commitments in my mind but expressions or facets of the same underlying ethical commitment.
I’ve said this many times but for me, opposition to the state is, at best, a really fucking trivial detail. When I think of expressions of the rulership, the archy, that I oppose the immediate associations are less showy things like blackhawk helicopters and more in the form of the interpersonal relations that give rise to blackhawks killing children.
Yay that I, at least, am not arguing for such. I think that we can desire and take action to enact social developments beyond those purely defensive of one’s self without setting or trying to enforce certain universals of behavior and thereby transforming ourselves back into the state.
A given solution (action form) that we see to a given problem does not have to be universalized. Ends and means get interconnected, but there’s no reason for them to end up 1:1. I can theoretically advocate an elimination smash-smash-smash approach to dealing with neonazis currently minding their own business, mindful of the context in which I’m doing that, without laying such groundwork for further similar actions such that it outweighs the potential damage of leaving those neonazis around.
Similarly, it’s not that I’m out to enforce a commitment to, say the abolition of heteropatriarchal attitudes — in a given context snubbing and passive, non-NAP breaking forms of action may be most efficient, given all the likely consequences. But in another context, yeah, I may decide to get out the baseball bats with my friends and call for a general moratorium on chewing bubblegum. Because the negative consequences likely by stepping it up a notch might in that rare case be better, all things considered, than sticking with non-“aggressive” actions.
Yes, it is a prescription because you’ve smuggled in a definition of just what exactly a “free society” is (and obviously that freedom is good).
I think everyone here has colossally different definitions of “freedom.” And that’s worth hashing out in giant monster truck rally form, but something that substantive should probably be done on our own blogs in dialogue with one another.
There’s one premise that has to be at the bottom of anything that can be called “localism”, and that is that physical geography actually matters. I think that it is actually becoming increasingly irrelevant. People aren’t just members of their “local communites”, they’re members of many sometimes overlapping communities, some geographically based, many not. I don’t think it is either realistic or desirable to have a geographic community be “self-sufficient”. Communication is astoundingly cheap, and transportation is almost as cheap, especially compared to the total cost of, say, a computer or cell phone or other piece of technology. And I for one love globalization. I buy electronic components from Hong Kong all the time on ebay, and they’re better and cheaper than anything available locally. But I do think that globalization needs to be decentralized like this, not the corporatist nightmare of privateering that it has in many cases become.
I’m glad this is being discussed, but unfortunately don’t have time for more than a few comments right now; hopefully they will be somewhat cohesive.
I think that localism, when advanced in a specifically individualist and anarchist context, can be useful strategically. As I wrote in the ALL intro pamphlet I made (http://nj.libertarianleft.org/downloads/allintrozine.pdf):
Such a project would imply local building in addition to long distance networks like we see on this blog. For example, it would be easier for an “attempted governor” to control an area with 90% of its food coming from one source 100 miles away, than it would be to control an area with 90% of its food coming from multiple sources within a twenty mile area. So when I speak positively of decentralization, I usually mean it as a breakup of monopoly and authority, not the creation of local monopoly and authority.
As Rad said: “we have no hope of influencing (halting) national politics unless we have first built up the connections and the networks to influence (halt) politics in our own hometowns.”
It is worth noting here that more local production does not require autarky or the increased risk of conflict – politicians value power above all goods, so armies can still cross borders when goods do, and paramilitaries can keep people from crossing borders that the goods they produce are sent over.
I also think that from a purely subjective view, interacting with more individuals and the rest of the environment on a local level is preferable to not doing so. One of the many things I love about the 21st century is the greater accessibility and miniaturization of technology. This should not be viewed as a desire for a more hippie version of Hoppe-esque feudalism, but I recognize the danger of it becoming so if the focus on individualism is lost.
The above being said, it is easy for me to see the danger of concepts getting muddled and ALL folks ending up mistakenly supporting some kind of authoritarian localism because it looks sort of like our vision of the freed market. Even if this isn’t a major threat, I’m glad this discussion is being raised to prevent it from becoming a major threat. I don’t think that we need to be right-on exact with our conclusions, but having good ideas will help guide the market to the best outcomes. With Soviet’s and William’s comments in mind, I’ll be careful that my writing doesn’t confuse the breakup of political power and the building of local economic power with the building of local authority.
Marja Erwin /#
My greatest concern with the social-anarchist movement was with the localism, and communalism, that can pervade collectivist and communist circles.
Left-libertarianism allows me to integrate the global ties into our lives, as well as the local ones. Markets can work on far greater scales than reciprocal gift-giving, Parecon’s bid systems, etc. Global ties make it easier to obtain goods and services which the community does not produce and does not value enough to trade for, or wishes to morally mandate out of existence. Global ties make it easier for individuals to relocate if they must, while, regarding secession, extensive governments make it harder.
Anarcho-syndicalism addresses several similar concerns. I respect it partly because it emphasizes inter-communal networks, i.e. the unions, which can exist alongside other institutions, and counter their power.
SO also mentioned the Cultural Revolution at some point. I don’t feel like going back and finding the quote. What I would like to say is that in my (somewhat limited) reading of the events, Cultural Revolutionaries seemed to be trying to structure their actions to please Mao and the Maoist doctrine that had been drilled into them. Even if this is only partially true, it highlights the dangers of authority, authoritarian schooling and social authority, more than anything else.
Shawn P. Wilbur /#
A couple of general thoughts:
I’m not sure if it’s worth factionalizing a movement that really hasn’t formed itself yet. But, of course, I’ve always thought of the ALL as an excuse to “have the fights,” without the need of drawing lines. The degree of disagreement internal to the ALLiance is considerable, and I suspect it’s mostly overlapping networks of respect and friendship that really constitute the “movement.” A lot of what I’m hearing doesn’t sound as much like what individual ALLies are saying as either anticipations of what they ”might say” or as echoes of the largely uncomprehending discourses surrounding the ALLiance. Even the joking reference to a “post-left-libertarianism” seems preposterously premature at a point where we’re mostly “pre-left-libertarian,” in the sense of having enough dogma to break with or coherent theory to supercede.
William, individualism is not localism, but I consider both (double-edged) tools for the construction of robust libertarian societies. My own present analysis of neoliberalism suggests to me that, in the absence of the state, many manifestations of modern day capitalism will simply be impossible. I think the local is a significant part of our destiny, at least for awhile, and it would be better to confront that fact head-on. “Stable communities” don’t have to be static, and much of what is wrong with our physical communities is their relative stasis, which is often a product of economic and political privilege of one sort or another. Long story short, I don’t know how we’re going to get to the asteroid belt without first confronting the problem of making a neighborhood work in a relatively anarchistic fashion. And, of course, we may not have the option of anything but anarchist enclaves, since liberty and responsibility are much-discussed but not necessarily well-respected these days. In either case, I want to put the means of survival, production, entrepreneurship, secession, etc., into as many hands as possible, which means pursuing self-sufficiency as both a key means and a possible end.
Also, looking around, it strikes me that if the state were ever to brought down, we’re going to have a lot of local fires to fight, just to deal with all the very real current problems. Everything we can say against localism and primitivism just adds to the list of reasons that, if we are ever going to make the transition from neoliberal globalism to a radical, polycentric globalism, we need to develop a set of intelligent solutions to the problems posed by “the local.” In that regard, I think Kevin has been extremely helpful – and is really just getting started.
But we’re all really just getting started, aren’t we?
Aw, but my mother cried when the mean capitalists tore down that wall.
In all seriousness, I’m not saying that secession can’t be geopolitically useful in certain contexts, along certain lines. I’m saying that fighting for secession, as a rule, isn’t useful.
Especially not for us (A)s or anyone close to us because we’re far, far more likely to get squashed or cut off from the world community until we wither away. (with a constant healthy dose of meddling foreign powers stealing our toothbrushes and generally trying to make life miserable as an example.) We’re so damn small in number and the default behavior of the world’s population (everyone else likely to secede with us) is so damn crappy that rather than see every semi-nice breakaway republic or free state get smashed into oblivion when their frothing nationalist neighbors (Texas’ 16th — The fightin’ Tigers!) roll over in their sleep, I think the only reasonable approach is to focus our limited capacity on improving the default nature and behavior of the rest of the world.
I am very much aware of these possibilities. I was saying the same things to my friends in cascadian and dakota resistance movements.
I really wish that were true. Were that it, and truly it, than I without a doubt would not be raising this fuss.
I don’t really think that’s a good description of what is being talked about. Kevin’s not going “yay, no more death marches, thats why I’m advocating stable regional communities”
What? Slack away from the whole point being no more death marches? Or slack in the general sense of, heyo I didn’t mean to emphasize what you think I’m emphasizing, I appreciate the positive elements of instability too, just didn’t take space to mention them. Or slack in the sense of, come on man, he’s Kevin fucking Carson, he can desire a white picket fence and town hall meetings if he likes.
I’m giving Kevin personal slack, he is afterall Kevin Fucking Carson. The point is not the perspective of the writer but the reading of the text. It’s the wider latching onto those impressions of such localism as we’ve discussed that are at issue.
Of course. It’s a more obscure fear, but I don’t know if its quite necessarily a good thing in the end analysis that a present day non-state society would have higher costs of transport. Especially when costs to transport impede the development of things I see fundamentally critical to the survival of the species [a far, far greater potential period for folks to enjoy anarchy], like getting off this planet before, say, problems of entropy and diminishing returns cripple/evaporate our industrial use of surface metals.
Nick Manley /#
“None of this means that we should lower our guard against other forms of human oppression which we have had some historical success at overcoming, or give sanction to those who wish to fully re-normalise those oppressions.”
Hear hear! Honestly, I don’t want to get into an extended debate about Preston — in hindsight. The settlement of all intra anarchist or anarcho-fellow traveler subcultural battles is not my highest aspiration in life — if not a useful occasional time filler lol. Any disagreement we’ve had on him has been in good faith. In the heat of debate, one can sometimes forget that people can sincerely and honestly disagree with you. I am as occasionally guilty of this totalistic my “tribe’s” way or the highway as any other passionate being.
In reference to ongoing debates about thickness-freedom:
I posted the thread with Stephen K on my facebook. My complaint:
“Cultural commitments, eh? Hmm. I smell a rat.”
Oh yeah. The only thing we should care about is government power.
All those gay boys killing themselves because of homophobia: that’s obviously not a concern of “real” Libertarians….
Well, if all Libertarianism has to say about gay issues is that non-discrimination laws violate freedom of association, then its proponents shouldn’t expect gay people to give a damn about the ideology.”
And yes: to all whom it may concern; I do think Libertarians confirm Rand’s critique, when they repudiate the idea that there’s more to freedom then deduced axoims decrying statism.
Nonetheless, the ongoing thread between Soviet and others about this is highly interesting. After this, I am going to integrate my own posts more fully into it — clear up some clutter.
Rad Geek /#
Well, O.K. I think then that we’re probably just in violent agreement about this one.
Certainly I agree that there are stupid and dangerous forms of secessionism in addition to the critical ones I favor, and also that some or perhaps most of the (A)s and lefties and libertarians who sign on enthusiastically for secessionism are often uncritically importing the stupid and dangerous parts (hey, I’m down with Hawaiian independence, but restoration of the monarchy? really?) and muddling up their (righteous) anti-centralism with bogus counter-centralisms (bizarro legal theories, popular sovereignty, mythistorical whites-onlyblah blah blah). So, yeah.
And, yeah, I’m certainly not up for a project which focuses on bringing together and encouraging all secessionists everywhere, just as they are, to push forward on their current schemes, just as those are, in the hopes that it’ll pull domination apart in the process. And I think that even the very best conceivable secessionist projects, while I’d support their moral right to secede, and view them as a good conversation-starter (both for those on the inside and those on the outside of the secession movement), are not at all the kind of thing that I’m about to invest a lot of time, resources, or hope in, compared to (say) helping build non-geographically-bound underground networks, local and global counter-economies, and the global agora.
Well, isn’t he? I think that’s a lot of what’s motivating his stuff about regional stability — the fact that so much of actually-existing regional instability is obviously driven by negative incentives and by power laying waste. Certainly that’s what’s motivating (e.g.) the writing he’s done on, say, how NAFTA fuels emigration.
I’m sure there’s also a positive attraction toand homebodiness involved in the way that Kevin writes about these things. Which I also, actually, think is fine in and of itself, as long as the attractiveness of positively-motivated instability is also recognized. I agree with you if you’re arguing that he doesn’t recognize it enough. But I don’t agree with you if you’re arguing that he writes in such a way as to exclude that kind of recognition. So, for what it’s worth, this:
Is what I meant.
Well, presumably some things will have higher costs and other things will have lower costs.isn’t a homogeneous good. Individual transport and long-distance trucking are two different things mashed together onto the same roads, and Kevin’s argument is much more involved in showing that the latter is state-subsidized than it is the former. (Indeed most of his arguments would tend to favor the conclusion that long-distance trucking is subsidized partly at the expense of individual transport, given the way that gasoline taxes work, toll-free roads prevent price discrimination, etc.)
So, even if individual transport costs increase, they probably would not increase as much as long-distance trucking costs. And they may not even increase. But, in either case, the argument about long-distance trucking and the kind of distorted production and distribution networks that emerge from it, is actually at least as important to the argument about the stability of local communities as any conclusions about the costs of personal transport — in the sense that no longer sucking resources out of local markets in order to feed those long-haul networks would tend to reduce the hypertrophic industrial and commercial centers, and the extreme regional disparities of wealth, that tend to drive a lot of the negatively-motivated emigration that Kevin seems to have in his sights.
But, I feel like I’m increasingly going out on a limb to offer charitable interpretations of the passages under discussion. What I’d really be interested to hear at this point is just something from Kevin himself on his take on the questions presented.
Soviet Onion /#
I’ve been trying to stress that point in a few recent debates with agorists who support the Free State Project, Seasteading and other hallmarks of Anarcho-Zionism as springboards to achieving a 100% underground economy over a wide territory and then seceding. Putting all your eggs in one basket just sets you up for systematic isolation and extermination. Much better to have lots of little nodes spread throughout the world, not just to make us harder to target and eliminate in one go, but also to avoid losing the “surface area” we need to gain recruits and retain an anchored sense of “the real world” so that we don’t succumb to some insular groupthink echo-chamber dynamic.
Of course, you can have a place with a disproportionately large number of people, but that’s all it is: a critical mass of nodes, still “underground” (in the sense of not yet picking up guns and drawing lines in the sand) and still connected to a wider network of allies that help to keep it smart and honest.
Ultimately, I think the important here is to recognize that “post-left libertarianism” is the most insanely clever and appropriate observation ever, and that coupled with “Clarity”, “many-minded”, “polycentric globalization” and “the center is everywhere”, proves beyond a doubt that I am the complete total fucking Grandmaster Chuck Norris of names, titles and slogans. All will bow before me.
Jesse Walker /#
I’ve been reading along and staying out, but I had to reply to this:
There’s one premise that has to be at the bottom of anything that can be called “localism”, and that is that physical geography actually matters. I think that it is actually becoming increasingly irrelevant. People aren’t just members of their “local communites”, they’re members of many sometimes overlapping communities, some geographically based, many not.
In other words, physical geography does actually matter. It just isn’t the only thing that matters. I certainly wouldn’t want to live in a world where it was the only thing that matters, for reasons already adequately expressed by others on this thread; but I also wouldn’t want to live in a world where geography is considered dispensable. The neighborhood is one social unit I would not want to lose. And in a free society, I would not want (or expect) all neighborhoods, or all regions, to be alike.
We should talk sometime. I feel like we both want the same core things (dynamism, maximum human expression, etc.) but that we just conceive of how one goes about achieving these things in radically different ways. Which is fine – I embrace that diversity in our movement. I love having people like Johnson and Gillis in our movement who feel passionately about the world and what must be done. I just have more doubts than them, and that makes me blah, I suppose. :)
I can’t speak for the others, but there is a part of me that wants to confess that you’re getting it right with me. I suspect I have a conservative strain to my anarchism at times; I do feel that most people most of the time will choose the small, the intimate, the local. I don’t think there’s anything intrinsically right about this or wrong about large scale society. I just think most people will find that a voluntary society requires a lot of intimacy, and they will choose that kind of stability over the ultra-institutional, managed variety that seems to spring up around mass society. And maybe I have a failure of imagination, and nothing can be done about that except for you to inspire me.
Hmpf. I don’t see why I can’t be into human scale and maximum expression of human potential at the same time. I defy your dichotomy.
And I don’t see large scale global society as the result of maximizing human potential. There are 6 billion people on this planet. Is it really possible that I would be able to have a meaningful relationship with even a fraction of those people?
You see, this is really what Preston gets right: what matters to most people is not what matters to you. Most people want to connect with somebody; they DO want stability; they want meaning, they want family and a community. Most people couldn’t give a damn about liberty, let alone technology and progress and global connectivity. Are you really going to convince them with philosophy?
Not to say philosophy is not important, but the goal is not to philosophize – it is to achieve freedom (i.e. maximum human expression, in my book). And that requires apprehending people as they are, not as we want them to be. It’s not freedom if it’s not in the real world.
Soviet Onion /#
To answer your question, if any of this isn’t apparent by now, these are what I consider to be the harmful aspects of localism that are either being glossed over or mistakenly presented as being good:
The view that there’s something inherently special about a group of people, or some inherent connection between people, based on accident of geographic proximity (ie special care is reserved for community members vs egoism and/or some notion of universal human empathy transcending locality)
Ditto for extended families and biological proximity.
An aesthetic aversion to things that are big enough to stretch beyond the immediate community(+), whether these are particular businesses, methods of agriculture/industry in general, or legal/judicial institutions (I hate to keep picking on Kevin, but he favors traditional trial by locally-selected jurors over any of that kooky ancap polycentric law stuff).
Fear or aesthetic aversion to instability, not in the sense of violent upheaval, but in the sense of people moving around frequently, population fluctuations, shifts in the kind of production and economic activity taking place, inconvenient technology shifts . . . anything that generally threatens a community’s continuity as a stable regional entity.
MOST IMPORTANTLY The idea that these characteristics are THE POINT of left-libertarianism. The goal of fighting authority is so that we can get around to setting this situation up and staying there. The ultimate ideal is to live like this.
As I’ve said before, to the extent that this last one is there, it could be simply be the result of left-libertarians failing to emphasize other instrumental values in equal proportion. But the very fact that they choose to emphasize it and not other things just further demonstrates its primacy as THE POINT.
(+)Some people might reply that a small scale keeps the institutions from slipping out from under people’s control, but one of the points I tried to stress with Aster regarding polycentric law was that even though its decentralized, it actually involves more people from many more areas and cultures in the process. The institutions are still under peoples’ control, but the process is in so many diverse hands that it helps to mechanistically weed out aberrant localized beliefs as we all work it collectively (and competitively).
Soviet Onion /#
And part the reason I oppose localism is precisely because it can constitute a barrier to seeking these things out wherever they may be, NOT because it enables these things and free-wheeling global intergration doesn’t. “Real people” often do find their backyards to be oppressive swamps, and seek to escape them for something better. You think there just happen to be a lot of gay people born in Chicago and San Francisco?
My Lebanese friend initially found little meaning with his biological family (they’re now on better terms). It matters a great deal to him that he could find meaning with someone else. That’s what (real) globalization is designed to do: put more people in touch with each other and make more options realistically accessible, not to eliminate the ones that are already there. For anyone to make this statement, they’d have to equate forced relations based on biology and sociological roleplaying to please the elders with genuine association.
If you don’t the hard and fast distinction between local and non-local systems, then lets consider a gradient. Are you and your wife from the same town? If not, then in a medieval European system of trade and communication, you probably never would have met. In fact, you probably never would have wandered more than 20 miles from home. There was certainly no shortage of “community” during that time, but you’d obviously be missing out on at least one meaningful association.
Soviet Onion /#
No, but why should my choices be constrained to some arbitrary geographic region, and not the full six billion? If I can only play one game of chess at a time, why should me choices be limited to two Americans and not Americans, Mexicans, Chinese, Indonesians . . .
Again, what’s so special about geographic proximity that automatically makes some relationships preferable to others?
Jedrzej Kuskowski /#
One could also argue that there are certain inherent problems with market-based law (as I understand it, maybe by polycentric law You mean something else), even under conditions of a freed market: there would still most probably exist certain imperfections which might lead to monopolistic tendencies, collusions, semi-bureaucratic top-down management; also, for many people not to able directly and democratically to shape the laws that govern them and just choose from a menu of options would be supremely alienating and disempowering.
On the other hand, though there is of course nothing inherently special about people in one’s immediate vicinity, most problems needing solutions in the average person’s life involve their more or less immediate neighbours – and so would the solutions. Sure, eventually these barriers will be broken – but note the word ‘eventually’.
I do think the argument You, Aster and William make – that the conformity needed to maintain a kind of involved localised community structure is the kind of conformity that can lead to the ‘exclusion of undesirables’ – is supremely important and needs to be hammered home. Localism can breed warm fuzziness, but it can also breed fascism – and it’s important that people have a choice in these local and non-local arrangements so that when one form becomes oppressive, there is refuge to be found in the other. I guess the need to balance the various considerations here is one of the primary objectives of mutualism, or, more broadly, of left-libertarianism.
Just a thought.
I’m hesistant to comment on this thread as my last comment on the “Direct Action” thread appears to have been entirely off-point or otherwise uninteresting to the readership, and I’m even more hesistant to attempt to use the blockquote formatting, but here goes:
I’m not sure whether this bit about “front porch heteropatriarchy” is directed at Bill Kauffman’s vision of “Reactionary Radicals and Front Porch Anarchists” or the denizens of the Front Porch Republic, but to the extent it is, I think the criticisim is overwrought. As I said in my comment to the ‘In reply to a reply by J.H. Huebert and Walter Block’ thread:
More generatlly, I think that it’s a huge blunder both theoretically and strategically to take a position that is hostile or oppositional with respect to all things small (even parochial), old, traditional, rooted, familial, and the like. While these ‘values’ (to use a work too reminiscent of the 2004 Presidential aftermath to be to my likeing) are hardly enough for human flourishing(especially in the absence of their contraries) they are indispensable to it (e.g., small children after all could hardly be properly raised in an environment that was rapidly changing and unstable enough to please the dynamists among us), and have too long been ceded to the Rebublicans and other movement conservatives.
Incidentally, I think there’s an unhealthy if somewhat understandable tendency on the part of certain sorts of left-libertarianism (but not all, as L-L is a label I use to describe myself) to normativize the abnormal (in the statistical sense). Perhaps the point is that whenever there’s a norm (statistical mode or mean?) there may be a tendency on the part of those falling within it to normativize the norm and condemn those outside of it — and so as to prevent that those falling outside the norm (in the statistical sense) to wish the norm itself could be annihilated. Although this makes a sort of sense, I think that it’s unfair to those pre-disposed to normality, and may have the unfortunate effect of causing those within the norm to re-normativize the norm as a would-be defensive move against those who appear to be against the norm in principle.
Does this make sense to anyone? Anyone?…
Ok, the block-quote formatting didn’t work so well (when reading, plead disregard all visible “>” signs). Does there happen to be a handbook somewhere on how to felicitously format ones comments? Thanks.
Keith Preston /#
Since I seem to be one of the focal points of this discussion, I’ll add my own meager two cents worth. If you want to understand my politics, I’d suggest these two books:
The U.S. empire has killed roughly 8 million people in the last 60 years, and holds one quarter of the world’s prisoners, while being only five percent of the world’s population. It would seem to me that surely these are more pressing matters than whether or not Georgia allows gay marriage, or whether parents discipline their children by spanking as opposed to time-outs, or whether schools are modeled after Summerhill rather than rote memorization.
I am an an anarcho-pluralist, radical decentralist, pan-secessionist, whatever the fuck I am for three reasons. First, a North American federation with a weak central administration and highly pluralistic if not polar opposite regional and local cultures would likely be unable to amass the resources and political consensus necessary to pursue a sustained imperialism, particularly if the economy were decentralized along the lines people like Kevin, Kirk Sale, and others suggest.
Russia is a good example. Since the demise of the USSR, Russia itself has remained militarily strong internally, but its imperialistic designs have been limited out of necessity to backyard imperialism like that in Chechnya. This is a big improvement over the days when it was waging a nuclear arms race with the West, and building its international network of client states, and sending in tanks to maintain hold over its Eastern European vassalages.
Second, secession and decentralization allows for social and demographic groups that are persecuted by the rest of society to achieve autonomy and places of refuge. For instance, the closest thing in American society today to something like slavery is probably the War on Drugs and the related police state and prison-industral complex. The majority of Americans live in about 75 metro areas, and it is in these areas that the majority of drug users are also found, and it is from these areas that the majority of prisoners originate from. If these were independent city-states a la Monaco or Liechtenstein or Iceland, independent of the federal government or conservative towns or rural areas that heavily influence state governments, then movements to end the drug war and shut down the police and prison states on a city by city basis might well have a fighting chance, and these city-states could become places of refuge for persecution victims (like San Francisco has been for gays).
I would suggest Zora Neale Hurston’s autobiography, where she talks about growing up in an all-black town in Florida at the height of Jim Crow in the early 20th century. Her father was the mayor. The schools, police, courts, everything were all-black. This town provide something of a safe haven to blacks who were persecuted by the wider white supremacist society.
Third, I think a culturally and ideologically pluralistic pan-secessionism is the only viable alternative to the present system. There is evidence that the Westphalian nation-state system is breaking down. I’d suggest the work of Martin Van Creveld on this. But I don’t think the state will be replaced by the kinds of exotic anarchist philosophies some here have been discussing. I think it will be more along the lines of what is already happening, as Americans are in the process of self-separating along cultural, religious, political, economic and other boundaries. See Bill Bishop’s “The Big Sort” on this.
Roderick T. Long /#
I perceive thick libertarianism … as deriving from a belief in a universal moral theory.
But it doesn’t. Thick libertarianism just says that there are some values not directly entailed by libertarianism that are nevertheless linked with it in a variety of ways (strategic, grounds, etc.). Nothing in the concept of thick libertarianism all by itself requires that these values add up to a universalist objective morality.
I believe formal “rights” lead to a desire for formal “enforcement” which leads to the formal state
That doesn’t seem to be true historically.
At any rate, that argument reminds me a bit too much of the old argument that says “If you believe that X is objectively right, you’ll naturally be led to enforce it and so will have to jettison toleration.” (Um, even if toleration is the thing I think is objectively right?)
what makes you think that secessionism involves “clustering off” rather than “constant contact and dialogue”
Ditto on this. I don’t confine my associations to people who use the same internet provider or phone service as me.
There’s one premise that has to be at the bottom of anything that can be called “localism”, and that is that physical geography actually matters
Well, but Charles explicitly mentioned non-territorial forms of localism above. See also this ancient thing.
I’m not sure if it’s worth factionalizing a movement that really hasn’t formed itself yet
Shawn signs up with the anti-factionalization faction!
But what are the chances that the few dozen with whom you can have the most meaningful relationships just happen to be living next to you? Of course, you have to have some sort of proximity in order to meet people, but the magic of telecommunications is that it doesn’t have to be physical proximity. Making the pool of potential relationships as wide as possible is, in my view, a very, very good thing. How many anarchists live where you do? Yet here we are, people from all over the world, in a community of sorts discussing anarchism. Of course, there’s still some small place for local communities: we do have to physically be somewhere after all.
Jesse Walker /#
what are the chances that the few dozen with whom you can have the most meaningful relationships just happen to be living next to you?
It’s not like we all appear from thin air at age 21. We’re products of the times and places where we emerged, and the closer someone else is to that origin point, the more history you and he wil share. Now, for some people, that’s an excellent reason to run like hell, and they have every right to do that. But for other people — or even the same people, in a different context — it’s a reason for affection.
Roderick T. Long /#
Often, but not always. When I think of my friends, or even of the people whom I know reasonably well, apart from my mother, only one of them is someone I knew prior to college.
Jesse Walker /#
Often, but not always. When I think of my friends, or even of the people whom I know reasonably well, apart from my mother, only one of them is someone I knew prior to college.
You may adjust my remarks with all the caveats that human variety demands. I’m just trying to answer the question about why anyone would find proximity important. It isn’t a universal rule.
When you retract and apologise for your repeated use of transphobic filth, then you deserve to have your ideas rationally considered. Until then, your pose at being merely an enabler of bigots, rather than a bigot yourself, is transparent.
I ask anyone here who takes seriously my intellectual right to be judged by my actions and for the content of my idea- and not for the way I was born- to refuse to sanction Keith Preston. I cannot exist in a social setting in which bigotry is accepted without condemnation.
Charles provides the last libertarian forum where I feel safe to express my ideas. If there is not a single house in the entire libertarian world in which I may find the respect and protection which the average person in New Zealand grants me without pause or question, then I consider myself well within my right of self-defense to consider the influence of libertarian culture as a threat to my existence.
The evidence before me suggests that a libertarian society is one in which collectivist hate is socially acceptable. I will not support a cause which proves by its practice to offer me a world in which I would not wish to live.
Nor will I give aid and comfort to a philosophy which breaks the cordon sanitaire against racism and fascism. If libertarianism cannot do this, then I shall put in my application for admission to the liberal establishment in clear conscience.
If anyone wishes for me to document Keith’s bigtory I will do so via private correspondence (jeanine_ring @+ riseup d0t net). I will not link to such things here.
Soviet Onion /#
Yeah, but who those people turn out to be is often itself dependent on the ability of grown adults to move around, meet and talk to each other long before any of us arrived on the scene. The technologies and economies that surrounded us and informed our growth were all the product of generations of human intercourse going back to the beginning. Who here’s parents and grandparents all came from the same town, city, or region of the world? It’s only possible to pretend this isn’t the case by lopping off all the backstory and acting like your parents, teachers and friends just appeared from thin air on the day of your birth.
While we might agree that a stable, friendly neighborhood “home base” can be beneficial for young children, how long does this have to last? People move out as teenagers and don’t always stay in the same city. Some go to out-of-state universities, not because they have to but because they genuinely want to see someplace different, meet people from all over and be exposed to new things. I know some dirt-poor communitarian anarchists who spent time as hippy travelers on a perpetual road trip for the same reason.
And of course, it’s not like kids don’t use communications technologies themselves. Don’t tell me the internet has no effect on a person’s development. Paraphrasing Will, you can just sequester that off and pretend like its distinct from the totality of our “real” relationships. The conversations I have on here is meaningful to me; more meaningful than a lot of my daily person-to-person interactions.
Soviet Onion /#
I’d also note that it comes dangerously close to reductionism to suggest that nothing important happens after early childhood.
Roderick T. Long /#
Yeah, I wasn’t suggesting my experience was some sort of damaging criticism of your view.
Given my experience, though, it’s kind of ironic that lately I’ve been pegged as some sort of communitarian localist. On the contrary, I’m a communitarian’s nightmare: I’ve lived in something like fifteen different states (southwest, northwest, midwest, northeast, southeast), nearly all my friends are post-childhood, and I’ve never met any of my living relatives apart from my mother. And as for any sort of taste for rural localism — if I could live anywhere in the world I wanted without concern for a job, it would be somewhere like New York, San Francisco, London, or Paris.
Roderick T. Long /#
Sorry, that last comment was for Jesse.
Keith Preston /#
I’ll “apologize” to you when you apologize for the voluminous amount of slander that you have hurled in my direction. Until then, fuck off, you self-pitying loser. I can’t say I care much that for a movement that includes some sniveling crybaby like you anyway. Boo-hoo-hoo. Do you want a Kleenex?
Jesse Walker /#
Soviet: Who said places and family lineages are static and unchanging? Not I. Who said local loyalty is inconsistent with a desire to see the world, or that place is the only influence on who we are? Not me.
People affiliate with one another for all sorts of reasons. Place is one of them, and it isn’t going to stop being one of them in a freer society, even if you yourself aren’t moved by it. I’ll join Kevin in predicting local communities will be more important in a freer society, if only because the state won’t periodically annihilate a neighborhood with a redevelopment program or a war.
Rad Geek /#
As you know, I think that Keith’s excursions into transphobic bullying towards you have been appalling and are absolutely unacceptable in a forum for rational discussion. If it comes up in this thread, I will take action as the moderator and host.
Since his name has been repeatedly mentioned and his ideas repeatedly discussed in this thread, and since they are closely relevant to the topic of discussion in it, I think he has a right to respond to that, as far as it goes.
I do not want this thread to be derailed by a lengthy rehash of every outstanding issue between the two of you.
I can’t say that I am pleased to be surprised that Juan Fernando Carpio’s comment turned out not to be the most peurile bit of substance-free antagonism that I’ve read in my comment threads today. I don’t know what you think you have to gain through this kind of bullying swagger; it’s certainly not advancing the discussion, since it touches on exactly no issues at hand in it. If you don’t have anything more to say than trying to silence another participant with a sarcastic (really, what are you, 13?), then don’t derail the conversation with that kind of crap. If you do have something more to say, of substance, as you did in the first comment that you posted above, then by all means, feel free to say that.
I hate to do this kind of thing, but if you have questions, comments, or concerns about anything relating to the moderation of this discussion, please contact me directly with them. This conversation thus far has been too good to derail, and I’d rather that the thread here remain about localism, decentralism, etc., rather than becoming a thread about this thread, or about the personalities appearing in it.
O.K. Now, let’s get back in it.
Roderick T. Long /#
G. K. Chesterton somewhere argues, with his usual enthusiasm for paradox, that small towns are more cosmopolitan than big cities, because in small towns you know everybody, including those residents who are quite unlike you, while in big anonymous cities you can just hang out with like-minded confreres.
I’m not endorsing this argument — in fact I’m deeply skeptical of it — but I thought it was worth a mention.
Rad Geek /#
To be fair to Patri (et al.), one of the things I appreciate about the seasteading project is that they really have done some careful study of past libertarian-zionist projects, in an attempt to learn from their mistakes. My understanding is that the seasteaders lay a lot of emphasis on not putting all your eggs in one basket, in that what they want are designs that are highly mobile and, significantly, capable of dispersing into bits, reconfiguring, and reconverging in new locations, if a concentrated threat arises. To the extent they succeed at that, well, I still have absolutely no plans of seasteading at all, but I’d say they stand a better shot at avoiding the King of Tonga.
(On the other hand, who knows? The viability of even highly mobile, polycentric, and dispersible seasteading projects may end up being a casualty of increased State attention to seizing the sea lanes in the name of Ye Warrrr on Pirates. Guess we’ll see.)
Sure, but I don’t think that Jesse was arguing that geographical locality and the communities that emerge from it are or ought to be the only important, or even the most important, determining factor in your life or your affiliations. Just that they are an important determining factor, among others, and that it’s not especially surprising or worrying that it would be so. This was in response to a fairly strong claim to the effect that localism, in any significant sense, is problematic because geography just doesn’t, or just shouldn’t, matter.
Hey, like I’ve said, I’m all for counter-globalization, based on absolute freedom of immigration and really freed markets, with a healthy dose of cultural and political internationalism tossed in, while we’re at it. But I don’t think that there’s any contradiction between that and healthy forms of localism, which can be non-exclusionary, based on fuzzy and overlapping, non-politically-negotiated boundaries, recognized as one form of community among many, etc. In fact, it’s worth noting, in certain technology circles it’s becoming almost trite to point out that global communications technologies (the Internet, pervasive mobile phones, etc.) are now making it more possible than ever to really enjoy hyperlocal communities — finding local shops and restaurants, hooking up spontaneously with friends around town, getting all kinds of neighborhood news not filtered through the local municipal monopoly paper, setting up ad hoc community meetups, picnics, freecycle networks, hootenannies, and whatever you please, CSAs with local farms, CSAs from big urban gardening networks (!!), and so on, and so forth. And I think that’s a great thing; it’s enriching people’s lives as we speak. The fact that certain kinds of non-geographical connections are becoming daily more relevant (thanks to freer global communications, trade, etc.), does not mean that local connections are becomingempirically speaking, it looks to me like people are doing and enjoying a lot more of that sort of thing than they were 10, 20, or 30 years ago. What is happening is that the old, institutionally rigidified middle-men, who structured what counted as official life, and who mediated between local and global (various levels of government and bureaucracy, ossified civic organizations, corporate-statist bulldozer brigades, the Chamber of Commerce, etc.), are being made increasingly irrelevant to people’s lives, as connections become more immediate and increasingly in-formalized. I think what we’re seeing the first beginnings of, and what anarchy would allow to really break out and flourish, is the emergence of both local rhizomes and global rhizomes — because rhizomes in general are becoming increasingly important, as against more vertical, more formal, and more constricting forms of organization, and the former will flourish wildly and luxuriantly in a free society, once the (herbicidal?) institutions of rigidified, structured power are undermined and taken out of the picture.
Does that make sense?
Rad Geek /#
I just wanted to underline this, because it’s such a good point. I don’t know why the bulldozer brigade, and its big-block-building urban urban gardens, and all the rest) after another is pulled out from under people, by the violence of the State, and bulldozed to put up yet another failing block of condos and office complexes. Of course, in addition to domestic corporatism and the blowing of neighborhoods to hell by the war-machine, it’s worth pointing out that this is another thing that statist (neoliberal) models of globalization and state-driven economic restructuring also dramatically accelerate: a lot of that IMF money is getting pumped into giant government infrastructure and utility boondoggles, and one of the chief results is the state razing villages, chawing up people’s land, etc., through policies much like those of except without even the minimal levels of restraint shown towards those who might be able to vote in the U.S.A.projects, are no longer busting up consensual community in cities and towns for the sake of the downtown merchants, the strip malls, and the sales tax. In spite of the fact that it is rarely talked about, even in libertarian circles, by anyone other than a handful of lefties, and occasionally (bless their hearts) by IJ, I think that this is actually one of the most profoundly alienating assaults on everyday life, and particularly on the well-being of the poor and people of color, in the U.S. over the past six decades. Certainly, without the I75 corridor and everything that came after, Detroit would be a very different sort of place, and the folks living in it would have a very different sort of community than what you have today. In many urban cores people have spent the past several decades basically living in government refugee camps (being displaced from one to the next every 5 or 10 years) as one social space (homes, apartments, nightclubs,
In a society free of that sort of thing, ceteris paribus, you’d expect some people who currently have to move around a lot and have trouble building strong community ties over time, to not need to move around so much, and to become more invested in different sorts of community.
Because this conversation is extremely valuable and interesting, and ought not to be derailed, I’ll refrain from any personal exchanges with you here.
However, if you continue to engage in your peculiar bigotry, I will ask Charles or another willing person to set aside a forum where these matters can be discussed with objectively and without invasion.
Actually, I agree that you ought to have your fair say here. You are an inextricable part of this conversation. And I hope that Soviet Onion and William Gillis will continue their admirable job of saying so much that has desperately needed to be said.
As regards your bigotry, I think that the left-libertarian community would be very wise to hold an open and public discussion of your theories on race and sex. You want to make ‘race realism’ socially acceptable within libertarianism? I think it might be very fascinating to see what happens if we make all the implicit issues explicit- let’s see if reason and freedom really work.
I do wish to apologise for one specific thing. I jumped at you partially because of something Nick mentioned in passing about you that has made me irrationally angry, and this was wrong.
Thank you- for doing precisely the right thing, and for hosting what is starting to feel like a seriously important discourse. I hope your alignment isn’t a form of lawful good which doesn’t permit you to feel pride.
I have been seriously looking forward to speaking with you ever since Soviet Onion gave you a very nice recommendation. I deeply regret if my earlier comments on anarchism caused umbrage- I think I must have miscommunicated, as I was intending to be disrespectful.
I deeply liked most of the people I met in the anarchist scene and admire many of its achievements.
I confess my skepticism as to whether an open society can be maintained without the presence of limited government. This is part of a broader self-questioning I’ve been going through on a number of philosophical issues which I’m still working out- primarily, about ‘human nature’- i.e., to what degree we’re in an existentialist situation or in a sociobiological situaion.. and to the degree the latter is true, what kind of sociobiological situation.
I think it’s unsurprising that the anarchist community is not a perfect community, and that there are some things I don’t like about the scene as well as more which I do appreciate. I also think that the anarchist community is more spiritual healthy than the libertarian community, not to mention conventional society. To begin with, it is a real community- people care about each other and help each other, and build real social institutions. This gives ideas a kind of depth which is new to me.
The only reason I’ve distanced myself from anarchist society in recent months is that I’ve had a better opportunity to focus on my personal work, which I’ve deeply missed. Certainly, I appreciate the kind and respectful treatment that nearly everyone there has shown me.
My statements about the class origin of many anarchists in relatively privileged backgrounds is not meant to discredit the value of anarchism; it’s more a sad reflection on the fact our still largely oppressive societies make it even difficult for an oppressed person to free his spirit and learn to think than for a less oppressed person to do the same already daunting feat. Anarchism is an island which a few very fortunate people manage to find and reach.
What I don’t know is whether it’s possible to make all of society function in a similar way given the background scarcity of leisure. The humanist and technophile in me says ‘yes’- especially with moderately more use of market mechanisms. My awareness of the reality of our dependency on our environment says things which are… scary… but hardly just for anarchism.
The realist in me looks at a world in which most people have always spent their lives in servile relationships to banal and cruel absurdities, and wonders if the only way to preserve the open society from the majority is with a ring of armed guards. New Zealand continually makes me think better of human beings, but trust takes time.
I regretfully can’t agree with you on the slaughtering of the bourgeoisie, at least below the level of an occasional cabinet undersecretary, university administrator, or corporate vice president. Even then I think they should get their Nuremburg trial before being being shot… after all, we might accidentally get the wrong guys the first time, and messing up a revolution is a good way to get a Robespierre or a Stalin. Not fun. They’ll ration sugar.
Roderick and Charles:
I hear you about thick libertarianism and universal morality being two utterly different things. I think I was confused because a lot of the particular constructions of thick, “left” libertarianism are argued in terms of concepts like rights. But if you’re saying thick “left” libertarianism is a bundle of concerns and that this bundle does not require a consistent logical thread to bind them together, then that makes sense (we’re separating the argument from the supporting propositions).
Yup. Given. And shamefully, I just don’t have a plan for how to sustainably, reliably, or thoroughly rid the planet of suckiness. That’s not a throwaway line, either – the world is unacceptable in so many painful and sad ways, and it’s a struggle to make sense of how to improve it. I don’t knock anybody who tries, but in my attempts to do so and observing the successes and failures of others (and the unintended consequences of certain successes) I’ve arrived at some tenable conclusions.
One of these conclusions concerns where the unit of change is most likely to occur. It would seem to me that, if you really DO want to enlighten people and make the world a more tolerant place, it makes sense to focus on where you live – where you have a reputation, where you know the people and the culture, where the improvement in people’s lives can be seen. I think this is the scale at which most people most of the time can participate in a meaningful “feedback loop” that enables genuine society.
This doesn’t mean gay people should stay in BFE and endure cross burnings on their lawns. But it does mean that, at some point, somebody is going to have to talk to the people burning crosses if the culture is to change. The culture isn’t some platonic form floating in the aethers, to be apprehended solely by philosophers, sociologists, central planners, etc. – it is the product of human behavior, and the context for that behavior is not the global “culture” but particular situations with particular people.
Again, I thank Keith for his emphasis on particularism (I prefer that word to localism) because it helps guide where the fruitful interactions occur. That doesn’t mean a global movement can’t bring the local along more quickly, but it does mean that the local is where the rubber hits the motherfucking road.
Word. We’re agreed on that. And I’m on board with R.A. Wilson’s idea of technology and global communication making possible “tribes” organized by more ephemeral traits than race and ethnicity and geography. You need to understand that what I’m suspicious of at the root of my being is not globalization per se. I don’t have a problem with more connections between people (they can regulate themselves). What I have a problem with is the tendency for this kind of interaction to be mediated – by technology, by authorities, by institutions. It is this mediation that seems intrinsic in mass society that I see danger, because it is the subsidization of deception, most of it self-inflicted. It’s a form of alienation, as I see it.
Soviet Onion /#
You want to explain to me how our sense organs are not technology themselves (my scanners are actually substandard, so I wear an additional piece of technology over them to augment so I see the screen)? How about language? That’s a piece of technology that we receive from an external source, as is the Roman alphabet that we’re both using right now. All contact is mediated in the sense that transmission and detection operate through physical media. Anarchists traditionally have never denied this, and rather than give up on globalization they tried to invent a universal language, Esperanto.
We’re not telepathic, John Zerzan’s claims to the contrary notwithstanding.
But I’ll tell you what: come to Porcfest this year and we’ll have an exchange that’s mediated only by vibrating air and auditory nerves.
True. The most dangerous types of mediating technology are those that allow for surveillance and manipulation, which is closer to what I had in mind. I’m in line with Mumford (via Carson) on technology – it’s a creature of culture and political economy, and only the result – not the cause – of the alienation. Look, I work with computers and the internet for a living – I’m not a technophobe. I just see technology being used as a tool to change how people interact with each other, and God help me – I think there’s something worth conserving there. Yes, Bill Kauffman is one of my heroes.
But hey – let’s put our ideas to the test. We don’t differ on the prescription – only the prediction.
(And I think Zerzan is onto something, incidentally.)
It would seem to me that surely these are more pressing matters than whether or not Georgia allows gay marriage, or whether parents discipline their children by spanking as opposed to time-outs, or whether schools are modeled after Summerhill rather than rote memorization. Keith, I see this, from my queer-individualist point of view, as closely approaching bigotry if noy already there. All three of these issues are important and deserve respect. Gay marriage is more importantly about respect for the diversity that already exists among human beings, and so I want people like me and those I love and care for to be respected everywhere. Even in the ‘Bible Belt’, children who are unique in any way should be born into an open society ready to provide the emotional support and respect- from the very first moment in the delivery room- that are prerequisite to thriving. In similar fashion, Alice Miller has spoken with deeply compassionate eloquence about the lasting harm from spanking kids- I know most all parents do it, but that does not make it right. Mindful and empathic parenting is tremendously important for the true selves of children.
Further, you mention San Francisco as a magnet city for LGBT people in a way that feels like….really disrespectful like the worst racism….don’t want to go back there. Personally, I did migrate to San Francisco because there is a good, strong LGBT community here and it was a very good thing for me to do for myself. But that is still not the ideal situation; considering the decisive, life-long effects of the environment into which a baby is born, it remains inescapably necessary to provide equal protection under the law everywhere so everyone- even LGBT kids- can enjoy a happy childhood.
Further, I stand by my friends. Contempt of someone I want to hear more from constitutes an attack upon my own freedom and the entire institution of free speech.
Nick Manley /#
I had a similar experience with the anarchists here in D.C. I confess I only briefly became part of the “scene” via gender workshops.
They organized a month of anti-capitalist queer activities. I protested outside the D.C. jailhouse over its policies with respect to housing TS detainees.
I confess I moved away for reasons of political-ideological uncertainity ~ not any dislike of individual personalities. I got tired of movement culture and cliques. I wasn’t so sure about anarchism anymore. I figured someone as capitalistic as me by orthodox left standards might be treated rather poorly ( :
Yes, this does sound like the thinking of a tribalist or whatever — although, I was more concerned with being the victim of tribalism or simply having incompatible political goals.
Nonetheless, I have met Infoshop.org personality Chuck Munson. I did some work with the infoshop project in K.C. I got to see a few people from my days as a 15 year old maverick. One of them still remembered me! I reentered the scene as Brad Spangler’s left-libertarian tag along. Chuck’s been pretty receptive to left-market anarchists. He even posted a Roderick Long interview on Infoshop.org. Infoshop is more Crimethincish Bohemian then the production-predation paradigm, so Rod took some heat. One guy wondered how you could take a guy who takes Rand seriously…
Nick Manley /#
My step uncle is a senior vice president at Bank of America…
Let’s not kill the man — he’s not the worst human being I’ve met. This doesn’t mean I will foot the bill for this politically connected company’s continued existence — am not small enough to fail.
You see: this is why I am not a hardcore Marxian class warrior. I do not think reality is so simple as to treat all of these people the same. It irritates me when orthodox leftists do so. The hatred that “Progressives” can unleash against a fuzzily defined class of “overly affluent” people alarms me. When people seriously look upon worldly success/wealth with contempt, then you get ideologies seeing their murder as of no consequence — and further justification for the state doing anything to stop the “malefactors” of wealth as it defines them. My greatest fear is that a stale altruism will lead people to overlook all manner of increasing tyranny in this country. Many people justify their incoherence and concrete disintegrated approaches to politics by appealing to some a prior instrinic conception of the “common good” — as opposed to it emerging through the actions of truly free individuals. How can societies with competing left-right versions of anti-individualist ethics take Adam Smith’s notion of self-interest leading to a common good seriously?
This is not to say no legitimate criticisms of existing political economy can be made – or to endorse the idea that Sam Walton is your better. Nonetheless, I much prefer’s Rand’s confidence in reason to blind destructive sectarian rage/violence.
What would it mean for gay marriage to be more important than, say, the millions of dead Iraqis, or the millions locked up in prison for peaceful behavior? I don’t get that. To me, if I had to choose, one of those things would go out the window – not because it’s not an important issue, but because it’s not as important as human life and death.
This is not about validation of your views. Why do you require Keith to see things precisely your way? His agreement, or his sympathy, will not make any victim of bigotry’s life better. His respect or deference to your pain will not heal you or any victim of bigotry’s plight (and I am not trivializing that plight whatsoever).
However, working towards decentralization, autonomy for minorities, and dispersing the concentrated power of the central nation state very well could. I think many minorities fail to recognize the role the state played in institutionalizing and codifying the bigotry they are beginning to dismantle now, and the way the state continues to distort the tendencies of civil society to heal these wounds.
I object to the way Keith expresses his perception of his detractors as “whiny”. But there is some truth to it when such critiques fault him for not tenderly and concernedly validating their own subjective cultural preferences. Subordinating the dismantling of the most powerful institution in the world to one’s personal identity complexes is not the hallmark of the serious activist because it betrays the underlying premise of the critic that there are higher priorities than life and death. And that is no way to unite people to act.
Political activism is not supposed to make you feel better about yourself or validate your choices or stand in for your own self-confidence with yourself and your beliefs. It is supposed to effect change, and I can think of no better target for our energies than the monopoly on coercion and violence that is the state. If somebody presents a case for where we can better focus our collective energies in order to effect real change, I will certainly consider it – but not out of “respect”, rather out of strategic expedience. That’s really all Keith is saying – there are bigger fish to fry, not that your fish aren’t important, but it’s a matter of life and death here!
I mean you nor anybody else here any disrespect, Victoria, but there is not a single acceptable way to approach the problems on this planet or their solution. Differing on that approach or that solution is not a sign of disrespect, and throwing the “bigot” label at somebody because they have different priorities than yours is not helpful.
Nick Manley /#
Victoria was probably referencing his comments to Aster above, but I imagine Charles doesn’t want us turning this into a thread about Keith/Aster’s hatred for each other.
Nonetheless, there are substantive issues raised by both your comments — going deeper than the personal schism above.
Keith Preston /#
“Keith, I see this, from my queer-individualist point of view, as closely approaching bigotry if noy already there.”
Well, is there anything that some of you don’t consider “bigotry”?
“Gay marriage is more importantly about respect for the diversity that already exists among human beings, and so I want people like me and those I love and care for to be respected everywhere.”
I regard marriage as a statist and religious institution, and it seems rather silly for supposed radicals, much less anti-statist or cultural radicals, to be promoting it. I wouldn’t care if the state recognized gay marriage, nor would I care if the state recognized Mormon polygamy. It’s an issue I’m indifferent to.
“Even in the @@e2;20ac;2dc;Bible Belt’, children who are unique in any way should be born into an open society ready to provide the emotional support and respect- from the very first moment in the delivery room- that are prerequisite to thriving.”
I agree, though I’m not exactly sure this is a political issue.
“In similar fashion, Alice Miller has spoken with deeply compassionate eloquence about the lasting harm from spanking kids- I know most all parents do it, but that does not make it right. Mindful and empathic parenting is tremendously important for the true selves of children.”
Let’s just start with not dropping bombs on children or starving children to death in military blockades, or terrorizing children in police raids.
“Further, you mention San Francisco as a magnet city for LGBT people…”
Are you saying that it’s not?
“in a way that feels like….really disrespectful like the worst racism….”
You won’t win any arguments with me by pulling the “R” word out of the sky.
“Personally, I did migrate to San Francisco because there is a good, strong LGBT community here and it was a very good thing for me to do for myself.”
Thanks for providing an illustration of my point.
“But that is still not the ideal situation;”
It’s not an ideal world. I recall reading some right-wing manifesto years ago calling for a crackdown on crime saying, “Everyone has a right to be safe from crime every where, every place, everytime,” yadda, yadda. Theoretically, maybe they do, but it’s not going to happen.
“the decisive, life-long effects of the environment into which a baby is born, it remains inescapably necessary to provide equal protection under the law everywhere so everyone- even LGBT kids- can enjoy a happy childhood.”
So now the state is supposed to guarantee everyone a happy childhood? In addition to cradle-to-grave financial security as well, I suppose? Even some of the most liberal countries, like Sweden, have a high suicide rate. Happiness has to come from within. Might I suggest the works of Ernst Junger on this?
“Further, I stand by my friends. Contempt of someone I want to hear more from constitutes an attack upon my own freedom and the entire institution of free speech.”
Well, your “friend” has certainly shown plenty of “contempt” for me and attempted to silence me is the past. It’s amazing what a double standard is being used here. It really does illustrate my point that people are irrational, tribal creatures for the most part.
Keith Preston /#
I can’t say that I am pleased to be surprised that Juan Fernando Carpio’s comment turned out not to be the most peurile bit of substance-free antagonism that I’ve read in my comment threads today. I don’t know what you think you have to gain through this kind of bullying swagger; it’s certainly not advancing the discussion, since it touches on exactly no issues at hand in it. If you don’t have anything more to say than trying to silence another participant with a sarcastic “Boo-hoo-hoo” (really, what are you, 13?), then don’t derail the conversation with that kind of crap. If you do have something more to say, of substance, as you did in the first comment that you posted above, then by all means, feel free to say that.”
Well, the initial response I had planned was far more puerile, believe me, which is why I decided not to send it. And, of course, your buddy has never tried to bully or silence me, right? I would have a somewhat different view of who the real bigot is. Your comrade has thrown every derogatory insult at me possible, far more than anything I have thrown, and has done so for no other reason than I do not show sufficient zeal for the “culture war.” Too bad. I prefer “peace through separatism.” Others can just deal with it.
Race realism? I found two articles on the situation in Nepal that I think illustrates my point. Nepal is particularly relevant, as it is a nation without an ethnic or racial majority, which is how the U.S. will be by mid-century.
As for the traditional race conflict in North America, I think Murray Rothbard got it right back in 1967:
This piece by Robert Price is also pretty good, though I don’t agree with all of the specifics.
Soviet Onion /#
But narrowly defining yourself in opposition to only the most superficial expressions of one narrow organization of power is exactly the way to get more of the same shit down the road, because it leaves you vulnerable to incorporating every aspect of the Old Regime except the most superficial trappings.
On the other hand, what if both opposition to both heteropatriarchy and the US military both spring from a more positive and fundamental desire underlying the whole thing? Why not just oppose both at the same time? Too hard? Innumerable leftist and anarchist groups have had done this before. Afraid you’ll alienate people who are uneasy about letting other people get along with their lives in unapproved ways? Don’t be, they’re part of the problem.
I suppose now is the time to arrogantly speak on other people’s behalf and sum up what I think each person’s gripes are, because we’re not all attacking the predominant localism (as we see it) from the same perspective.
Aster and Will are the ones actually attacking localism as such. I’m lifting/playing into some of their points because I happen to agree that there are good reasons to be suspicious of localism, and because the reasons behind those conclusions are consistent with the point/the good/the good life as I see it far more than localism at least as it is being offered up by left-libertarians. Why? Because they both get the point to begin with, so everything they offer, they do so for basically the right reasons.
I’m on their sides when it comes to transhumanism vs primitivism and cosmopolitanism vs localism, but I didn’t enter the fray just to defend these concepts against their detractors. I did it to talk about the reasons for supporting them.
To further illustrate what I’m saying, I think that both Shawn and Will are right to suggest that scaling the means of production down to the smallest possible level to more solidly secure every person’s ability for universal secession would be a great step forward for freedom (although I suspect Will has nanotechnological fabrication in mind and Shawn has . . . something not that). Shawn’s “localism” and Will’s “globalism” seem pretty interchangeable in a lot of ways, but I choose to harp on localism because of its memetic significance within the movement.
Thus any references to specific people or statements are of course going to sound like a caricatures, because what I’m aiming for is the underlying reason behind such things, the sentiment that’s been built up around them, the weight they’re being given, and what’s not being mentioned instead. Sorry if that doesn’t meet anybody’s rigorous standards of argumentation, but apparently this is a real enough phenomenon that more than one person senses it.
The problem as I see it, and as I keep stressing, is that attaining a local community with a stable regional, cultural and economic constitution is seen as the end-goal ultimate point of all this, and I say it’s at best a tool to some more fundamental conception of freedom/autonomy/self-actualization/the Good/the good life.
Why is making this distinction more than just mental masturbation? What’s the practical implication behind it?
The practical implication is that if people really cared about that primarily, they wouldn’t be so cavalier toward everything that gets brought up as a stupid limit to human growth and happiness other than just stuff that can be traced back to economic bigness, wealth concentration, and in some cases workplace hierarchy. That stuff’s indispensable, everything else is just your optional subjective preference. It’s of the absolute utmost importance that Laramie, Wyoming draw its food from local sources and that the bowling alleys and grocery stores lose whatever petty chickenshit employer tyranny they currently have. As to what happens to Matthew Sheppard and people like him . . . well, we can’t really have anything to say on that. It’s not really important to what we consider essential to a desirable society, or an implied part of freedom like worker cooperatives are. Maybe if that’s your subjective preference you can do something about it (assuming you don’t live in a neo-Nazi secessionist zone).
For the same reason I say it’s always important to be mindful of slave-morality approaches to social justice: approaching the right thing from the wrong perspective can lead to all sorts of unintended side effects even if it achieves the narrowly-defined goal.
I don’t have a problem with, or a see a conflict between local farming and strip-mining the asteroid belt. I just want those things to spring forth from something more substantive than “decentralization”, “local organic community”, “small is beautiful”, or “not the United States”.
I share your concern with organically-produced local standards of justice, but I think our positions can be reconciled with anarchism through the mechanism of polycentric law, which is more or less the “open source” equivalent of the objective minarchist law you want (at least as the best realistic alternative). This would have to be coupled with an at least broadly libertarian cultural starting point, but that’s true in either of our scenarios.
And on that note, fuck anyone who thinks that it’s un-anarchist to question “local self-government”. Localism is not an essential tenet of anarchism. All of the early guys were globalizers. Proudhon spun himself silly over the rise of the railroads in France, and Dejacque envisioned the world one day becoming a giant integrated city *a la/ Coruscant. Where are your Gods now, Shawn?
And yes, “International” is truly an inspiring banner that we need to pick up. I keep stumbling onto more and more Scandinavian and Eastern European market anarchists these days.
Soviet Onion /#
Well, I guess we found something we can agree on.
Roderick T. Long /#
Soviet Onion /#
Thanks, although it’s Soviet Onion.
There are way too many “both”s in that passage. I need to get better at proofreading.
If you’re watching, I actually ran into a translator colleague of yours on Saturday; one Jesse Cohen from Indiana. We had a nice talk about suburban sprawl and I mentioned your translation project, guessing that you two already knew each other.
Keith Preston /#
“But narrowly defining yourself in opposition to only the most superficial expressions of one narrow organization of power is exactly the way to get more of the same shit down the road, because it leaves you vulnerable to incorporating every aspect of the Old Regime except the most superficial trappings.”
So you see no difference between relatively small, inoffensive nations like Switzerland, Monaco, Holland, Costa Rica or Hong Kong, and monstrosities like China, the former Soviet Union, the Nazi empire of Europe, America, Indonesia, India or Pakistan?
“On the other hand, what if both opposition to both heteropatriarchy and the US military both spring from a more positive and fundamental desire underlying the whole thing?”
Well, “heteropatriarchy” did not kill hundreds of millions of people during the 20th century. States did this. American “heteropatriarchy” did not kill 3 million Southeast Asians, nor has it killed over a million Iraqis, some of whom might even have been women, homosexuals or children (Victoria). Take a look at what has happened to the status of women and gays in Iraq since the occupation.
“Why not just oppose both at the same time? Too hard? Innumerable leftist and anarchist groups have had done this before. Afraid you’ll alienate people who are uneasy about letting other people get along with their lives in unapproved ways? Don’t be, they’re part of the problem.”
Well, there’s lots of things I oppose “at the same time” along with the state, but I’m not going to reject enemies of the state because I might disagree with them on other matters. For instance, a lot of the people on this forum are into a lot of leftist cultural and lifestyle politics that really doesn’t interest me that much, but I don’t care that you’re into it. It is others who attack me simply for not sharing their enthusiasms.
The idea of “letting other people get along with their lives” is a two-way street. There are plent of left-wingers who don’t want to let smokers get along with their lives, or gun owners, or religious believers, or meat eaters, or lots of other things.
“It’s of the absolute utmost importance that Laramie, Wyoming draw its food from local sources and that the bowling alleys and grocery stores lose whatever petty chickenshit employer tyranny they currently have.”
I don’t think that’s of the utmost importance by any means. I have no more problem with pluralism in economic arrangements than I do in cultural ones.
“As to what happens to Matthew Sheppard and people like him … well, we can’t really have anything to say on that. It’s not really important to what we consider essential to a desirable society, or an implied part of freedom like worker cooperatives are.”
This is a selective indignation. I would venture to guess “hate” crimes are fairly small in number compared to crime overall, including homocides. What about all the violent crime perpetrated by inner-city blacks and Hispanics, with most of the victims being other blacks and Hispanics? What about violent hate crimes perpetrated against whites, like the Wichita massacre? What about the murder of an adolescent boy like Jesse Dirkhising by homosexual rapists? If routine crimes perpetrated by individuals is what we’re worried about, then why don’t we forget this anarchy thing and go join the cops?
“Maybe if that’s your subjective preference you can do something about it (assuming you don’t live in a neo-Nazi secessionist zone).”
I’ve discussed that issue in a post on slavery at AttacktheSystem.Com. Go there, scroll down a couple posts, and you can view it. I would link to it, but posts with links don’t show up right away on this forum.
Rad Geek /#
Word up. Thanks for laying it out.
In case anyone was wondering why I post all thosearticles and take the time to draw out extended comparisons of government policing to domestic violence, or of anti-abortion politicians to rapists, stalkers, and other abusive sociopaths, well, that’s pretty much it. It’s not just a matter of some outreach ploy to or whoever, who I expect to grab with the hook. I do it because I think there is a real, deep, and important connection there, and that those who don’t get it will very often end up being deadweight, or worse, as political
Rad Geek /#
A lot of women are murdered by men, basically for reasons of enforcing heteropatriarchy. If one ethnic group were attacking another at the rates that men typically attack women, for the reason that men who attack women typically attack women, no-one would hesitate to call it a civil war, and an especially brutal one at that. Since nobody tallies the full body count, I can’t tell you how big the war is compared to others. Probably not as many dead as in, say, World War II. But certainly a form of mass assault and mass death which is worthy of concern for exactly the same reasons that war is a worthy of concern.
You seem to be presuming that macho masculinity isn’t related to militarism in general, or the willingness of (until recently all-male; still certainly male-dominated) soldiers to murder, rape, and commit all other kinds of atrocities against innocent bystanders as part of the conduct of war.
(Before you begin, no, I don’t think that a female President would stop all the wars or that women aremore peaceful than men. I do think that the structuring of politics according to patriarchal interests, and the conduct of men with guns, specifically in the expression of their masculinity, does have a lot to do with the politics of war and peace in this here real world.)
I agree that war invariably makes things worse, and as you may know I’ve specifically written on this blog about how the Iraq War and occupation have fostered the Talibanization of many Iraqi communities, and gynocidal and anti-gay death squads, among other things. The point isn’t, as you are claiming, to struggle against male supremacy instead of struggling against war. It’s to struggle against them both.
Roderick T. Long /#
Sorry. At least that was a typo on my part, not a false belief.
Rad Geek /#
I sure hope this aren’t the only two options on the table. As far as I understand it, I’m not (fairly emphatically not) a transhumanist.
On the other hand, if the only other option is primitivism, well, hell, stick a fibreoptic cable in my frontal lobe and call me
For the record, I’m friendly to transhumanism, but it’s not a particular interest of mine. I’ve no ethical objections, but I like having a meatspace body too much.
Then again, I think I’ve lost a few essence points already. So, sure… where does one find good agorist cyberware?
Primitivism= no toilet paper. EEEEEeeeeeewwww. Enough said.
It’s funny but when Shawn was throwing it around with me I was thinking that I’d heard exactly the same phrasing a bunch in the late nineties. Great minds think alike?
Since you’re patting yourself on the back over all this naming and phrasing baddassery of yours — ;) — let me just say that “Anarcho-Zionism” is a really good one and succinctly sums it up for me.
See that’s the thing, I don’t think we CAN have enclaves of anarchy. I think that’s a definitional violation. I think we can have comparatively pretty damn anarchistic societies, but there are really substantive and scary ramifications that quickly develop from even such most basic of inside-outside hierarchies. And further I think that engaging in such retreatist / localist actions can taint our ethical approaches at the very source. What happens when we stop considering the freedom of others as inextricably tied to the very notion of our own freedom?
I move that from now on we refer Shawn as the Popular Front of the Libertarian Left.
Fortunate, yes, but I profoundly disagree with your assertion that they’re fortunate economically. That may be true in entire annoying layers or swathes of a given scene, but that’s a common misperception and it’s just not true on the whole.
Blah, blah, blah. You people with your serious, rational critiques on and approaches to what’s likely to be effective.
See my clarifying post on that aside.
I do suspect that there’s a substantive chance that some tangent of the class revolution / social war / insurrectionist effort will prove necessary or expedient in some eventual context — although there’s no chance on earth that those approaches alone and unnuanced will be enough. Importantly this will probably not be particularly kind to the bourgeoisie as as class. But it’s worth pointing out that while we may not have much sympathy with the owners of yuppie boutiques and might emotionally take glee in seeing their gentrified neighborhoods burned or expropriated, historically we’ve done a good job inserting a rational voice and talking the angry prole mobs down. Such brash talk of “slaughter” etc is just an instinctive social anarchist desire to bring emotional tensions along class lines — and the seriousness of our intent — to the fore.
To paraphrase a syndicalist friend, “when I say the elimination or the slaughter of the bourgeoisie my goal is the mindset, not the actual living breathing human beings trapped within it. I’m extremely mindful of the complexities and pitfalls inherent in such a broad social goal. Rather than loosing people like mobs, our mission is to grant them a deeper appreciation of such social realities so that people can approach the contexts they find themselves in with an uplifting intelligence. I think, were The Revolution to come, we’ll probably see some shootouts with power-seeking ad hoc police forces in collaboration with them, but I’m horrified by the way some of “our” discussions with landowners in the Spanish Revolution went. Anyone who’s ever been to any consensus meeting ever knows that could never happen in the modern movement.”
So I think that if, in some distant semi-plausible context there’s ever going to be any systematic killing by (A)s of those not actively and substantially aggressing against us at that given instant (ie soldiers and those holding their leashes), it’s definitely not going to go beyond state communists and neonazis. I’d sign up with any Agorist ninja strike squad looking to put down Bill Gates for his egregious plundering and censorship-profiteering. But that’s far more in the realm of case by case, context by context. …Even if I don’t think the proles should wait upon some damn legal paperwork to seize their motherfucking factories.
Yes but just because there’s a momentary surge in the direction that these things are being applied doesn’t speak to their long term consequences. If we’re talking about the geographic motion and intermingling of persons then it seems obvious to me that the main thrust of these technologies is removing barriers to knowledge. Local connections used to have to be built slowly over time so there was an investment in staying local. In the long run the point is not that people can now find small stuff local to them that they would have otherwise missed because it didn’t have megaconglomerate power, but that people can find such small stuff local to them where ever they happen to go.
But don’t you think that’s a very weird use of the term “secessionism”? I mean if it’s not also about breaking away (in the sense of severing degrees of contact and interaction on regional lines as opposed to just killing the fucking lines of power), then how is it anything different from “think global, strike back local”?
No, those are the only options. Choose. Choose now!
In all seriousness, I do tend to see all positions on this matter as ultimately collapsing into one or the other. Either a fetishism of biological determinism or an embrace of expanding consciousness as the only ends.
But just what the heck is “human scale” supposed to mean if it’s not appealing to an essentialist conception of — and support thereof — the limitations to the human mind?
One question I’d wanted to ask:
“Simply put, the game of statist reform threatens to paint us into a corner from which we cannot emerge.”
May I ask what corners you have in mind? I.e., why do you believe the game of statist reform to be inherently counterproductive?
I don’t know where I stand right now politically. Anarchism, libertarianism, liberalism, and social democracy all seem to get some things right but none of them feels fully comfortable in entirety. In the absence of clear theory I can only watch the evidence and see who truly delivers the open society.
Hey Aster, if you don’t mind could we move this personal back and forth to email? This thread is getting drowned, and Charles just started another one. Plus it’ll allow me to respond at my own pace.
rechelon [etc] riseup [etc] net
If you wish; I just emailed you anyway. I do think some of these issues are very relevant to the important conversations which are currently going on here.
Nick Manley /#
Do you mind emailing me with a response too? I am interested.
I agree that it’s at least tangential, it’s just that I’m tired, have things to do over the next couple days (Mayday comin) and this deluge of different topics and tangents in an already massive and old thread may be hard to keep up with and keep track of. Nick, do I have your email?
Who’s defining him/herself here? You can have whatever analysis of society and its dysfunction you want. As I’ve stressed before, I don’t see the state as the end-all-be-all ill in society, whose overthrow would bring about heaven on earth. The state is a human phenomenon, just as “heteropatriarchy” is, and it springs from human behaviors which need to be addressed. Any of those behaviors lead to suffering, and you could choose projects on which to work on from any of them.
This is an issue of priorities – of taking stock of the world and resolving to contribute to the struggle for justice and healing where it is most needed. The state merely provides a big, well defined target, the destabilization of which would begin to allow us the space and autonomy to tackle these other social ills as a voluntary society. This is an issue of strategy, not analysis. An ideological analysis informs those priorities, but it doesn’t set them – conditions set them. And the conditions right now are that people are dying at the hands of a pretty large but well-defined organization.
The issue here is not beliefs and principles. I’m opposed to patriarchy – yes, on the same terms as I oppose the state. But the analysis that traces a thread of oppression through several social ills says nothing about what one should actually do; where one should actually start. This is where I see Keith’s approach as imminently more practical: why not unite anti-establishment types on an issue where everybody agrees on what is to be done?
This uniform target prevents nobody from fighting their own battles on issues that matter to them but don’t matter to others in the coalition. And, conveniently, it prefigures the kind of panarchist federative approach to dealing with common issues among parties who disagree. What it does require is diplomacy; the ability to come together with people of whom you don’t approve.
Heteropatriarchy and the state may be related phenomena, but that analysis accomplishes no improvement on its own. You have to pick a battle to fight to hope for improvement. That’s just reality.
Well, fuck, dude. We’re ALL part of “the problem”. But there are bigger parts than others. Do we disagree on that? Are we going to take an “unclean hands” approach to anybody who doesn’t share your analysis and terminology?
This is not about being diplomatic with people for the sake of being diplomatic. It’s about getting something big and worthwhile done.
Agreed. But do all of us have to come to it from the same substantive place? Or can we have different formulations of what “the good life” is and still get something done?
Well, it depends on the alliance, doesn’t it? Certainly, even Keith would eschew cooperation with a group that, say, wanted to support current U.S. policies. The question is: how much orthodoxy to your particular analysis do you require from your allies?
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?
I see people in this thread continuously elevating analysis over action, and it makes zero sense to me. Having a theory helps no person being victimized.
“Human scale” means letting human needs, not institutional agendas, drive social progress. That’s all.
Jesse Walker /#
let me just say that “Anarcho-Zionism” is a really good one and succinctly sums it up for me.
I think that term goes back to the ’60s.
But Charles, that’s not what he’s claiming. He’s not claiming you have to choose which one to fight. He’s merely claiming that in order to most effectively fight one of those – war, for instance – it’s best to ally with others who agree with you on that narrow issue. The reason is so that we do not have to come to an agreement on every philosophic and moral and cultural debate ever – we can simply define what success means, and work with people who agree with us – for whatever reason – on that.
I do not advocate ceasing to think deeply about the interconnectedness of pathologies involved in those tragedies of our society we disapprove of. But our mental models and psycho-ideological analyses of the human condition will never be complete. We’ll never build the movement that could do good if we wait for everybody to agree on a model that even we know can never represent the full breadth and depth of the human condition.
Now, there may be damn good strategic reasons, as you suggested earlier, not to ally with National Anarchists or some other group. So lay them out. But I really object to this notion you, William, and S.O. appear to be pushing that alliance requires ideological conformity with regard to analysis. Even ALL doesn’t demand that!
BTW, Charles, a lot of people are having problems with your site. Looks like GZIP compression isn’t working for some, and they’re being served .zip files.
Rad Geek /#
william (emphasis added):
Well, I dunno; but I think that trying to attach secessionism to severing contact or interaction is a weird use ofif the in question are supposed to include something other than the interactions involved in participating in an overarching State. I suppose that some secessionists out there are (also) economic autarkists or cultural separatists (the Christian Exodus people, separatists of various sorts whose plans involve something larger than a village-sized intentional community). I’m not even sure there’s necessarily something wrong with that (it probably depends on the origins, purpose and duration of the separation), but I am sure that it’s not necessarily a feature of secessionist movements as such. Secession, as I understand it, is not identical with separatism any more than anti-imperialism is identical with (Although a few anti-imperialists really have been isolationists.) When the Baltics, or the Eastern bloc broadly, seceded from the empire, the idea was to get more interaction with the outside world, not less. Even a such paradigmatic case of bad secession a the C.S.A. was not aiming to cut off trade or travel or cultural exchange across the redrawn boundaries (for white folks; of course, their attitudes towards black freedom of movement were, well, different).
Of course, there are different meanings of the word(The original meaning referred to a general strike by the plebs, which is pretty rad, really, but not exactly what’s being talked about here. The originating meaning in English-language discourse is closely connected with a specific stupid statist legal theory about the status of the several states within a federal union of states. If it’s all about piratical compact theories, well, I don’t care about that at all. But I think the term has been generalized outward from there, to cover a lot more than that kind of legalistic claim.)
I’m not sure that it is, except to the extent that there are different kinds of. E.g., there’s focusing on striking back locally because the limits of your resources or contacts constrain your targets; or there’s striking back locally because you realize that local force projection is what matters, not burning down the capitol building. That is, the elevation of strategic victory over symbolic victory.
Anyway, I think thatis an important enough idea that it deserves emphasis and analysis and a politico-historical narrative. Certainly it’s something that some folks have a tendency to forget. ( Well, because that wasn’t the point….)
william (emphasis distorted):
Ouch. Low blow.
By the way, Soviet Onion, the more I reflected on this dispute we’re having, the more I realized… I have never defined myself narrowly as localist or decentralist. You did that. Just FTR.
Roderick T. Long /#
Well, the enclave approach isn’t necessarily driven by such. From my involvement with FNF/LNF in the 90s, I’d say that although for some the point of starting an enclave was to gain their own freedom while the rest of the world went to pot, for many others, myself included, the enclave approach was part of a strategy for universal liberation — in part by demonstrating the workability of a free society.
Soviet Onion /#
Crap, I posted something that was partially responsive to things in this thread in another, so I’ll repost it here, too. It’s really getting hard to keep track.
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.
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.
Soviet Onion /#
I was going off things you’ve written in the past with regard to localism and the debate around thick libertarianism, just like I was with Carson, Preston and Gabb. And what do your responses indicate for the record? Negation or confirmation of that?
Roderick T. Long /#
Were the Taoists globalists or localists?
The goal is freedom – maximum human expression within the collective. Decentralism is a means. There are other means.
I’ve never read a decentralist / localist who saw in localism some transcendent value separate from the human desire for freedom and actualization. Localism has always been a means to other values – community, meaningfulness, civility, autonomy, etc.
Rad Geek /#
Ugh. Thanks for the heads-up. The problem has to do with the interaction between Internet Exploder and WP Super Cache’s gzip compression. I had this fixed for a while; apparently something, God knows what, blew up while I wasn’t looking. I’ve turned off the compression module for now, so that should relieve the problem until I once again have ten minutes of time free at a stretch to figure out WTF went wrong this time. (Unfortunately, probably not for the rest of this week.)
Soviet Onion /#
My knowledge of the different schools of Chinese philosophy is definitely not as extensive as yours, but based on what I do know I would definitely count them as localists, primitivists and communitarians. I would count the Confucians as globalists, but also authoritarian traditionalists, and definitely not anarchists.
It’s interesting, though, that their conception of tradition and it’s function actually bears a lot of resemblance to a universalized polycentric law, in form if not in substance.
Do you mean as a limit or as a vehicle?
They why isn’t anything else so important that you’d consider it so essential, and not just an expendable preference?
So where’s all the other stuff that should logically proceed from or be complementary to those core values?
Soviet Onion /#
Right, when it has to do with specific cultural matters it’s “ideological conformity”. When it’s the localist orientation, that’s totally different. There’s no expectation to conform to a certain “analysis” regarding that, or an evaluation as to its desirability.
You can always tell where the assumed party line is by the sort of deviations that get labeled sectarian.
Rad Geek /#
Me (to Keith):
Well. I didn’t say that Keith was claiming you have to choose. I said that he is attributing that claim to us, when he responds to people who propose struggle against heteropatriarchy with a long list of awful facts about war, as if we had somehow forgotten that, or proposed that somebody should stop caring about that. If someone is working against both militarism and male supremacy, then Keith’s response smells like a red herring.
That said, while we’re here, I do have to wonder what is the purpose of Keith’s bringing upin the name of what he views as the single most important struggle (viz., anti-imperialism), and what is the purpose of your laying so much stress on (which only come up in conditions of scarcity: allocating struggle as when there’s only so much to go around)? Sounds to me a lot like being asked to pick one or the other.
What do you mean bywith them? In what form? On what terms? For what projects? For how long? Are we talking about movements? Networks? Banners? Organizations? Marches? Coffee klatsches? Affinity groups? Political parties? Political lobbies? Crosslinking on blogs and saying a couple kind words about a letter to the editor? Sending e-mails between separate groups so that they know when each other’s events are? Let’s get some specifics here. If we’re going to talk strategy, then we have to actually talk strategy, not muse about something as nebulous as which could mean anything and nothing.
Whatever it may mean, I think that these arguments about teaming up, not alienating people, strength-through-unity, etc. rest on an underlying claim that, whatever form of alliance is suggested, the best way to promote that alliance is to find the lowest common denominator and maximize the number of people who you can call allies. If that is the claim, I think that it’s bogus. The goal of anti-imperialism is to end empire, not necessarily to maximize the number of anti-imperialists. This isn’t an election, and you don’t win by amassing a plurality of the votes on your side.
Come on. This is obviously a strawman. I’m happy to work with Will on just about anything. I’m happy to work with you on just about anything. I’m just not necessarily happy to work with some of the people you’re happy to work with. The reasons don’t have to do with expecting anyone to agree with me on everything. They have to do with certain kinds of very fundamentalor, more often, certain kinds of practice, being defeaters for being able to have a productive working relationship.
Well, like I said, a lot turns on what kind ofyou’re talking about, and what you’re trying to accomplish. Right now a lot of my political work is invested in the immigration freedom movement, so working with anarcho-fascists is unlikely to be productive because they oppose the achievement of the goal that I’m trying to achieve.
On other issues that I’m working on (e.g. educational projects to get the word out about anarchism), associating with anarcho-fascists is going to be counterproductive because my goal is to present anarchism in a certain light, to get out particular kinds of arguments for anarchism, and to start conversations about anarchy as it applies to a particular set of topics. Since the goal is to lay out analysis and ideas, agreement on analysis and ideas is probably more important here than it might be elsewhere.
If we’re talking about antiwar organizing, then I suppose it depends on who you want to organize and what you want to do once you’re organized. If my hope is to organize together with social anarchists, people of color, immigrants, queers, or other targets of anarcho-fascist bile, then trying to welcome the anarcho-fascists to take a prominent role in the organizing is probably going to be counterproductive to that goal.
If your goal in the organization is to combat not only the phenomenon of war but the political and cultural structures that spark it and fuel it (and I think, once you give up on Yes/No or R/D plurality votes as a means to social change, this kind of thing is going to look pretty important), then working closely with people who are actively trying to protect or build out the structures you’re trying to tear down is often going to be counter-productive.
Now, if they want to do something on their own which advances the same goal as I’m working to advance, for different underlying reasons, then, hey, fine; I’m not going to shit on them if, say, I see them going out to blockade recruiting stations or doing advocacy and advice for war tax resistance or whatever. Good on them if they do. But there’s no reason why I have to bewith them in any robust sense for them to pull that off, or for me to pull off similar things on my own. And that’s not going to keep me from calling them out, or (more likely, since, again, we’re arguing about what to do with respect to like 25 or 30 people) calling out larger ideas or practices or systems that they happen to hold dear, where I think that that’s part and parcel of Fighting The Real Enemy ™. And why should it? What goal, exactly, would be served by my choking back something about heteropatriarchy or international apartheid in order to spare the feelings of National Anarchists, front-porch conservatives, or whatever you like?
Nothing I’ve said here has to do with claiming that
Soviet Onion: I don’t know what you mean about human freedom as a limit or a vehicle. Whatever ends people pursue in politics, they are correctly measured in their ability to actualize humans, as judged by the humans themselves. I’m in no position to define that beyond my own guesses on what I’d like for myself.
That is PRECISELY why I hesitate to form all-inclusive theoretical constructions of ethics, morality, and politics that require people to either agree with me or be “part of the problem”.
Hmm. Just because something is a subjective preference doesn’t mean it’s expendable. It just means that it’s less likely to be a touchstone for cooperation among people who have different constructions of “what is to be done” than you.
Hey, dude, it’s not my fault that you haven’t read enough of my blog to know that. Hell, it’s not your fault either – but than again, I’m not the prosecutor in this trial.
No, Soviet Onion. I have repeatedly stressed that concepts like decentralism and localism (and opposition to the state) are nothing more than means to an end, and that that end is something more nuanced.
The question I posed to you, stated more clearly, is this: do we all have to agree on the ends to cooperate on the means, or can we cooperate when we agree on the means and minimally respect the variety of different constructions for what values and outcomes those means lead to?
I’d also like to know why I’m being pigeonholed into this localist / decentralist camp as if that’s all there is to my anarchist politics. That’s really, really unfair. I’ve been letting you dictate the terms of this conversation for far too long.
I’d also like to know what makes you think you’re so correct in your analysis. You’ve never been wrong? You’ve never made a mistake? You know what is in the hearts of every Mormon out there? This isn’t to excuse crimes, but to question your rigidity. The world is a complex place and it requires more than merely disapproving of people and things.
Rad Geek /#
Oh, and one other thing: why the repeated use of scare-quotes around the word heteropatriarchy?
Roderick T. Long /#
The thought behind my quip about the Taoists was that while on the one hand they were localists, indeed aggressive extreme William’s-and-Aster’s-worst-nightmare localists [Laozi: “Bring it about that the people will return to the use of the knotted rope [in lieu of writing], will find relish in their food, and beauty in their clothes, will be content in their abode, and happy in the way they live. Though adjoining states are within sight of one another, and the sound of dogs barking and cocks crowing in one state can be heard in another, yet the people of one state will grow old and die without having had any dealings with those of another.” Bao Jingyan: “In the earliest times, there was neither lord nor subject. … The waste lands had no paths or roads and the waterways no boats or bridges, and because there were no means of communication by land or water, people did not appropriate each other’s property; no armies could be formed, and so people did not attack one another.”], nevertheless they also constantly stressed the idea that our attachment should be to the entire cosmos rather than to anything narrower. (How this is supposed to be consistent I dunno; that’s their problem, not mine.)
I think the Confucians had an authoritarian traditionalist side and an anarchist side. Hell, they might be Hoppeans. Only non-localist Hoppeans. (Not to be confused with the well-known quantum effect of non-local Hoppeans.)
Off-topic excursion? I think Lao Tzu is probably suggesting that the contemplative life of harmony and spontaneity, which apprehends (there is surely a better word but it doesn’t come to mind) the cosmos, is more easily attained in simple local circumstances. That might be true or it might not. I think possessing stillness and calm at one’s center, and manifesting it in a sort of spontaneous, light, and gentle life, is most certainly possible in the busiest district of a large city. I know I’ve found an odd meditative calm in the bustle of urban life. Maybe it comes easier in simpler surroundings. I don’t know–I still have plenty of internal turbulence living in Woodstock, ME (population 1307!).
Kenneth Rexroth has a lovely short essay on the Tao Te Ching here: http://www.bopsecrets.org/rexroth/cr/3.htm#Lao%20Tzu,%20Tao%20Te%20Ching and his piece on Izaak Walton strikes similar notes: http://www.bopsecrets.org/rexroth/cr/6.htm#Izaak%20Walton,%20The%20Compleat%20Angler Short reads.
Turning this back to topic, I’ve got nothing against big cities, but I’ve also got nothing against small towns. Can small towns be oppressive? Sure they can. Big cities can too, if you haven’t noticed. The answer is a culture change, and anarchism–especially of the kind proposed by ALL members–would entail that (or rather be entailed by it, perhaps!). But would that culture change mean the elimination of small towns and localism? I really don’t see that as following by necessity. If intolerance is eliminated it doesn’t mean we’ll all want to live in a dense Blade Runner metropolis. Subjective preference will not disappear. A planet-sized city of cyborgs? Is that really the aim? If a majority freely chooses that, hey, that’s fine and all, but don’t go eminent domaining the minority’s countryside!
I’m an anarchist because I believe in individual liberty as a right. People are ends in themselves and not means. Will anarchy speed up or slow down technology? Honestly, I don’t care. I’d prefer a world with less killing and maiming and exploitation, less heteropatriarchy, less racism–ideally a world with none of these things. I don’t see how that would lead to a uniform world, however. If anything there could be more diversity, as it would be allowed to flourish freely without coercion.
So where do I stand? I’m in the United Front of Cyborgs and Town Cobblers. As my friend Jon puts it, “Can’t it be both?” I think it’s great that the ALL has such diversity. I also agree that too much diversity can be harmful when we are overly inclusive–I would say that National Anarchism is most definitely beyond the pale. There’s too much of a hit taken by cooperating with them. I think us anarchists already have a hard enough time shaking off the bomb-throwing image without being saddled with accusations of crypto-Nazism.
William and Soviet Onion get at a core point and that’s the idea of anarchy as a morally transformative condition, a shedding of superstition and a liberalizing of attitudes. Anarchism as more than just opposition to the State. But I can’t be on board if that really means taking up baseball bats and beating the hell out of people I disagree with. Maybe that’s acceptable to utilitarians but it isn’t to me. And beyond the basic principle I wouldn’t violate, I also don’t think you can change minds with a fist. Would getting beat up by state thugs make us any less anarchist? We might retreat due to trauma, but I don’t see it turning us around into loyal servants. The best way to attack “consensual” (i.e. not in violation of the NAP) hierarchy and domination is by persuasion, not force. I won’t be party to exterminating devout Muslims (for example) just because I think that’s a shitty way of life.
The issue is not people who we disagree with, but people who, by virtue of their ideology and the social context are quite likely to try and use any and every opportunity to seize power and subjugate the rest of us.
To give an example, I’m about as hardline on Free Speech as one can get, but when Antifa initiates beatdowns on neonazis in Europe I see it as a strategic necessity. We simply can’t afford to let them regroup. I have a similarly hardline attitude towards State Communists infiltrating activist projects in order to create and then sieze leadership positions for their nefarious ends. Often the only way to deal with that kind of duplicitous and manipulatory folk is to confront them, tell them to get the fuck out and if they don’t comply, force them out.
I agree. But that’s a consequentialist argument. Our whole point is that there’s a whole frikkin’ lot of context to consider.
Very well said.
I’m not pushing that.
It’s worth invoking here the Train metaphor and Charles’ just responses to the Minarchists.
My apologies Jeremy, especially if you feel like you’re on trial. I’m really not trying to do or get involved in anything of the sort.
But we do have substantive disagreements on strategy (if not perhaps as big as you might think) and those are worth exploring.
Soup has chunks.
well done good sir.
Soups are a little thin for my taste. I prefer stews.
“The issue is not people who we disagree with, but people who, by virtue of their ideology and the social context are quite likely to try and use any and every opportunity to seize power and subjugate the rest of us.”
As in subsequent to the smashing of the state?
“To give an example, I’m about as hardline on Free Speech as one can get, but when Antifa initiates beatdowns on neonazis in Europe I see it as a strategic necessity. We simply can’t afford to let them regroup.”
As a former SHARP I understand this viewpoint (hell, I’ve been threatened by neo-Nazis before along the lines of “I’ll cut your fucking throat” and the like), but honestly I can’t get behind it anymore. It’s still thuggery even if we do it, and it still falls into that trap of the statists who claim they go to war in order to secure peace. Where the fascists have a chance of winning is in convincing the “normal” people of their cause. I think the battleground is still persuasion and not fists in that case. Now, if we’re talking about battling a state as it stands, yes, violence can be necessary. It’s ugly and awful but if they put troops on the street, it’s legitimate to respond in kind.
However, the Nazis are pretty marginal right now. Best way of keeping them that way isn’t suppressing their free speech or beating the hell out of them (now if they attack first, sure, give them the boot). If anything I think that encourages outsider types to identify with these scumbags. There might be strategic value in suppressing Nazis, but I think the moral high ground has greater long run strategic value. Certainly the anarchist position has a strong ethical message, whatever its philosophical foundations. Arguments demonstrating feasibility and consequentialist desirability are good and very useful too, but I know the ethical stuff has at least made some of my statist friends come to peace with my position–they understand some of the moral motivation involved.
Of course not all anarchists are into this sort of thing, and there are plenty of egoists who would denounce this talk as spookery I suppose, and that’s grand too, wouldn’t want to lose them. Stirnerism is certainly interesting if a little self-defeating at times.
“I have a similarly hardline attitude towards State Communists infiltrating activist projects in order to create and then sieze leadership positions for their nefarious ends. Often the only way to deal with that kind of duplicitous and manipulatory folk is to confront them, tell them to get the fuck out and if they don’t comply, force them out.”
I agree that they should be confronted. We have to keep in mind people that aren’t as analytically developed, though. Looking like bullies doesn’t help the cause, even if the other guy is advocating the biggest bully system of all. Pointing out the track record of Bolshevism helps to dig the grave, though. Speaking realistically, we are so small right now that talking about helping or harming the cause is equally irrelevant, I suppose–not enough cause there to begin with.
Just talking one on one, though, I’ve found a surprising amount of receptiveness to the ideas. Even if they don’t “convert” whole hog it comes as a surprise and makes intuitive sense. The same experience has held when introducing people to some of Roderick’s (should I say Dr. Long’s?) ethical arguments, although I know you don’t care for rights-based approaches, William. But anyway, that receptiveness is reassuring. I think we’ll bury state socialism one day.
Thanks for the conversation and sorry for the rambles. Again, I’m under the weather.
Soviet Onion /#
I meant “collectives” as you were referring to them. When you say “within the collective”, are you speaking of that as a vehicle to freedom or a set of boundaries on it. Sorry, I should have been more specific.
Ok, but that still carries an implicit valuation as to what’s important enough to deserve prioritization in the even that it conflicts with some other value or preference. So again, why does the fact that some white supremacists want to secede from the US outweigh everything else they want to do with respect to liberty?
Ok, you’re probably right about that. I still have to read about other things to discuss the issues relevant to this debate.
Great, I’m with you so far. I disagree with the instrumental value you place on local community, but I like that there’s an implied greater depth to this statement of purpose.
As I tried to indicate before, it depends on how fundamental those differences are, the degree of cooperation your talking about, how much it actually contributes to setting these people up in a situation where they could realistically impose whatever illiberal ideas they have on others (even if it’s a small secessionist territory), or whether helping them (or abstaining from calling things our to preserve friendly relations) contributes to a climate in which it would be easier for they or others to grow and impose those things.
I’m happy to work with you, Charles, Will, Nick, Roderick, the not-currently-libertarian Aster, my brother or Pablo from work on stuff that I feel is worthwhile and ought to be done. The first six of you all personally have stances such that I wouldn’t have reservations about helping you with anything. Pablo and my brother don’t take any stances that I would consider illiberal or contributing to an illiberal social dynamic, so I could pretty much collaborate with them on any area of agreement between us without any real reservation.
Likewise, I work with liberals, lib-minarchists and left-anarchists on harm reduction and sex education because the range of intent and effect is focused and unlikely to produce bad effects, because it’s not about empowering any of the “factions” involved. Nothing about what we do is going to lead to Obama or Ron Paul winning the next election, or institute some monolithic workers’ commune that you have to move from to escape.
But when you consider people like Nazis (even if they call themselves anarchists), and in the context of a secessionist program that intends to result in them having power over a region and its inhabitants, it’s different. Aside from all the good strategic reasons that Charles gave, and the paucity of areas of agreement between us, they want something fundamentally different for individual human beings, and they only thing that would prevent them from enforcing that (now or in a “stateless” context) are the real world limitations of their power. And I want to keep it that way. In fact, I think the occasional acts of vigilante violence they commit are too much already; it’s only a small step from that to the power of the Jim Crow era Klan.
What bugs me so much about Preston’s perspective isn’t that he leaves himself open to working with small-time fascists in some capacity, it’s that his plan requires us just leave them alone after we’re done carving up the former United States and pretend like they don’t exist. Priorities dictate that we don’t rock the boat, any consistent respect for individual liberty has to take a back seat. Because he knows that we ever allowed (or helped them) attain those enclaves, and refused to just look the other way, even if it the actions we took were completely peaceful, there would be war at some point or another.
This is bad pragmatism to the tenth degree, and it’s an expression of the same kind of reified group “diversity” and “community” that I bitched about in my last response. I’m not going to work with neo-Nazis, or national anarchists, or secession-oriented Christian Dominionists, of Mormons who want to resurrect some Deseret Autonomous Theocracy, if it means the right of discreet groups to lord it over people in their jurisdiction; and don’t think they won’t. At the very least this is going to have ramifications for children living in these societies (there’s 40 min documentary on Prussian Blue if you’re interested. Look them up if you don’t know who they are. And note the role of the mom.).
Now, if “non-aggressive” reactionaries were facing imminent attack from the Man in some Ruby Ridge scenario, I wouldn’t have any objection to people coming to their defense, either physical or rhetorically. Not because I like them, but out of hatred for something that would crush them for all the wrong reasons, reasons that apply just as much to me and my perspective, if not more so. The State itself represents an embodied stupidity toward life every bit as much as fascism does, and in attacking them like it does displays something that is worth thwrating just because of its own nature, regardless of the target . . . And for the obligatory freedom of speech/association issues yadda yadda yadda.
(Note: revenge is a legitimate motivation for me to do something if the targets are legitimate for a better reason. Sorry to be so barbaric, but rest assured it’s malice based on righteous indignation, unlike fascism. I’m not some Jedi who thinks it’s shameful to honestly hate your enemies for who they are and what they represent.)
Twinkles, as a wish man once said. Thanks for your kind words, Gene. Where’s a good person like you been hiding all this time.
a quick note,
Without a doubt. You’ve got your Marxist-Leninists doe eyed kids who’ve just fallen in with the wrong crowd, and you’ve got your open to critique theorists. However I was thinking more specifically of the sort of Maoist and Trotskyist cadres who are quite damn well aware of the distinctions and in all likelihood aren’t reconcilable. The sort of folks who are quite proud of say the Soviets sending the Anarchists off to the death camps and — outside of the public sphere where their liberal pawns might hear it — openly plan to do us in after The Rev.
Preemption seems rational. We’ve tried letting them make the first move and it hasn’t turned out so well for us historically.
While I agree that fists don’t convert or inspire, I think it’s worth addressing that there are folks who have deliberately closed themselves off from open discourse. And while there are broader social and cultural ramifications to Antifa-type responses that do constrict what’s useful and of which we should be ever mindful of, at the end of the day there are almost certainly still going to be circumstances where it’s more efficient in the short and long term to do in the mindless or psychopathic threats before they do us in.
I agree that being seen as acting out of a consistent ethical and moral philosophy is important, but I think that’s still possible even when your position doesn’t allow you to take advantage of people’s immediate default perception of ends and means being 1:1.
Aw geez, thanks. I keep up with most of the LL blogs, but I don’t talk to anarchists all that often. Most of the time I’m discussing the ideas with non-anarchists. While I have my own ideas and keep track of the disagreements and lines of dispute, I usually don’t weigh in. I’m more active in promoting the core ideas to non-anarchists, but I follow the analytical discussions very closely.
The ALL is a marvelous development and seems to be generating a sort of middle path anarchism with the strengths of both the individualist/market and social traditions. Having started my anarchism in the social wing I’m interested in changing minds about the value of markets. Just talking about markets as broader than the cash nexus and tying them in with spontaneous order and the kinds of things talked about in Colin Ward’s Anarchy in Action seems to help. And of course once someone sees mutualism as acceptable, the Rothbardian stuff doesn’t seem so crazy anymore, and hell, the example of medieval Iceland for polycentric law is pretty damn fascinating in itself, and the virtues of market anarchism become clearer. Discovering market anarchism beyond its caricatures was revelatory–the work done in law, economics, and ethics seemed to fill in the gaps.
I’m currently working on some fairly esoteric stuff. I do a lot of reading in Chinese philosophy and Buddhism and am working on a project that has coughed up some surprising parallels to the sort of Aristotelian anarchism Roderick Long and others have espoused. I don’t have anything finished and ready to read as yet, but my atheist, naturalistic, anarchistic interpretation of (Chinese) Buddhism is less unusual than I thought at first.
Re: William, thanks for the response. I get your meaning now and the nuance. And as far as the Bolshevists, they should never be trusted as allies. Hell, they just about killed off a whole generation of social anarchists.
Anyway, I’m bowing out of this discussion for now. Apologies to Charles for the topic drift.
P.S. I am so starting a band called the Non-Local Hoppeans.
A glancing point in between tasks,
No not necessarily at the beginning, but I think the worry here is that in the long run it tends towards such thinking.
Soviet Onion /#
Yeah, I probably should have prefaced my last comments to Jeremy with something like that. So let’s all pretend that I did. ;)
I wonder what the standard “Atheism, Kommunity, Diversity” left(-anarchist) crowd has to say to that defense, you cultural imperialist, you!
I somewhat agree with that tactical response, for different reasons listed below. As far as them actually regrouping, what are the chances that self-described Nazis are actually going to seize a position of power within their respective states? Come on, nothing with the name “Nazi” is going to be taken seriously by the bulk of society anymore, their expression and symbolism is banned in many of those countries, and there are no legitimate Nazi Parties (unlike the innumerable Communist Parties) in office. When fascism goes somewhere, it has to sell itself as defending some idealized traditionalist myth of the status quo, not as another kooky group of outsiders.
Now, as to what I think is a more legitimate reason for Kung Fu fighting . . .
Well, a lot of people don’t realize that racist neo-nazi groups do go around actively targeting immigrants and minorities for violence, particularly in Europe, and particularly Eastern Europe. This has gotten a lot worse in recent years. They run organized underground training camps, with illegal firearms that their victims don’t have access to. They are pretty much what the KKK was in the Post-Reconstruction American South. In that, they are pretty much an organized paramilitary force, so I don’t think that organized preemptive response is unreasonable against a group of people that have issued a generalized death threat in your direction.
That said . . .
If State Communists really are such a threat, and comparable to fascists in some ways, why isn’t there some equally large and organized group of anarchist street-fighters attacking them at every turn?
Could it be that left-anarchists just have this ridiculous hypocrisy wherein they see left-wing statists as distant cousins, or somehow magically a lesser evil to right-wing ones (even if you’re comparing Maoists to moderate conservatives, ignoring the death toll and all)? Chomsky and David Graeber both adore the Chavez regime, for example. And while fascists have their paramilitary groups, State Communists have legitimate political parties in most of the countries of the world. Logically they should be receiving ten times the amount of attention that fascists get, but they aren’t. In fact, one of the North American ANTIFA equivalents, Red and Anarchist Action Network, contains quite a lot of State Comm’s itself.
Meanwhile anarchists are also happy to work with state-socialists of varying degrees on all kind of projects, apparently not having learned their lessons from the past. Push comes to shove and we’re still helping them hold Madrid.
I would also ask, given the attention that groups like Bash Back and other anarchists give to Christian Fundamentalists here, why European anarchists aren’t targeting Islamic Fundamentalists in Europe (or indeed, in predominantly Islamic countries themselves, since you’d presume that Arabian or Iranian ones would have something to say about things at home). They too have played a huge part in attacking the very foundation of free speech, open discourse and criticism (Theo van Gogh, anyone?), and continue to impose highly authoritarian norms through freelance violence, especially against other immigrants who stray from that situation now that, ya know, they can sort of realistically do that.
Of course, I’m asking you this Socratically. I’m not so that stupid that I don’t know the reason. I’m sure some anarchists will brand me a racist for simply pointing out the obvious fact that women and queer people in secular Western European countries have it a bit easier than they do in most of the Middle East. Go cultural imperialism (like Islam isn’t an example of that itself)!
William and Soviet-
I think there are times when there is no practical way to respond to expression except with force. This is why I’m at least open to the idea of humanitarian military intervention (as Chris Hedges supported the war in Kosovo). I’d approach how to deal with neo-nazis (including those who call themselves anarchists) in the same way.
But I think in both cases one ought to make sure that one is only using violence because no other means can be effective- because any time you add to the amount of force used in society it has inherent negative externalities. Good principles have the edge when the means of resolving conflict is voluntary rational persuasion. This becomes less and less so as you move down the scale of means through social pressure and democratic politics down towards violence and war. I do think there are cases where you have to fight, but one should never forget that violence an inherently nasty tool. It attracts people who want to see blood and break bones. All else being equal peace is always the best environment and it shouldn’t be disturbed lightly.
And I think it’s fair to say that just as 95% of alleged humanitarian intervention is just aggression and colonialism in disguise, and 95% of government ‘help’ is just domination is disguise, that simiarly 95% of private vigilante action is a fist in search of a excuse. The remaining 5% is real. It doesn’t make one wrong to know that one’s chosen means is almost always exployed badly, but it should make one self-aware and careful. Again, violence always has collateral damage- not just to human bodies but to human consciousness.
I do think it makes sense to put totalitarians and those whose ideology is primarily focused on harming or excluding others in a special category. Such people have by their convictions declared their intention to hurt others, and to pretend otherwise is to betray one’s own interests and the safety of anyone under threat from such factions. Preemption is this case can make sense- arguably it’s not even preemption, as we all know that some political groups have putting down others as their raison d’etre. If someone joins a movement whose purpose is to push me into a ghetto and exclude me from society they’ve given up some of their own right to be left alone.
This list would include the Nazis and fascists targeted by antifa organisations. I think it should also include Islamists and Christian reconstructionists. And- yes, we should keep the same standards for the Left- it includes Stalinists and Maoists. This at least would be my list of people who a rational person shouldn’t work with under any circumstances.
I think it nevertheless a good idea to defend even these monsters against state oppression. The McCarthy hearing were bad not because they targeted Communists but because they were establishing the principle that the state had a right to deny people their livelihoods due to political belief. The ACLU was right in the Skokie case to defend the right of Nazis to march. But that has a lot to do with the fact that one trusts ACLU liberals to then turn around and use their voices to condemn the same Nazis in the loudest and coldest terms possible- and there’s a big difference between this and the right-libertarian demand that we refuse to take organised political action against dangerous bigots.
On the issue of Nazis being taken seriously- it’s true that they can’t currently fly under the Nazi label. But they can reform under labels which are at first glance as ambiguous as fascism and Nazism must have appeared to most before they succeeded in gaining power in several countries.
Sometimes this is obvious, as when the uptown KKK calls itself the CCC- and let’s remember that very powerful people, such as Strom Thurmond, Trent Lott, John Ashcroft- have had clear affinity for that groups.
Other times it’s more subtle. I am extremely concerned about the spread of the nouvelle driot third positionist philosophy which underlies (among other things) national anarchism. The essential purpose of that project is precisely to make the philosophical ideas underlying fascism intellectually respectable as a prelude to the social acceptance of fascist sociopolitical movement. De Benoist and his ilk shouldn’t be taken lightly- unfortunately they’re competent as philosophers and know what it takes to change the tacit premises which underly cultural institutions and political structures.
No, they won’t call themselves fascists, but then the Islamists and the Christian Reconstuctionists honestly think that they are miles away from fascism. Why?- because they use different symbols, histories, languages, legacies- and for a tribal mentality such things are worth dying and killing for. But if we identify fascism by essentials, I think that it is far from truly discredited. Besides, people like Haider and le Pen are hardly powerless or marginal figures.
At any rate, I think we would do very well to keep explicit fascism marginalised and off the table, and we should treat anyone who tries to sneak fascism back on to the table as we would a person trying to reintroduce smallpox.
Otherwise, I generally agree with most of what you two have said in this discussion.
Marja Erwin /#
Well, they could be grim necessitarians instead of authoritarians. They might not see any alternative to statism in the transitional phase.
Nick Manley /#
I sent you my email via email, BTW. Is the statist reformism discussion going on here now? I’d appreciate it, if I’d be excluded from any email conversation.
Rad Geek /#
Tu quoque arguments (or, in this case, illa quoque arguments) will absolutely not cut it as an excuse, certainly not here. I’m not interested in hashing out with you who has suffered the worst wrongs in your conflicts with Aster, or what the balance of silencing might be; I’m not even that interested in sparing people’s feelings from insults that are directly related to the issues under debate, if those insults are made in the course of a substantive contribution; I am interested in having a conversation that does not get derailed by people lobbing bullying hostility at each other, or in the use of insults as a substitute for substantive contribution. Because that doesn’t contribute to the conversation, and the fact that you feel you’ve been wronged in the past, in other conversations, has nothing to do with it.
Any further concerns that you may have that are specifically about my moderation of the discussion should be taken up with me through e-mail. Of course, as I said before, you should feel free to add anything that you have to say about localism, decentralism, anarchism, thick conceptions of libertarianism, et cetera, to the public discussion on this thread.
Shawn P. Wilbur /#
Had to take a day out to quit my job, turn my life upside-down and get my little part of the Revolution back on track. I’ll try to play catch-up here, probably by a lot of scattershot shorthanding:
SO: I think the cosmopolitan depends on the local, without which it tends to become some kind of global grayness, just as any society worth having depends on clearing and maintaining a place for individuality. “Individualism and/nor socialism.” Technologically, since it will take a while to get the nanotech up and running, I’ll emphasize multi-machines, permaculture, living-machine tech, rebuilding, and various other clever approaches to living within our means while we try to get all post-scarcity and shit. Apparently, my academic work on virtual community isn’t online anywhere anymore. I need to fix that, since it would clarify my pluralistic sense of the “local” a bit. But, as a rule of thumb, figure I’m a pluralist – about most things, to a fault as often as not…
Good, btw, that you got to meet Jesse. He’s good folks, a good anarchist, a good scholar, etc.
As for “my Gods,” etc., whatevah! Proudhon, from beginning to end, wrestled with the relations between the “complete insolidarity” of “free absolutes” and the various “collective persons,” including “Humanity.” These days, he would probably be in much the same place, trying to come to terms with the play between individual autonomy and global-media-immersion. Anyway, the old, dead guys I spend so much time with are an awful lot like the ALLies I run with: brilliant, in-progress, frequently full of shit, sometimes shockingly unanarchist, etc.
”William:” “anarchist enclaves” = enclaves of anarchists. I’m not sure if we can “have anarchy” at all. As for the question: “What happens when we stop considering the freedom of others as inextricably tied to the very notion of our own freedom?” As far as I’m concerned, we stop being anarchists, and we’ll have enclaves of something else. But I don’t see the problem, really. Much as I love my ALLies, and the other lovable people in my life, I very much fit that “free absolute” model, and have to consider myself mostly an anarchist enclave of one. I’m the thing that sustains my anarchism, a key part of which is my belief in the necessity of freedom for everyone. If you’re just a “localist,” then that’s a different story. Me, personally, I want a sustainable, global society and my own personal barstool and garden plot. My philosophical, tactical and strategic commitments happen to line up with my personal preferences along those lines, and it seems pretty doable, really. It’s on us, individually, to keep on-task, whatever our projects. Seems to me like some people are getting called out about whether or not they “care” on the basis of abstract generalizations from their personal projects. If we want to play that game: 1) we’re all vulnerable, and 2) it probably ends badly.
And, as the ALLiance’s Obsessive Picker-Upper of Dropped Historical Threads, that should probably be Unpopular Front.
As for The Choice, if it’s “get rid of the meat” or “blow up a dam,” I might lean towards company I otherwise have little use for…
Personally, in talking about “the means of secession,” I’m not necessarily talking about anything but a means of disassociation as a last resort, an eject button that ought to be built into any institution we engineer, if we really want to build freeing institutions. I’d rather have a post-scarcity society with so much cosmopolitan freedom that nobody knows or cares if it’s communism or a freed market that’s operating, but I expect I’ll still be living this “hiding out in the shed with the shotgun” kinda life for awhile yet.
SO: “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.”
And then there are actual communities which muddle along somewhere in between. We can do those better, but I have no interest in trying to live in an abstraction of either variety. As someone who is in-process, half empathetic human and half egoist absolutist (and sometimes complete fucking asshole), and who seems to be surrounded by others pretty much like me, dealing with the present and keeping my eyes on the prize of progress towards better approximations of anarchism seems like the way to go.
ALL: Good stuff here – the sort of stuff I’ve hoped we would tackle together.
Nick Manley /#
Let me point out that Larry Gambone has written some stuff disputing the traditional view of Chavez. I respect Larry, but I was a bit “Hmmm” in response to those posts. Chavez may not be a new Mao, but he did put “vote me in for life” on the ballot. The fact that he’s more friendly to majority vote procedures doesn’t assuage all of my criticisms.
Charles mentioned that the nationalized enterprises nominally run as worker cooperatives have to report to the state in the name of “society” — just like Bolshevik statists standing guard over the nominally independent Soviets.
Then again, I am less of a sure anarcho-libertarian socialist in the sense Larry is, so that does inform my view here.
Roderick T. Long /#
The left have romanticised Chavez, the right have demonised him. What else would one expect? I think he’s mostly a dime-a-dozen bullshit thug, but one whose popularity comes in large part from his not unadmirable willingness to thumb his nose at the much more powerful bullshit thuggery of the U.S. and its proxies.
Soviet Onion /#
Um, independent thought? We’re anarchists.
So what? We’re anarchists. It’s stupid when libertarians idolize Thomas Jefferson, and it’s equally stupid when social anarchists idolize whatever two-bit demagogue is currently flipping the bird to US power in order to solidify his own. So-called “radicals” should be smart enough not to fall for that . . . again.
Roderick T. Long /#
Well, there’s “expect” in the sense of “demand” or “hope for” (“we have certain expectations of our clients …”) and “expect” in the sense of “find probable.” Alas, these all too frequently diverge.
Soviet Onion /#
But I spent so much money on that cowboy gun :(
Rad Geek /#
I agree that some significant number of social anarchists have this blindspot. Especially when it comes to postcolonial pseudopopulist statists, like Chávez, Castro, Che ™, San Salvador, et al. I wouldn’t ascribe it to social anarchists (or!) categorically; there’s a lot of variation depending on how much of the history, especially the history of Bolshies gunning down anarchists, the person involved has studied.
For those I would ascribe it to, part of the reason has to do with where the current crop of social anarchists often originally came from, politically; part of it has to do with enemy-of-my-enemy reasoning, with American imperialism and corporatism in the sights; part of it has to do with romanticizing revolution without paying attention to the details; and a general hesitancy to ever say that a statistical aggregate of historically marginalized people is wrong about anything. The first three reasons, mutatis mutandis, are ultimately not that different from the reasons why a lot of libertarians have historically tended to line up with pro-Amerikan Right wingers and other conservative thugs.
Incidentally, as for lesser-evilism, surely this depends on the case. Worldwide (mostly because of three or four specific cases), State Communism is almost certainly the single most lethal political force in all of history (excepting Statism generally, which of course includes State Communism as a proper subset). But if you look at particular cases, it varies from case to case. I don’t think it’s plausible to say that a vampire like Castro is acompared to Batista (or vice versa). I do think that, as thuggish as they could be, and as little as they deserve the praise offered them by the post-colonial Left in the U.S., Arbenz and Allende were not as bad as what came after.
Yeah, I agree that this sucks.
Bash Back has a lot to do with specifics of the anarcho movement in the U.S. Queer anarchism isn’t unheard of elsewhere, but to my understanding it’s not nearly as prominent anywhere else as it is in some parts of the U.S.
You do need to keep some nuance in mind when comparing political Christianity in the U.S. to political Islam in Europe, because Muslims are targeted by the State and by racial politics there in ways that conservative Christians are not targeted in the U.S. There’s all kinds of shit to call out and all kinds of shit to resist, but when you’re trying to deal with an oppressive dominant faction within a politically and culturally marginalized group, and when folks like Sarko, not to mention Le Pen, take thuggery and domination that are matters for legitimate concern, exploit it and blow it wildly out of proportion to its statistical prevalence, for the purpose of political power-plays, to justify hardline immigration politics and Law-and-Orderism, and all the whle show exactly zero genuine concern for most of the victims of what they’re complaining about — that makes the situation a lot more complicated. Not that complication should keep anyone from condemning authoritarianism wherever it shows its death’s head, but it does seem unreasonable to expect exactly the same kind of response as you’d see to Christian fundamentalists in the U.S. who aren’t targeted by the immigration politics or police politics or racial politics like Muslim immigrants in Europe are.
Those anarchos who actually are living in, or have family back in, the Middle East, do tend to be stridently anti-fundamentalist. Since, however, they or their families also tend to be at a greater risk of having bombs being dropped on their heads by those Secular Western Powers, there is a tendency, I think an understandable one, not to spend too much time on praise for those powers. When it comes to imperial powers, how muchpeople have it under them typically depends on where they are under them; things are a lot different outside the official borders than they are inside.
Larry’s apologetics for Chávez are uniformly pretty disgusting. He’s right that U.S. media has demonized Chávez, and that their doing so serves political purposes, but the dude’s still a President, and one who’s making himself increasingly dangerous, and is doing absolutely everything in his power to co-opt and corral any and every movement of genuine autonomous social movement into top-down, bureaucratically-regimented, often explicitly militaristic chains of command. Not only in Venezuela, but (thanks to Boli-imperialism) throughout South America. Larry’s response to pointing this out is generally some guff aboutand and going where the action is, followed up with some comments about the evils of the oligarchy and the danger of a new Pinochet. Of course the oligarchy is evil and there is a danger of a new Pinochet, but the rest is at least as bogus, if not more so, as the same kind of ridiculous apologetics when applied to Obama or any other Caesarian pseudopopulist power-tripper.
Rad Geek /#
Well, some forms have more than others.
Vigilante violence actually typically has almost no(if that means non-intentional violence, whether deliberate or accidental, against innocent third parties in the course of attacking the real target), if nothing else just because, Batman aside, there aren’t that many vigilantes with an air force or heavy artillery. I would presume that your worry with vigilantism is about inappropriate targeting rather than violence to third parties other than the target (lynch mobs and the like), either because procedural protections are inadequate (so they don’t really know whether the accused is innocent or guilty), or because the target is being attacked for something that, even if she did it, ought to be fully within her rights to do. Right? If so, I agree that’s a danger that has to be taken absolutely seriously. But I think it would be a mistake to present it as being in equal proportions to the targeted violence of the State in similar social situations. Given similar social conditions, I think that the State typically tends to be a lot worse, because it is more systematic, more relentless, and usually harder to resist. (And, besides which, in most places where lynch law has flourished, it flourished with the active collaboration of local judges and sheriffs, not as an alternative to them.)
Just as a historical note, the CCC is (roughly) the lineal descendant of the White Citizens’ Councils, which did form as sort of a suit-and-tie alternative to the Klan (which had once commanded elite support, but by the 1950s was considered sort of a hokey dumb-cracker organization by elite white supremacists like Eastland). But at the time, as you might guess from the WCC name, they didn’t organize as an attempt to cloak or dog-whistle their white supremacist agenda; it was overt and unapologetic. The main difference at the time, besides the matter of social class, was that the WCC was somewhat more hesitant to use direct violence beyond the level of some vandalism, and usually preferred to use systematic social and economic blackballing. (And their general strategy was to humiliate and ruin their targets, by attacking their social lives and their livelihoods, rather than to terrorize or kill them, by attacking their bodies, which the KKK continued to specialize in.)
Rad Geek /#
Well, that depends on how you count things. National Front parties and their kissing cousins have been elected to a lot of municipal and provincial posts in France and other European countries, generally riding a wave of xenophobia, Law-n-Orderism, and boiling-over frustration with the usual bureaucratic Social Democracy bullshit going on back in the capital. Of course, the NF parties don’t use the word N-A-Z-I to describe themselves, but they’re fairly overt both in their position papers and especially in their street politics as to what they want.
Soviet Onion /#
Right on. I vaguely remember a post of yours from way back in the day regarding a university professor claiming that women and blacks had innately lower capabilities, and that you’d defend him against censorship by the school while simultaneously organizing a total boycott of all his classes (and of course, simply publicizing these views would effect a boycott by at least all the female and black students).
Nazism strikes a little close to home for me, since my grandparents on my father’s side are both Ukrainian Holocaust survivors.
Roderick T. Long /#
It still is, for the most part. Take a look at their website (I won’t link to it from here, because yuck, but it’s easy to find if you want it — they go by CofCC): the white-wing agenda is quite up front. (I guess one could argue that their rhetoric is white-separatist rather than white-supremacist. Whatever.)
Roderick T. Long /#
Re Nazis in Skokie — This is one case where the enforcement of local neighbourhood standards that Araglin was talking about over on the “Hoverbikes” thread could be a good thing. If some local communities wanted to ban the Nazi march (so long as the ban was carried out in a libertarian-consistent manner — again, see the “Hoverbikes” thread) while others preferred to let them march and then counter-protest, fine.
Roderick T. Long /#
Btw, re CCC again — I found this entry in their “Statement of Principles” unintentionally risible:
What would it mean to disallow a Nazi march in a “libertarian manner”? Get permission from every person on every block to expel the Nazis from any street, and hence from the town?
Roderick T. Long /#
I talk about this over on the “Hoverbikes” thread.
Nick Manley /#
Presumably, a predominantly Jewish area would not want Nazis marching down their street — given the fact that this would basically be like something out of Nazi Germany. The march would be designed to intimidate residents.
Rad Geek /#
Well, from the owners of the streets, whoever that may be. (My suspicion is that for a lot of local streets streets will probably be either the property of the unorganized public, or else owned by an association of the people who live on or routinely use the streetch of road. In the former case, it’s not necessarily easily decidable what would constitute a legitimate basis for excluding a use. But in the latter, presumably there will be some kind of organization with some kind of rules for decision-making, either majority vote or consensus or whatever. It could be unananimous but need not be.)
The problem in Skokie was that the government claimed ownership of the streets, and for government to exclude people from itson the basis of their ideological views would be an invasion against freedom of speech (which derives from the earlier aggression involved in the government appropriating control over the streets). But if the people in a neighborhood own the streets, it’s up to them to decide how they want them to be used and how they don’t want them to be used. People who strongly value Nazis not marching near their homes (value it enough to cover the marginal costs of making and enforcing the necessary policies for use of the thoroughfare) can move to communities where there’s a well-defined process for excluding unwanted uses, and where the Nazi marches are likely to be among the unwanted uses. People who want a more freewheeling policy, and don’t mind the cost of having the occasional Nazi march take advantage of the freewheeling, can move to places where there isn’t a restrictive policy.
Yeah the case with the “unorganized public” is what I had in mind, in that scenario if anybody tried to exclude Nazi marchers then THEY would be the blowhard thugs.
Roderick T. Long /#
Well, there are unorganised publics and unorganised publics. Something might be an unorganised public in the sense of being open to all comers, Nazi or otherwise. But the unorganised public might just be the residents of that area, who came to own the thoroughfare not by formal agreement but just by using it. In the latter case, if Nazis come along from the outside they can be excluded. (Unless they’re sponsored by one of the locals; then it gets more complicated.)
I’m very suspicious of local control of public streets. People will try to push out vendors, prostitutes, street musicians, ‘vagrants’ and scruffy-looking young people who aren’t harming anyone. I think people have every right to use noncoercive means to show their displeasure at Nazi marches, but they should still be allowed to march. I suspect that allowing owners to exclude people from the streets according to the aribitary whims of street-owners will end up in Hoppean anarcho-feudalism- and the major victims won’t be Nazis.
I don’t want either public or private authority to have the power to clear nonaggressive people from public space- altho’ again, this will only work if citizens use their voices to strongly condemn those who wish to use noncoercive speech to hurt or intimidate others. Even if antidiscrimination law is unacceptable to libertarianism, it articulates a principle of public conduct which an open society needs to have generally socially operative. I don’t have any desire to help create a society which allows street collectives or street companies to start treating unpopular people in the same way employers and landlords often do.
I just looked at the Council of Conservative Citizen’s web site.
The ‘statement of principles’ is written by Sam Francis. Here is point II, in entirety:
I discovered the existence of Sam Francis on Keith Preston’s website, in one of his link list posts. Here is Keith promoting an article titled “Sam Francis and Me”, written by an R.J. Stove and published by the hard right Taki’s Magazine:
http://attackthesystem.com/2008/09/ (it’s a long list, so search or scroll down)
Here is the article itself:
It begins like this:
“You have no idea what joy lies in discovering that there is another human being in one’s homeland who actually has heard of, and reads with pleasure, Samuel Francis.”
Consider for a moment what it means to promote an article that speaks this way about this kind of individual:
(Note: revenge is a legitimate motivation for me to do something if the targets are legitimate for a better reason. Sorry to be so barbaric, but rest assured it’s malice based on righteous indignation, unlike fascism. I’m not some Jedi who thinks it’s shameful to honestly hate your enemies for who they are and what they represent.)
I agree with William on this. I think you ought to be careful with hate, but there is a huge difference between Nazis hating Jews and any sane person hating Nazis. Hatred is ultimately just an emotion- and while there are times when one has to set aside, transcend, or civilise emotions I think it’s mentally unhealthy to suppress ‘immoral’ feelings and thoughts. Emotions are among other things implicit evaluations of reality, and if someone has hurt you or committed themselves to hurting you it’s completely rational to feel hatred. You should feel hate at a person who rapes you, and a morality which tells us that feeling hatred is wrong in itself doesn’t help the victim’s situation.
The problem is when someone signs up for a cause which tries to hate people, or when one hates people on the irrational basis of unchosen group membership. The problem with ‘hate speech’ (I really wish that specific concept hadn’t stuck) isn’t that it expresses hatred, but that’s it’s a terror tactic and attacks people not as individuals but as interchangeable members of a collective kind.
Discussed at www.nostate.com /#
William Gillis: Occasionally out of bubblegum | nostate.com:
Nick Manley /#
“altho’ again, this will only work if citizens use their voices to strongly condemn those who wish to use noncoercive speech to hurt or intimidate others.”
That was my point about Nazis in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood — migrants can and do huddle together in certain cases. The same would apply to the KKK riding through a de facto segerated inner city “black area” whilist pointing firearms at every person they see.
Isn’t that coercive?
It’s not as dismissive as it looks; it’s just a way for me to reference the concept we’re discussing without conceding (or resisting) the term “heteropatriarchy”. Honestly, I don’t even really know what you guys mean by that.
Soviet Onion /#
I’d like to see some kind of response from a group of people who pretend to be the most radical and internally consistent rejection of dominance in all its forms, yeah. Being on the downside of one particular form of oppression shouldn’t get someone off the hook for everything else they do, and historically hasn’t (ie Goldman and de Cleyre criticizing dirt-poor, but still sexist, male workers). If not from anarchists outside those communities, then at least from people inside them. Fortunately that does happen (if you didn’t know, the spoken accounts in van Gogh’s Submission were actually true stories from abused Muslim women themselves, and of course the film was produced by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an atheist former Muslim who fled an arranged marriage) with little attention or support from anarchists.
Because hey, they’re either living in third world countries or as marginalized immigrants in the West, and in either case they’re people of color. We can’t very well expect (let alone demand) them to understand reason and freedom, now can we? It would be wrong of us to, say, mention how all variants of Sharia legitimize marital rape, or how women aren’t allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, even though those things would have no effect on encouraging deportations or war.
In my experience, the influence of this pseudo post-colonialist perspective has promoted a kind of ambiguous relativism toward cultural aberrations that leftists and anarchists historically have been very hardline about, and still are . . . but only when white people do them. That’s not just true about European anarchists in relation to European Muslims; it’s a problem of the left in general regarding anything done by anyone in the Global South. I’m reminded of this old post of yours that mentions the leftist sort-pedaling of Iranian theocracy.
So as a result I’ve witnessed a lot of blanket condemnations of Christianity as an imperialist force (and to their superficial minds it’s European, even though it started in the Mid East, ignoring Coptic and Ethiopian Orthodox Christians and most of South Korea), but not Islam, even though it did all the same stuff and several centuries earlier, and that modern Islamists are explicitly drawing on that legacy(+).
Going back to my experience with the livejournal anarcho-morons, here’s a couple claims I remember just off the top of my head with regard to that double standard:
one person actually told me that Japan was fine before Europeans fucked it up (not exaggerating at all, those exact words). I kindly pointed out the fact that the entire society was dominated by (exclusively male) feudal warlords who twice tried to invade Korea, and then autocratic centralizers after Tokugawa. Their response: something like “At least it wasn’t suburban middle-class death culture.”
the claim that “anarchists need to offer unconditional support to all national liberation struggles” in reference to Nepalese Maoists.
frequent support of racial separatist movements by black and native American people, while giving the usual and rightly deserved scorn to white nationalism. To be sure, white nationalism is different for the way it historically plays into existing white supremacy, but that still doesn’t mean any kind of separatism (segregation based on superficial, arbitrarily delineated “differences” between people) is ever a good or healthy thing in the long run. Even former Black Panthers-turned-anarchists like Alston Ashanti realize that.
There was a general skepticism to anything related to the Enlightenment, however tangentially. Even, oddly enough, by some people toward Marx since he is sometimes classified as a late Enlightenment thinker.
Now, I realize that the Enlightenment isn’t some kind of “whites only” club, but it’s perceived as a quintessentially European phenomenon. Hence the revulsion-by-association.
(+) Full disclosure: I’m not a Christian and this isn’t an expression of American chauvinism, and I fully recognize how talk like this could play into those people’s hands. But that’s not a good enough reason to remain silent. I reject the arbitrary taboo on treating religious ideas as separate and distinct from political ones, and off limits to public criticism because it’s “their faith”. I’d pretty much like to see all the Abrahamic traditions go away and not come back, or at least be treated with the same popular disdain we usually reserve for things like Scientology.
Well, I do sometimes feel hate for sharply defined groups of people, but in those cases it’s still on the basis of the ideas they hold as individuals, not for some passive trait they have in commonality. Nazis are one thing, Germans are another.
Given my above comments on Abrahamic religions, I think it’s also fair to feel hatred toward a set of beliefs while realizing that not everyone who claims the title really embodies them. Part of the reason to do that is out of recognition for the effect they have on people, including those underneath them, and out of love for those people. I wouldn’t blame someone who’s parents encouraged them to join the Hitler Youth as a kid as much as I would someone in this society who chooses to be neo-Nazi of their own volition, fully aware of the ideas and how they’ve played out historically, regardless of how unpopular that makes them.
Regarding the roads issue, I tend to agree with you. Community demands for respectability/saving-the-children can still lead to constrictive environments. This can’t just be reduced to property rights.
And in any case, to Charles and Rod, don’t you think it’s a little disingenuous to criticize Hoppe’s evocation of homeowners rights to sculpt a closed communitarian environment while advocating a (much more limited) version of the same?
Roderick T. Long /#
Btw, leftist decentralist Kirkpatrick Sale has a new post on secession.
Soviet Onion /#
Speaking of Klan motorcades, here’s yet another argument for gun ownership. Boy, it sure is easy when reality agrees with me so much.
Taken from the Reason article “Brothers In Arms: How civil rights flowed from a rifle barrel“.
Roderick T. Long /#
If people who want to ban such-and-such from their public streets aren’t allowed to, won’t they just respond by forming private communities with private streets, so that the results will be the same?
Or are you saying that people shouldn’t be allowed to form even private communities with private streets – so that Disneyland, for example, should be required to allow the Nazis to march down Main Street?
I do think hate (as opposed to anger) toward people (as opposed to ideas/movements/institutions) is problematic, for reasons I discuss in the last three paragraphs of this piece.
Um … that sure sounds dismissive. And I honestly don’t know what you mean in claiming not to know what it means. I mean, c’mon — is it the “hetero” that stumps you? or the “patri”? or the “archy”?
No, I don’t see it. Keeping someone out because they’re the “wrong” ethnicity or sexual orientation and keeping someone out because they’re a Nazi don’t seem all that similar to me.
Let me reverse the question: would you invite the Nazi marchers into your own house? If not, is it disingenuous for you to criticize people who would refuse to invite, say, blacks into their home?
OK, so I’m pleased that we’re at least communicating. Yes, there is scarcity of time, resources, energy, and more. I take this as a given; do you contest this point? Given the enormity of work to be done, of change to be effected in line with one’s own ideological or philosophic views, it seems to me as an activist (who is actually trying to have a life, too) that there is marked scarcity in this area. There is only so much struggle to go around – if there weren’t, strategy would not be necessary.
And remember: we’re talking about a scarcity of action, not of analysis. A thoroughgoing philosophy about the interconnections between elements of social organization and behavior is not “scarce”. There’s no need to compromise one’s own beliefs, opinions, and theses on how, for example, patriarchy reinforces militarism and vice versa. But these beliefs, opinions, principles, philosophies, and other views say nothing about how one will realize them in the material world.
This is why I fail to resonate with the points that many of you are making: you’re stressing the ideological analysis, the philosophy, but saying nothing against me about how these concepts affect what actually gets done. So I agree that, for example, N.A.s are not allies ideologically, but that seems to say nothing about whether or not one should cooperate with them in blockading a route carrying Strikers to a port. The objections are purely philosophical – in other words, they talk about theoretical differences which may lead to cross purposes at some future point in time.
My view, with all due respect, is that this is sacrificing the freedom and survival of others whom we profess to support to one’s own ideological identity. Yes, it would be quite messy in the long run working with anarcho-fascists or other groups whom we have major analytical differences. But what’s the danger here? This messiness occurs primarily because the world is an inherently non-ideological place, where lines get blurred and people get confused all the time. It has nothing in particular to do with groups who have different approaches; it rather has to do with the arbitrary status of all ideological approaches. The political philosophy is not intrinsic in the events; we impose the analysis, we parse the progression of significant events according to our own measure, we put labels on things.
What I’m proposing is that we retake our power to work in the world, that we be strong enough in our own beliefs to take chances, that we remain vigilant of contradictory political views instead of censoring them from our lives, that we keep material, worldly progress as foremost in our minds as the prize rather than our own purity of thought.
Well, what about the American Revolutionary Vanguard, where we start organizing the practical resistance instead of bickering about who has what rights?
Hmm. In a way, it is kind of like an election. Imperialism exists because flesh-and-blood human beings, just like you and I, allow it to. This work against empire is going to involve changing people’s minds – lots of them. If there’s another way to go about it, fine – all I ask is that we not set out with the preconceived notion that there’s something inherently better about doing it with a particular analysis or a particular ideology.
And, in fact, this is precisely why a cross-ideological coalition is so useful: different groups can appeal to different values and interests in uniting opposition from a wide variety of groups.
This really is the crux. It’s not about making you, or me, comfortable. It’s about doing something we think will effect significant change for the better. My feeling is that, if we’re making progress, it’s almost certainly going to be uncomfortable for people who have strong beliefs and opinions about the world. The question is this: do you value your own sense of ideological identity more highly than the chance to effect change? The answer to this question may very well be, “yes”, in which case we understand each other.
OK. Then what I and Keith are advocating is not going to have much appeal. The premise of our strategy, I feel, is that transcending ideological barriers allows for a mass movement that could change things. If you don’t feel a mass movement is valuable, then this strategy offers a grand total of nothing.
Roderick T. Long /#
That’s an awfully uncharitable reading of what Charles said. In context, he clearly meant that it makes him uncomfortable because he thinks it tends to frustrate the changes he’s trying to effect.
Is that a joke, or are you really baffled by the claim that gays face systematic oppression in our society?
That was not at all clear to me. And I do see a real trend in leftist thought as elevating identity over actionable progress; an “unclean hands” approach to groups that could work together but choose purity over progress. Defining ourselves by political positions seems to do more to fragment the resistance than to bring it together.
It’s not a joke. It didn’t even occur to me that the “hetero-” referred to heterosexuals. I won’t even try to explain what I was guessing it meant.
Rad Geek /#
O.K. Well, for reference, theis stuck on the front of specifically to draw a connection between patriarchy and heterosexual privilege (+). The idea being that the hetero-privilege is closely linked with the male privilege over women, because the social process of gendering is so closely connected with roles in heterosexual sex and love; gay men are seen as a problem because they allow other men to have sex with them, thus, supposedly, making themselves effeminate (a somebody’s ), thus betraying sex-class solidarity; and lesbians are seen as a problem because they refuse to allow men to have sex with them, thus, supposedly, making themselves masculine, and thus rebelling against sex-class.
Hope this helps.
(+) Heterosexual privilege includes both homophobia, i.e. explicit fear, hostility, or hatred towards queer people; and heterosexism, the erasure of queer sexualities by portraying straight sexuality as universal or normative, as the only form of sexuality on offer for normal people. (Heterosexism need not involve any explicit antagonism towards queer people; it often has to do with never really getting around to mentioning that queer people exist. But part of the reason that heterosexism is such a concern is not just some desire to see your kind of relationship in the movies; it’s because the explicit antagonism towards queer people asor depends on an earlier foundation set down by the normalization of heterosexuality.)
Nick Manley /#
The public-private divide is partly a linguistic corruption created by statism. In reality, there are very few privately owned spaces not frequented by innumerable members of the public. Indeed, a private business would have no revenue without some other members of the polity becoming involved. That’s why the Civil Rights era boycotts were so powerful. As racist as this or that controller of space may be, they can’t escape economic interconnection. Chomsky is too quick to imagine that private power need be unaccountable and that “public” power is accountable.
In fact, a government can and does irrationally restrict activity on nominally “public” property. Ultimately, it’s their word that counts — just like a private owner or owners.
Free market economist D McCloskey makes an excellent point about how private property rights can protect us against discrimination. Her example? The gay bars that were the target of governmental repression during the 60’s-70’s.
Furthermore, the degree to which dissidents can occupy public space is largely a factor of culture. A central government may go after people who murder you in a hostile neighborhood, but they can’t make the people like you. That’s why real change requires shifts among the majority of a populace — not just the erection of a Civil Rights bureaucracy of people whose views are shared by 0.5 percent of the populace.
And if you want to maintain democratic forms/procedures, then you can’t just completely empower this elite at the expense of everyone else — unless you’re looking for a reformatory military occupation.
Keith Preston /#
I’m curious as to how others here would respond to this article:
Keith Preston /#
How would any of you respond to this quote from Dr. Walter Williams:
“If one totaled black earnings, and consider blacks a separate nation, he would have found that in 2005 black Americans earned $644 billion, making them the world’s 16th richest nation. That’s just behind Australia but ahead of Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland. Black Americans have been chief executives of some of the world’s largest and richest cities such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Gen. Colin Powell, appointed Joint Chief of Staff in October 1989, headed the world’s mightiest military and later became U.S. Secretary of State, and was succeeded by Condoleezza Rice, another black. A few black Americans are among the world’s richest people and many are some of the world’s most famous personalities. These gains, over many difficult hurdles, speak well not only of the intestinal fortitude of a people but of a nation in which these gains were possible. They could not have been achieved anywhere else.
Acknowledgement of these achievements is not to deny that a large segment of the black community faces enormous problems. But as I have argued, most of today’s problems have little or nothing to do with racial discrimination. That’s not to say that every vestige of racial discrimination has been eliminated but as my colleague Dr. John McWhorter said in “End of Racism?” Forbes (11/5/08), “There are also rust and mosquitoes, and there always will be. Life goes on.” The fact that the nation elected a black president hopefully might turn our attention away from the false notion that discrimination explains the problems of a large segment of the black community to the real problems that have absolutely nothing to do with discrimination.”
Here’s the whole article:
Rad Geek /#
No. For the reasons that Roderick mentioned. Also because Hoppe’s proposals are about something far more extensive in scope and invasive in reach.
I’m not sure what role theis playing here. Absentee control of streets, which is what we have now, typically produces exactly the results you’re worried about ( ; this already happens in almost every city I’ve ever lived in). Is the problem here with use-control of the streets, as such, rather than with local as against absentee control?
But, given that caveat, I agree with all the worries that you cite, but I don’t think they actually cut against my proposal. The extent to which that sort of thing is a worry depends, doesn’t it, on whether or not you are imagining the entire network of local roads being limited-use, or some roads being limited-use and others being open-use, and if the latter, what portion of roads are limited-use and what kind of roles they play in the road network, n’est-ce pas? At the extreme end, I can’t conceive of any problem if everybody’s driveway is use-controlled private property, while the entire network of shared streets is open-use. And I don’t know that much of a problem emerges if, say, people who live in cul-de-sacs or on dead-end streets decide to limit access to or use of what is, in effect, a shared drive-way. Or even if we’re just talking about residential streets exercising some limits on use (well, you can’t have any parades through here without the permission of the neighbors). I think the troubles you’re worried about only start to emerge when we begin talking about something like organizing similar limits on major thoroughfares and commercial streets, or about patterns of use-limiting so extensive that they effectively lock up the city, n’est-ce pas?
Roderick T. Long /#
Well, look again at what he said. Immediately after Charles’ remark that he’s “not necessarily happy to work with some of the people you’re happy to work with” – which is the line you quoted and responded to as though he were talking just about his personal comfort level – he says: “The reasons don’t have to do with expecting anyone to agree with me on everything. They have to do with certain kinds of very fundamental disagreement, or, more often, certain kinds of practice, being defeaters for being able to have a productive working relationship.”
Then a few paragraphs later he says: “If your goal in the organization is to combat not only the phenomenon of war but the political and cultural structures that spark it and fuel it … then working closely with people who are actively trying to protect or build out the structures you’re trying to tear down is often going to be counter-productive.”
And in another post addressed directly to you, he writes: “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.”
Google can be your friend ….
Roderick T. Long /#
I think those articles employ an excessively narrow conception of oppression. On this see the Marilyn Frye article.
In particular the idea that having a black president means racism is over strikes me as laughable. India and Pakistan have had female presidents; do you think that means that gender equality reigns in those countries? (For that matter, did the willingness of Britons to accept the rule of Elizabeth I mean that 16th-century England had gender equality?)
Rad Geek /#
Sure; I didn’t mean to suggest that unorganized public ownership would mean that there’s no possibility of exclusion. (Presumably the unorganized public can, for example, work out some way legitimately to exclude someone who tries to build a fenced yard and a house in the turn lane.)
All I meant to stress is that if it’s owned in common by the unorganized public, then it becomes correspondingly harder to exercise rights of exclusion, because of the lack of a precisely-defined membership or decision-making process. Setting aside issues of local sponsorship, if neighborhood sentiment isn’t unanimous against the Nazi march, and if there’s a general custom of letting non-residents pass through on the street, then it becomes really, really messy (both normatively and descriptively messy) to try and figure out what would even count as a legitimate and binding decision to exclude on the part of the owners. The best case scenario would involve somebody putting together an ad hoc decision-making procedure at the last minute, and everybody then unanimously accepting the procedure even if they weren’t unanimous on the original question. But there’s a lot of transaction costs associated with that even in the best-case scenario, and the more likely scenario for any really contentious or high-stakes issue is that people will fight over procedures as well as substantive result, and the whole thing will either go unsettled, or get thrown into third-party arbitration, which has its own costs. If there is already a precisely-defined group of owners and a predefined formal decision-making process (majority vote, supermajority vote, formal consensus, decision of the Executive Committee of the HOA, whatever), then it becomes correspondingly much easier to work it out. So presumably people who would strongly value being able to keep Nazi marches off their streets would tend to prefer (ceteris paribus) roads under formalized joint ownership over roads under unorganized public ownership, and would be willing to pay in the marginal costs of the formalization. Speaking for myself, the relative difficulty of getting everybody together on contentious exclusions is precisely why I’d prefer the reverse; I want the transaction costs involved in that kind of thing to be relatively high on the streets I need to use.
Ah, but see, now you’re pulling a slightly larger set of quotes out of the context of the even larger conversation than Charles’ isolated statement and my isolated response. The issue we’ve been discussing is what it means to (1) build / tear down “structures”, (2) have a productive relationships, (3) harm certain ends. The larger issue I’ve been trying to address (and which others have failed to pick up on) is the exact disposition of these abstract structures / productive relationships / ends, especially with respect to actionable strategies.
When a political identity and abstract goals are repeatedly asserted, and continual attempts to elicit the precise objections to actual, actionable strategies get glossed over, I suppose I have a number of conclusions I could draw, and that I did pick one that, while perhaps unflattering, was not unwarranted. In any case, it’s a chance for Charles and I to continue to meet each other’s minds better, perceptions of offense on both sides notwithstanding.
Well, quote marks are not always a sign of dismissal.
Rad Geek /#
Jeremy, I already laid out three specific projects that I’m actively working on, and why working together with anarcho-fascists might be counter-productive in those cases 1. For one project (immigration freedom) it’s because they’re actively opposed to what the project is trying to achieve. For another (education about anarchism) it’s because the project is about ideology. For a third (anti-war organizing) it’s because, among other things, of the difficulties that are necessarily involved in organizing a large group of people to work together when some of them are constantly directing a lot of bile towards others.
Of course, that’s not always a defeater. In the concrete proposal you suggested — cooperation in maintaining a street blockade — I generally don’t much care who shows up to stand in the blockade, as long as they actively and effectively take part in it. Doesn’t mean I’m going to invite them all back to my house for a party, though. And it doesn’t mean I’m even going to be interested in inviting them to posse up with me and my cos back at coordinating committee meetings or spokescouncils or whatever where the decisions about these kind of actions get made. Cooperating on the streets in a one-off action is a fairly different sort of thing from the kind of collaborative projects that you’d normally describe as an(as opposed to in-the-moment solidarity), like joining a formal coalition or forming an on-going working relationship. That latter sort of thing is typically much harder.
I’m not interested in organizing a vanguard. Vanguards shoot people like me.
If you want to organize practical resistance on the ground, great. But how far I can pitch in for that resistance, or support it and promote it, depends a lot on the details. The more confrontational and high-risk a form of resistance you’re imagining, typically, the more I need to be able to trust the people who I’m working with to get my back. Anarcho-fascists have given me no reasons to trust them for that, and a lot of reasons (Folsom Street, for starters) to think that they would not. If I were a member, or more visibly a member, of any number of historically marginalized groups (immigrants, people of color, the queer community, etc.) I’d have even stronger reasons for not wanting them at my back at all.
I should also stress that part of the point of counter-economics, as a form of practical resistance, and part of the reason why I like it so much and think it’s so important, is precisely because the forms of practical resistance that it’s interested in promoting — evasion over street fights, especially in the early phases, and underground exchange networks over cadres — is precisely because it encourages forms of resistance that don’t depend on a lot of take-one-for-the-cause sacrifices, collective decision-making, or institutionalization of the resistance. It’s something that falls naturally out of a bunch of individual people trying to make a living through ad hoc structures that don’t depend on very large, open-ended, institutionalized organizations or coalitions. (Not that I’m against organizations or coalitions; but I am against treating them as the only or the most important vehicle for change.) Counter-economics allows for a lot more small parts loosely joined, and for making progress on the margins even with minority support, without having to try to put together some kind of (ugh, gag)
Soviet Onion /#
“Post-left libertarianism” was so fucking timely it’s not even funny :)
Nick Manley /#
Excellent point, Charles. Prostitutes are not welcome in my former MO neighborhood on streets controlled by the city government already. My neighborhood association even cooperates with the police against prostitution. It’s like this fearful village fascism mentality. This just proves my point about local culture and its effect on politics. Thank goodness I didn’t end up buying into that kind of tribalist mentality.
I hereby demand that a rich libertine whore buy up my street and turn it into the socially tolerant place it should be ( :
On the other hand, there is a middle class shopping district owned by a real estate company. It employs private security, but they do have street performers there — not sure how circumscribed it is. However, the “public” city council wants to restrict panhandling to certain times of the day — to appease stuffy people with money.
Soviet Onion /#
Whatever happened to “Just say no”? I mean, that works for drugs, right?
Roderick T. Long /#
It’s good to know that the city council would never resort to something as plebeian as panhandling. They just take your money by force, which is much more aristocratic.
Soviet Onion /#
A house has a much different sociological function than parks, roads or street corners do. It’s less about protecting your own private sphere and more about trying to put limits on the of expression of a “public” social dynamic.
Rad Geek /#
Andare heterogeneous, too, while we’re at it, aren’t they? I mean, we’re not talking about aggressive limiting here, since, ex hypothesi, we’re talking about the exclusion of trespassers from property that you individually or jointly own. But there are lots of ways of trying to peacefully, some of which are desirable and others of which aren’t. If I publish a newspaper, then I am providing a forum for a Am I ethically obligated to run stories by Nazis, Commies, anarcho-fascists, or Bavarian Illuminati conspiracy theorists, in order to avoid putting limits on the expression of a social dynamic? Or can I ethically exercise editorial control to decide what goes into my paper and appears under my imprimatur, even though I am definitely putting limits (indeed, prior restraint) on the parts of the public social dynamic that I happen to have control over by doing so?
Soviet Onion /#
Ok, so my dichotomy between public and private spaces still stands, just in a more gradual fashion. There’s still an important distinction between the social functions of a cul-de-sac or residential street where people live and hang out; and parks, commercial areas, street corners in heavily-populated areas on the other. That the distinction isn’t clear cut doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, and I think there’s an obvious difference in motivation between banning pedestrians from the highway because it interferes with its technical function as a highway, and kicking someone of the street corner because something they say or do offends the Respectable Upstanding Christian Citizens Committee.
Come on, this is easy. Areas that currently fill a “public” sociological function belong in one category, those that fill a “private” one belong in another. If some things fall into a gray area, then the analysis just has to be nuanced, flexible and dialectical with regard to that gray area.
I’m not interested in disputing what people have “the right to do” at this point, I’m interested in the consequences for a society that makes such things part of its standard operating procedure, and how that relates to libertarian “thickness”, if you would.
Prior restraint makes a big difference. It’s different for something to have the opportunity to be heard, then challenged, than not to be heard at all.
Newspapers and other media forms are different because they don’t have meaningful territorial exclusivity, they don’t have rivalry; you can circulate several different newspapers in the same location, so the fact that one chooses not to publicize certain things doesn’t have a silencing effect on the general discourse. Virtual space is infinite, physical space isn’t.
Refusing people access to physical spaces is more like saying that your newspaper is the only one allowed to be sold within the city limits, or having one entity own all the billboards along a 30 mile stretch of highway (with no possibility of new ones being built, either through legal or physical limitations).
Main Street may have several competing restaurants, so there isn’t as much of an effect if one won’t serve blacks. On the other hand, there’s only one Main Street, one path of travel, one public area. You might respond that there’d probably be other routes owned by other entities, but if we’re talking about roads then that’s less likely, because they’re comparatively expensive and have very high exit costs. What if there was only one?
What would your opinion be of people who evoked property rights to justify excluding prostitutes, street artists or other undesirables all the areas in a large geographic region? The obvious response that the town as a whole probably won’t own the roads as a whole, and that there probably will be subsections or private sections where these people are welcome is a cop out(++). What would you say if it did happen?
(+) This distinction should actually seem more problematic for left-libertarians, because aren’t we always talking about how zoning laws and road subsidies tend to push things apart and create these artificially specialized zones, and that without them life and work space would probably overlap more?
(++) In the context of statelessness, a society that was willing to evoke property rights to exclude a given subset of people from roads and parks probably would not limit itself to that kind of legalistic farce; they’d just run them out of town, as has happened quite often in history.
(my post was approved after a few days delay and became buried in the back comments)
I believe that Soviet Onion’s line of thought here is also my own.
Roderick T. Long /#
Did you take a look at the picture at the bottom of the page? That’s one creepy-lookin’ bunch of white guys.
Nick Manley /#
But there are real world material constraints on printing newspapers and other media forms. You should not forget this. I agree with your fear of censorship. I also agree with Charles that limiting expression is not instrinically evil. Otherwise, a person falsely yelling fire in a crowded theater would go unimpeded. This is a fairly cliched example, but it’s relevant.
Keith Preston /#
Thanks for the link to the Frye article. I’m sorry to see no one else took up my challenge. I’m afraid I’d have to say that article provides an illustration of the kind of thing Jonathan Rauch was attacking. I disagree that mere unfairness, disadvantage, incurring the disfavor of others, unfulfilled wishes, having to make hard choices, dealing with the pifalls of life, etc. constitute “oppression.” I simply call that “reality” or “the nature of things” or “human existence.” The things Rauch are describing are examples of genuine oppression. To call routine unfairness, disappointment or disadvantage “oppression” dishonors and trivializes the suffering of the genuinely oppressed.
Incidentally, I’m not just picking on cultural leftists here. I’ve known a good number of folks of the Republican persuasion who blather about how oppressed they are because they have to pay taxes on their suburban lifestyles or because they can’t broadcast a prayer over the loudspeaker every morning at public school. None of this stuff gets much sympathy from me. When I here people defining “oppression” in this way, I’m reminded of a work I read years ago by a psychologist who argued that neurosis is largely the product of an affluent society. He developed his theories based on his comparisons of his patients in his practice as a clinical psychologist (mostly upper middle class persons) against his experiences working with poor people in inner-cities, rural areas or other countries. What he essentially argued is that people who are busy working to survive don’t have time to mope around about how their parents didn’t love them enough, or how they don’t feel fulfilled, or how they don’t have self-esteem, et.al. I say if you’re lucky enough to sit around thinking about how unhappy you are, then start counting your blessings.
I mean, let’s be real, the reason I’m so unpopular with some on this forum is because I don’t share their view that others are somehow obligated to give a flying fuck about their various lifestyle, sexual, cultural or aesthetic preferences. I just spent the last year studying the wars in Central America in the 1980s. I know what real oppression looks like, and this kind of stuff isn’t it.
“In particular the idea that having a black president means racism is over strikes me as laughable.” Well, blacks are only thirteen percent of the U.S. population. If blacks are as hated and outcast by society as some claim, I doubt a black man could get elected head of state. There are not enough blacks to do that on their own. I would very much agree that there are subsets of African-Americans who can be defined as “oppressed” according to a reasonable definition of oppression, but I’m a little more skeptical as to whether this applies to blacks qua blacks in the United States. I mean, according to whose statistics you believe, black Americans qua black Americans are two-thirds to three-quarters in the middle class so far as their individual class positions are concerned. I disagree that middle class Americans constitute “oppressed” people by reasonable standards. While someone need not be poor to be politically oppressed (Jews in Nazi Germany are an example), I disagree that this is this the case with blacks in America. I live in a majority black city, with a mostly black-run city government, mayor, police chief, district attorney, etc. and everywhere I go I see black professional people, business people, students, policemen, routine working people holding jobs comparing to white workers. I disagree that their color alone makes these people oppressed. Perhaps it may bring them disadvantages in certain circumstances, all other variables being equal. For instance, I remember that the former black governor was denied entrance to a prominent country club with a historic reputation as a “white boys” establishment. But is the governor of a state really “oppressed” simply because some others prefer not to associate with him in a social context? I think that’s a bit of a reach. “India and Pakistan have had female presidents; do you think that means that gender equality reigns in those countries? (For that matter, did the willingness of Britons to accept the rule of Elizabeth I mean that 16th-century England had gender equality?)” Actually, I think the fact that supposedly “unenlightened” societies like India and Pakistan have elected women like Ghandi or Butto as heads of state does indeed call into question some of the interpretations of their societies and cultures that we Westerners are quick to reflexively adopt. I also think the fact that powerful women heads of state like Elizabeth I, Victoria or Catherine the Great existed in supposed reactionary traditional societies throw a wrench in the interpretations of the history of gender relations advanced by at least some schools of feminism.
Keith Preston /#
“I hereby demand that a rich libertine whore buy up my street and turn it into the socially tolerant place it should be ( :”
That’s not far from what I have actually advocated for years. If various “lumpenproletarian” populations would organize themselves for the purpose of taking over municipal districts, and form political coalitions to combat the landlords, welfare corporations, crony capitalists and upper middle class civic and business associations that dominate municipal politics, they might actually become powerful. Those who are attacked by these kinds of “bourgeois” interests include everyone from the homeless (and their middle class advocates), street people, street walkers, junkies, vagrants, the mentally ill and runaway street kids on the bottom to drug dealers, strip club owners, pimps, gangs, owners of disreputable businesses (from tattoo parlors to casinos to nip joints) who often have a fair amount of cash as their disposal. A political alliance of this type, particularly one that appealed to class conflict in the wider sense, might actually begin to make waves. In particular, they could gain control on large sectors of cities, get representation on city councils, etc. Recognition of this was one of the reasons why I became a pan-separatist. The lumpens can have their half of the city and the bourgeois can have their half and, believe me, I’ll certainly side with the lumpens every day of the week.
Nick Manley /#
I don’t think all of us are claiming all people have an instrinic duty to give a flying fuck about our cultural or lifestyle preferences. Aster is far too much of an anti-ought person to think that explicitly.
I barely do anything to advance the cause of LGBT freedom daily — altho, I know where I stand and have acted on it before. There’s too much important stuff out there for me to take any pleasure in being a full time activist promoter.
Keith Preston /#
On Sam Francis:
While not sharing Sam’s specific views on race, quasi-Christian sexual moralism, old-fashioned American nationalism and a few other things (for instance, he opposed secessionism and he hated Star Trek, which I think is a wonderful piece of popular culture), I very much appreciated his work on such questions as Burnham’s theory of the managerial revolution, neoconservatism, liberal imperialism, isolationism, class theory, the relationship between cultural leftism and capitalism, and totalitarian liberalism.
Since race issues are often the professed motivation for those who turn their guns on me, I’ll state my actual views on race. I view race in the same way I view vegetarianism, in the sense that I am neither an ideological racist or ideological anti-racist just as I am neither a vegetarian nor an anti-vegetarian. It’s just something I don’t give a fuck about.
I tend to view the conflict between racists and anti-racists the way I might view a conflict between Protestants and Catholics or Shiites and Sunni, in that both perspectives in each of these conflicts involve certain presumptions that I find questionable on a purely factual level.
Politically and legally, I’d take the same position on race that I would with religion. The state simply shouldn’t be involved with it. Period. However individuals choose to organize themselves racially or religiously in their own private lives, voluntary associations, private property, or sovereign communities is none of my business. Period.
My guess is that, empirically speaking, a decentralized society organized on the basis of voluntary association, private property, independent communities and widely distributed power and resources would have all kinds of arrangements concerning race, culture, ethnicity or religion. For instance, there might be schools that teach the doctrinnaire cultural leftism now found in many university humanities departments, Afro-centric schools, culturally conservative schools with a “traditional American” emphasis, religious schools for all the different religions, fundamentalist schools that teach intelligent design or creationism, experimental “do your own thing” schools, libertarian-libertine schools with a dope-smoking lounge for students, schools for “white supremacists” or gay schools with a gay-centric education. And while some exclusionary enclaves may ban street people, gays, disfavored races or religions, drugs or poor people, I suspect there would be more than a few associations that barred smokers, gun owners, meat eaters, pornographers, prostitutes, drug users, alcohol, religious people, homeschoolers and other groups that run up against one or another rendition of PC piety. For instance, drug users, prostitutes and in some instances pornographers seem to be groups that neither the PC Left nor the do-gooder Christian Right has much use for.
When it comes to race, I am not personally a racial separatist, nor do I disapprove of interracial relationships, just I have no problem on a personal level with drug users, homosexuals, abortion, guns or meat-eating. If others disagree, fine. I would prefer that the state stay out of these things altogether. Otherwise, it would seem that mutual separatism is the next best option.
Btw, how would others here respond to this statement from a “national-anarchist”?:
“National Anarchism is a political tendency that allows different communities to form a political structure according to their own values. That’s it. That’s the solution to the irreconcilable differences between me and other anarchists, different lifestyles, religions, and even races that have historically had problems living together (above and beyond mere class conflict).”
Keith Preston /#
I don’t think all of us are claiming all people have an instrinic duty to give a flying fuck about our cultural or lifestyle preferences. Aster is far too much of an anti-ought person to think that explicitly.”
Well, lol, what’s all the ruckus about then?
Roderick T. Long /#
I agree with you about that. But if you think that Frye was treating mere “unfairness, disadvantage, incurring the disfavor of others, unfulfilled wishes, having to make hard choices, dealing with the pitfalls of life, etc.” as oppression then all I can say is that we have very different interpretations of her article. As I read it, the point of her birdcage metaphor is to explain the difference between oppression and mere garden-variety suckiness, and what has to happen for the latter to become the former.
Maybe so, but part of what we’re disagreeing about is whether there’s any interesting territory between the extremes of being “hated and outcast” at one extreme and mere stuff it’s whiny and emo to complain about at the other extreme. As I see it, there’s a hell of a lot of systematic and very damaging stuff that happens in between those two extremes.
Is it as bad as being enslaved, or exterminated en masse? Okay, no. But that’s setting the bar of what’s worth fighting pretty low. Especially if one thinks, as I do, that the less bad stuff is part of a system that helps to reinforce the worse stuff (and vice versa).
Of course Gandhi and Bhutto were each daughter or granddaughter of a previous male prime minister, so there was a dynastic thing going on there too. But in any case, do you really think this represents a society that’s enlightened on gender relations?
I’m not sure I understand that analogy. I mean, you either eat meat or you don’t, right?
I’d have no objection to National Anarchism if I thought that was an adequate summary of it.
Roderick T. Long /#
P.S. – Let me try putting my position this way:
I’m against treating people like crap. I think statism, racism, militarism, sexism, heterosexism, and — for lack of a better term — bossism (nor is this a complete list!) treat people like crap, so I’m against all of them.
I see opposition to these various things as connected because, first, they’re all bad for the same reason (treating people like crap), so it’s puzzling to be against one or two and not all the others [this is what Charles calls grounds thickness], and second, they all (as I see it) reinforce each other causally, so being against one or two and not all the others — or worse yet, promoting some of them in order to use them as allies in fighting others — is likely to be self-defeating and counter-productive [this is a mix of what Charles calls strategic thickness and consequence thickness].
Now I think you agree with me about some of the items on the list; that is, from your writing it’s my impression that you agree with me that statism is thickly linked with militarism and bossism. Am I right about that?
I take it that your position is that racism, sexism, and heterosexism do not represent treating people like crap, or at least represent it in a very minor way, compared with statism, militarism, and bossism. But when you argue that, e.g. sexism is not as bad as Latin American dictatorship, I wonder how you would respond to someone who says to you: “Hey Keith, Wal-mart isn’t as bad as Latin American dictatorship either, so why do you waste time fulminating against what you’ve called the ‘domination of present day retail and commercial food markets exercised by such gargantuan entities as Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, Tesco and others’? Look at Nazi Germany if you want to know what real ‘domination’ is.”
I’m on your side re Wal-mart, of course, but it seems to me that (given that Wal-mart is surely a bit better than death squads) there’s just as good reason to oppose racism, sexism, heterosexism, etc. as there is to oppose Wal-mart.
Keith Preston /#
“But if you think that Frye was treating mere “unfairness, disadvantage, incurring the disfavor of others, unfulfilled wishes, having to make hard choices, dealing with the pitfalls of life, etc.” as oppression then all I can say is that we have very different interpretations of her article.”
I thought the Frye article started off pretty strong, but it lost me when it started going into the usual blather about men holding doors open for women, attractive women having advantages over unattractive ones, pressures on young women to both engage in and abstain from sex,etc.
Oh, the horrors. I would agree that, all things considered and all other variables being equal, men have historically had advantages that women have not, and that plenty of men have given plenty of women a raw deal. There are still some parts of the world, like Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, parts of Africa, and other places where those of us on this list have the least amount of influence, where women could be considered an oppressed class of persons as women qua women.
At least fifty percent of the people I personally know are women. Do some of them have problems related primarily to their womanhood? Yes, mostly those involving health, childbirth, child-rearing, and shitty husbands/boyfriends. Do I know plenty of men who have comparable problems? Yes, I do. Statistically, men are more likely to be victims of all violent crimes other than rape/sexual assault. Women get breast or ovarian cancer, men get prostrate cancer. Women get treated as sex objects, men get treated as money objects. Women are more likely to be victims of domestic violence, men are more likely to be sent to prison, or subject to military conscription. Since employment discrimination (whether real or imaginary) is one of the big issues for modern, Western feminists, I would point out that 93% of the workers killed on the job are men.
This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to help women who need help. For instance, I had a friend once whose boyfriend was rather abusive physically, so I did the appropriate thing and broke a beer bottle over his skull, dragged him down a flight of stairs, kicked and punched him a few good times (or more), before rolling him out the door onto the sidewalk.
In many of own writings, I have over and over again called for the development of organizations for the defense of those most under attack by the state, ruling class, bourgeoisie, piggies, yadda, yadda, like the homeless, the handicapped, drug users, students, street kids, hookers, prisoners, etc., and for the development of non-state social services for the defense of such persons, and others whose position is not so dire. Somehow, that seems to get lost when I’m dealing with these anarcho-leftoid critters.
“Maybe so, but part of what we’re disagreeing about is whether there’s any interesting territory between the extremes of being “hated and outcast” at one extreme and mere stuff it’s whiny and emo to complain about at the other extreme. As I see it, there’s a hell of a lot of systematic and very damaging stuff that happens in between those two extremes.”
I’d be very interested in hearing more about some of this. What would be some specific examples of what you’re referring to?
“Of course Gandhi and Bhutto were each daughter or granddaughter of a previous male prime minister, so there was a dynastic thing going on there too. But in any case, do you really think this represents a society that’s enlightened on gender relations?”
Well, if it weren’t for my anti-statist objections to capital punishment, I’d say the proper response to “bride-burning” is a rope and a scaffold. However, I saw that in India such actions are punishable by life in prison. I’m familiar with such practices as the suttee, clitoridectomy, and other such practices that involve the murder, maiming or torture of women in other cultures. I’m less certain, however, that such things are definitive when it comes to gender relations in places like India or Pakistan, just as rape is not definitive when it comes to gender relations in America.
“I view race in the same way I view vegetarianism, in the sense that I am neither an ideological racist or ideological anti-racist just as I am neither a vegetarian nor an anti-vegetarian.
I’m not sure I understand that analogy. I mean, you either eat meat or you don’t, right?”
What is meant is that while I am not personally a vegetarian, I have no animus towards vegetarianism, and see no need to picket vegetarian restaurants or form a society for the promotion of carnivorousness, engage in streetfights with vegetarians, etc.
Likewise, while I am not personally a racist or a racial separatist or whatever, I see no need to engage in comparable behavior towards “racists.” While I am not a Christian, a Muslim or Jew, I see no need to engage in such behavior towards Christians, Muslims or Jews. That is all.
Keith Preston /#
This is an article by a National-Anarchist explaining his views and how he developed them. Would anyone care to respond?
Keith Preston /#
“Now I think you agree with me about some of the items on the list; that is, from your writing it’s my impression that you agree with me that statism is thickly linked with militarism and bossism. Am I right about that?”
It’s interesting you ask about that, as I was just having a debate on this issue with a statist liberal. When it comes to questions of class theory, I would say that the state is a class unto itself with its own class interests, over and above any particular system of economic privilege and certainly over and above “the people” as a whole. So I disagree with the Marxists, who view the state merely as an instrument of capitalist class power, and “liberals” (whose ranks include most so-called “conservatives” and not a few libertarians)who regard the state merely in the Lockean sense as “rights enforcer,” or the Rosseauean view of the state as an expression of the “general will,” or some combination of these.
The state differs from systems of economic, social, racial, yadda, yadda, privilege because it is the state that claims a monopoly on violence, controls the institutions of violence (military, police, etc.) and holds the resources necessary the perpetrate mass violence. Even the largest employers typically do not have the direct authority to execute people, put people in prison, invade other nations, though there can be gray area on this when it comes to nominally “private” organizations that operate intimately with the state (Blackwater, Wackenhut, United Fruit, Halliburton). So I would tend to agree with the Rothbardians that the state is uniquely authoritarian due to its monopoly on violence and specific orientation towards physical coercion.
I don’t oppose “bossism” simply because bosses exist, or because I think inequality of wealth, even signigicant inequality, is particularly evil, unjust, unfair, whatever. Nor do I think “hierarchy” in enterprises or workplaces by itself is an awful thing. Matters of context matter a great deal when it comes to this question. What I’m attacking in the essay you quote is a system of economic privilege imposed directly, or in some cases indirectly, by the state through corporate laws, legal tender laws, corporate welfare, monopolies, you know how it works.
I’ll grant there are examples of such in the areas of things like race and gender, such as Jim Crow, apartheid and Nazism, or the Indian caste system, or the policies towards women in some theocratic Islamic countries.
I can’t find any real examples of things of that nature in the societies in which most of us here actually live. The exception might be the ongoing treatment of American Indians by the US federal government. However, there are ways in which disadvantaged groups are further disadvantaged by policies comparable to the system of corporate privilege I described. For instance, Walter Williams published a book back in 1982 called “The State Against Blacks” showing how government interference with economic activity at every level of government undermined the productivity, self-sufficiency and prosperity of blacks. A while back I saw a study showing that Houston is the city where black Americans have the highest quality of life. I doubt it is merely a coincidence that Houston has no zoning laws. Interestingly, professional “anti-racists” and the “civil rights” industry have never paid much attention to any of this.
The contemporary act of government that has unquestionably done the most damage to black Americans is the war on drugs, which has created a situation where there are more black males in prison per capita than there were under apartheid in S. Africa. I would disagree that the drug war constitutes racism qua racism, as plenty of whites and others are subject to similar persecution, and plenty of blacks are quite supportive of the drug war and participate in it directly. It’s also interesting how “civil rights” race hustlers cheerlead for the drug war, and then turn around and cry “racism” when they can get some racial demagoguery out of the issue. Still, there’s no question concerning the harm done to blacks by the drug war.
We could even make a similar analysis concerning women. For instance, hyperregulation of housing markets makes housing much less available, particularly for poor single mothers, drug addicted women, or comparable others. The war on drugs has also dramatically increased the number of female prisoners. I don’t know what the latest numbers are, but as of a few years ago women were the fastest growing inmate population. Most feminist writing I see pays little attention to this and instead bitches about the use of bikini models in soft drink commercials and crap like that. Probably the most genuinely persecuted class of women are prostitutes and other sex workers. Some feminists will defend these women, but still others are the most anti-sex worker people you will find, comparable to the religious right and far right-wing conservatives.
Most of the so-called “anti-racism” or “anti-sexism” I encounter basically amounts to do-gooders trying to police individual attitudes, language, patterns of private association, ideological control, boo-hooing about public figures like Don Imus and so forth. I consider this stuff to be barely above the level of right-wing Jesus freaks picketing outside adult bookstores, topless bars, casinos and liquor stores.
So, yes, in a nutshell, I suppose I would see a difference between militarism, statism, et.al. and “racism,” “sexism”, etc., at least as far as how these things are often defined is concerned.
Keith Preston /#
“I take it that your position is that racism, sexism, and heterosexism do not represent treating people like crap, or at least represent it in a very minor way, compared with statism, militarism, and bossism.”
Well, context and matters of degree are important here, but, no, as a general rule I would not consider “whites only” bowling leagues, preferring a pretty secretary over an ugly one or having a church denomination that only allows straight males in the clergy to be quite comparable with slaughtering, starving, incinerating, etc. two million Iraqis, or attempting to put the Khmer Rouge back into power to punish the Vietnamese for winning the war, or Kissinger’s buddies in Indonesia massacring half a million Timorese, or wiping out villages, raping the young girls in the process and bayoneting the children so they don’t grow up to be guerrillas.
“But when you argue that, e.g. sexism is not as bad as Latin American dictatorship, I wonder how you would respond to someone who says to you: “Hey Keith, Wal-mart isn’t as bad as Latin American dictatorship either, so why do you waste time fulminating against what you’ve called the @@e2;20ac;2dc;domination of present day retail and commercial food markets exercised by such gargantuan entities as Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, Tesco and others’? Look at Nazi Germany if you want to know what real @@e2;20ac;2dc;domination’ is.”
Actually, I’ve been accused of being a capitalist apologist by some of these anarcho-leftoid critters (like the ‘tards around Infoshop.Org) simply for endorsing the concept of markets, private property, or giving aid and comfort to Wal-Mart sympathetic right-libertarians like Lew Rockwell and company, though these kinds of accusations usually don’t approach the visceral or hysterical level exhibited by these “anti-racist” fanatics when they attack me, probably because the Left in general has migrated from being a primarily anti-capitalist movement to being an anti-racist/cultural leftist one.
The bottom line is that Lew’s invaluable efforts at opposing the empire, police state, etc. far outweigh any disagreements about something like Wal-Mart, just as the paleocons opposition to military interventionism outweighs their social conservatism. Besides that, as I told Stephan Kinsella on some other list a while back, if Wal-Mart can exist minus state intervention, transportation subsidies, etc., then fine. I don’t oppose Wal-Mart for the sake of opposing Wal-Mart. I simply think business organizations like Wal-Mart would be less prevalent in an economy where the state did not act to reinforce the power of capital.
While I agree that the influence of Wal-Mart is to a large degree the result of economic privilege imposed by the state, that doesn’t mean that I agree with all criticisms of Wal-Mart. For instance, some liberals and paleocons alike disapprove of Wal-Mart on purely aesthetic grounds, which I think is ridiculous. The use of the state to privilege a corporation where it can exploit workers and drive customers out of business, and do so through robberies like eminent domain, is very problematical. Large, physically unattractive buildings with uniform design is not so problematical, IMO.
“I’m on your side re Wal-mart, of course, but it seems to me that (given that Wal-mart is surely a bit better than death squads) there’s just as good reason to oppose racism, sexism, heterosexism, etc. as there is to oppose Wal-mart.”
Actually, I have written a good deal of criticism of cultural conservatism of different kinds, and in defense of populations on the bottom layers of society. Somehow that never gets noticed.
“they all (as I see it) reinforce each other causally, so being against one or two and not all the others — or worse yet, promoting some of them in order to use them as allies in fighting others — is likely to be self-defeating and counter-productive.”
Now here’s where we really disagree. Rejecting someone like Laurence Vance who’s about as anti-imperialist as they come, but holds conservative views on religion, strikes me as crazy.
Rad Geek /#
Of course, if you read Frye’s discussion as just an unconnected list of random complaints about the condition or fate of the female sex, then it will no doubt seem trivial to you. The examples she discusses are, as she says explicitly at the beginning, intended only to be illustrative, not to be exhaustive, so her selection of phenomena to discuss as examples is deliberately skewed towards those that nonfeminists are most likely to wave off as trivial orand deserving little more than your usual round of sarcasm and snide dismissals. But if you read it that way, then you have read it so as to completely miss the point of the essay, which has something to do with the way that seemingly random complaints are part of a larger, interconnected social system, and the ways in which phenomena that seem benign, neutral, or small problems at the most, are actually connected to something large and dangerous.
Do you think that the fact that this specifically sexual crime is committed as often as it is, virtually always by men, and in the overwhelming majority of cases by men against women, mostly by men who are statistically speaking very hard to distinguish in any external or psychological characteristics from any other dude in the room, most often in the context of a marriage or other intimate relationship, etc. etc. etc., just has nothing in particular to do with the prevalent ideas or practices around sexual relations between men and women, especially about men’s prerogatives and women’s obligations when it comes to sex?
While we’re here, do you think that the fact that men are overwhelmingly more likely to be perpetrators of violent crimes than women are, whether the victim of the violence is male or female, has nothing to do with a sexual ? Do you think that the different threat profiles that men and women face (i.e., men face the most danger from strangers, the least from intimate partners, and less danger in proportion to the intimacy of the relationship, whereas women statistically face the least danger from strangers, the most from intimate partners, and more danger in proportion to the intimacy of the relationship) might have something to do with systematic differences between the social position of men and the social position of women?
This looks like a structured phenomenon to me, not just a bunch of random isolated incidents. And if you want to know what does the structuring, then it may be time to start talking about the ideas going around about men, women, masculinity, femininity, sex, heterosexuality, etc., and about the material conditions faced by men and women, in our society.
Name some specific examples for discussion, please.
I can think of some specific feminists whose views or political strategies with regard to sex work I disagree with, or strongly reject, and can name them if you care to know. I can also think of lots of other feminists who have criticized their views and their strategies. But operating at the level of musings about amorphous anonymous collectives ofis exactly no help at all, since there’s no real way to determine what the views of amorphous anonymous collectives are or whether they are being accurately represented.
Of course, in any movement there will be people who claim to be in the same movement but whose views you don’t accept. It’s not an argument against participating in the movement; it’s an argument for rejecting the specific views advanced by those people.
Why do you think that makes a difference? In the darkest days of Jim Crow, during the 1890s-1920s, lynch mobs did sometimes lynch white men — James Cullen, Leo Frank, et al. — and also lynched Mexican men, Chinese men, Japanese men, etc. One of the largest multiple lynchings in American history was committed against 11 Italian-Americans in New Orleans, who were rounded up by the cops for interrogation after a cop-killing, and then gunned down and then hanged from lamp posts when a lynch mob stormed the parish jail. Even given all that, I think it would be ridiculously obtuse to claim that lynch law in the 1890s-1920s was not an example of racism at work, either in its motivations or in its effects, particularly once you stop looking at anecdotes and start looking at the proportions involved in the statistics. And given the kind of rhetoric and the actual practices engaged in by the pigs under the heading of Law-n-Order, the War on Drugs, et cetera, I find it similarly obtuse to reject it as an example of(I’m not sure what you mean by the there — is already an abstract term, so you don’t need the qua to isolate its essential from its accidental features. Do you mean oppression of black folks qua black folks?) Particularly when you consider that those you have in mind tend, disproportionately, to be members of other marginalized ethnic groups, who are similarly targeted by racism, particularly Mexican-Americans, Central Americans, Dominicanos, et cetera. (After all, we’re presumably talking about racism here, not just racism against black folks.)
Why would that be evidence that the drug war is not racist?
Anti-racism is not a matter of doing or thinking whatever some black person somewhere says you ought to do or think. It’s a matter of opposing a particular structure of social power based on race. I’m sure there are some black people out there (especially those who, for reasons of other forms of social privilege that they may enjoy in spite of their race, are unlikely to be on the business-end of the guns) who think the drug war is not racist, and that it ought to be continued or even escalated. But I’m not obligated to agree with them.
Of course, back in the real world, in addition to racist government policing, one of the largest forms of organized political invasions against the basic liberties of ethnic minorities are government border laws and internal immigration enforcement, which necessarily impose police state measures likecheckpoints, due-process-free zones, de facto national ID systems, and the rest on everybody, and which specifically target Latin@s, Haitians, and some others, based solely on their perceived ethnicity or nationality, for stopping, searching, hassling, and, if the selected victim can’t prove the legitimacy of their existence to some asshole immigration cop’s satisfaction, restraining, detaining, jailing, trying, and ultimately forcibly exiling them from the homes they had been invited to live in and the jobs they had been invited to work at, based not on any crime committed but solely on their nationality. People get beaten, shot at, denied medical aid and left to die in hellhole prisons by the State solely in order to enforce international apartheid at bayonet-point, in a way that overwhelmingly affects non-white, especially black or Latin@, immigrants, and which is overwhelmingly motivated by fairly explicit animus against immigrants and more generally against the ethnic groups that are associated with immigration, especially Mexican-Americans; yet somehow you never mention it in discussing ways in which the State affects racial politics in the U.S. of A., since, after all, doing so might run the risk of alienating the populist conservatives, paleolibertarians, white nationalists, and other Know-Nothing hardliners that you hope to make part of your pan-secessionist anti-imperial coalition.
In the future please don’t use the verbon this blog when you mean is something like
If you haven’t read feminist writing about women in prison or about, e.g., the affects of mandatory minimum laws to land women in prison, then all I can say is that you ought to read more feminist writing. This kind of stuff gets into the NOW National Times, fer Christ’s sake; it gets talked about at big feminist blogs like feministe; it’s out there, if you don’t just give up as soon as you see an article about something you don’t personally think is important.
Of course, back in the real world, the largest form of organized political activism on which nearly all feminists agree and work together is the struggle to repeal existing government restrictions on abortion and to prevent old government prohibitions, defeated by past generations of feminist activists, from being re-imposed. (Along with this, under the heading ofgo some other campaigns, e.g. to get other forms of reproductive health services and products, like emergency contraception, deregulated, available over the counter, and thus no longer held hostage to the political interests of the FDA or the of politically-privileged doctors and pharmacists.) This is an area where feminists are specifically devoting a lot of energy to reducing the reach and power of the state over women’s bodies, and to hold the line against efforts to re-expand it; but you don’t mention it here because you have inexplicably written off the state violence involved in forced labor laws as a mere which you choose not to emphasize because doing so might run the risk of alienating anti-abortion conservative Christians and other Right-wing men who you hope to make part of your pan-secessionist anti-imperial coalition.
Of course, Roderick never said that he was talking only about that sort of thing under the heading ofthose actually involve a lot more than the examples you listed. He also never said that those things are as bad or worse than any of the atrocities committed by the warfare State; he said that they constitute
Also, what makes you think that America’s long history of imperial wars against brown and yellow people in the 20th century has nothing to do with, say, racism?
Please do not use the wordas an insult in the future on this blog. There are lots of other words you can use to refer to ignorant, stupid, incurious, or close-minded people if you need to.
I don’t know what you mean byhere. Roderick was talking about promoting or not promoting particular social or intellectual movements; he wasn’t talking about how you should relate to some individual person. Vance is a writer, and as far as I know, nobody here is suggesting that nobody should read Laurence Vance’s articles on war, or that his articles on war should never be linked to or cited or recommended for others to read or whatever. If anyone is saying that, I disagree with them.
What I do think is, where Vance’s views on religion involve him making some objectionable commitment to right-wing cultural politics (actually, this doesn’t even come up much in a lot of Vance’s writings, at least not in the articles I’ve read; someone like Gary North or Hans-Hermann Hoppe might be a better example), those commitments ought to be mentioned and explicitly criticized.
Marja Erwin /#
Racism is an important example. I hope we can agree that:
Racism has historically hurt most working-class black people in the United States.
Racism has historically hurt most working-class white people in the United States, too.
The most obvious example being the use of race to break up working-class unity, and defeat strikes.
Nonetheless, racism has had more impact on the lives of working-class black people than on the lives of working-class white people.
Black people have historically had to deal with certain specific barriers which white people do not have to deal with. The individual elements may seem unimportant, but the overall pattern can limit their personal and economic choices. White people may not know of the barriers which black people have to deal with.
In order to improve the position of both working-class black people and working-class white people, it is important to defeat racism and remove these barriers. In order for white people to help remove these barriers, white people have to learn what they are.
I think the term privilege may create some confusion. Someone who holds white-skin-privilege, male-privilege, etc. may not necessarily benefit from this privilege, and may actually lose something because of it.
Roderick T. Long /#
But once again, the point was not all those things individually but how they interact. You haven’t mentioned how you specifically view the birdcage analogy.
Since we’re talking about maltreatment that results from human actions and institutions, not from Marâtre Nature, I’m not sure how that’s relevant.
Okay. They’re also more likely to be the perpetrators of all violent crimes, including rape/sexual assault.
But that’s not completely unconnected to their being more likely to commit violent crimes, yes?
Well, sure. All I was claiming was that there’s clearly something wrong with a culture where bride-burnings are that common. Of course if they were legal that would be even worse.
I’m not sure what you mean by “definitive.” I certainly don’t think bride-burning represents the whole story about gender relations in India, not do I believe that rape represents the whole story about gender relations in America. But I do think both are signs of deep-seated and pervasive problems with gender relations in both cultures. It’s not just a few bad apples. (Mangoes?)
True. BUT on the other hand La Boétie’s point holds: no system of state oppression can survive except through the acquiescence of the populace. So violent monopolies of force ultimately depend on cultural factors — which is why antistatists need to worry about culture.
Why does it matter that it be direct? After all, even the rulers in government rarely do this stuff directly either. Sure, the United Fruit Co. didn’t personally invade Guatemala, but then President Eisenhower didn’t personally invade Guatemala either. The people who actually wield violence directly tend to be fairly low on the governmental totem pole.
If a state turns a blind eye toward domestic violence, does it thereby cease to be a state and/or a monopoly and/or uniquely authoritarian?
Well, denying abortion rights to women, or marriage rights to gays, seems like a kind of Jim Crow approach to me. And even if it’s not codified in law, it’s not as though cops don’t practice racial profiling. Etc, etc.
But even pretending for the sake of argument that racism, sexism, etc. aren’t state-sponsored, my question still stands: granting hypothetically that Wal-mart’s privileges are state-sponsored while racism etc. aren’t, it’s surely true that Wal-mart’s privileges, bad as they are, aren’t as bad as — to quote your words — “slaughtering, starving, incinerating, etc.” Yet you still think they’re worth fighting. So I don’t understand why you offer the mere fact that racism and sexism in the U.S. aren’t (always) as bad as “slaughtering, starving, incinerating, etc.” as an argument that they’re less worth fighting. It seems like a double standard. Why is being less bad than mass murder a reason not to fight patriarchy but not a reason not to fight Wal-mart’s state-granted privileges?
Well, it depends which anti-racists you’re talking about. Anyway, seems to me the right solution to the problem of anti-racists who aren’t anti-statist is to become an anti-racist who’s anti-statist (and to recruit more).
While I’m a lot more sympathetic to the folks you describe than you are, let’s grant for the sake of argument that most anti-racists and anti-statists are no good. So what? If Sturgeon’s Law applies here, that’s no reason not to join the 5%.
Well, sure. People who oppose corporate privilege on free-market grounds are going to get attacked as lefties by many on the right, and attacked as righties by many the left. Most of us in this talkback have been in that boat.
And of course it’s not as though that particular aesthetic pathology is unique to the private sector …
I hereby notice it. For what it’s worth, I think you are a lot more left-libertarian than, say, Hans Hoppe.
The word “them” in my line above referred to ideas and practices, not to people. People are more complicated. I’m not sure what you have in mind by “rejecting Laurence Vance.” We’re on friendly terms. I’ve linked to his articles and recommended his book to people. (Hell, I’ve recommended some of Hoppe’s writings too.) I think Laurence does a useful service (I prefer antiwar religious conservatives to prowar religious conservatives, so if he can convert the latter into the former, more power to him). But I also think some of the ideas he promotes tend to undermine liberty (and I think it’s a wee bit inconsistent, for example, to condemn torture and conscription, and then turn around and favour forcing women to carry unwanted pregnancies to term, which looks to me a hell of a lot like both conscription and torture), so I’m not going to refrain from criticising those ideas in the name of movement solidarity.
Yes, I definitely agree with your five points.
Keith Preston /#
“seemingly random complaints are part of a larger, interconnected social system, and the ways in which phenomena that seem benign, neutral, or small problems at the most, are actually connected to something large and dangerous.”
Well, I just don’t find all that as compelling as you do, but if you think the situation is that dire and you want to take action, don’t let me get in your way (not that you would).
“In the future please don’t use the verb “bitches” on this blog when you mean is something like “complains about something I don’t think it’s worth complaining about.”
“Please do not use the word “retards” as an insult in the future on this blog. There are lots of other words you can use to refer to ignorant, stupid, incurious, or close-minded people if you need to.”
LOL! What are you, an English teacher? OK, it’s your blog, and property rights rule as the libertarians like to say, though comments like that do tend to confirm my view of much of cultural leftism as a priggish, secularized Puritanism.
Reminds me of a bit from this piece by Chris Clancy discussing his relocation from Britain to China:
“Probably one of the most refreshing things I found was that I had escaped from the world of political correctness. In many ways I actually had more freedom to speak here than I had in the UK. I remember once being with a group of teachers when one suggested that we should no longer mark in red ink because it was “such an angry colour.” Nobody dared to laugh or say something like “Are you serious!” We had all learned to behave in a particular way. PC had grown to such a point that not only did it control our speech patterns but, more importantly, it now controlled our thought patterns and behaviour – as it was intended to do. Time was actually spent seriously discussing this “pressing issue.”
“Some feminists will defend these women, but still others are the most anti-sex worker people you will find, comparable to the religious right and far right-wing conservatives.
Name some specific examples for discussion, please.”
That is an observation based more on my own interactions with feminists, none of whom were well-known, than on the contents of feminist literature. If you say that’s not representative, I’ll take your word for it, though it’s something I’ve encountered from more than a few individuals and in varied circumstances.
“and plenty of blacks are quite supportive of the drug war and participate in it directly.
Why would that be evidence that the drug war is not racist?”
I would maintain that the drug war, at least in its more recent forms, is ideologically rooted (though I’m not sure its real causes are ideological in nature) more in what Thomas Szasz calls the “therapeutic state” than in racism per se, but if “racism” is what motivates someone to oppose the drug war, so be it.
“yet somehow you never mention it in discussing ways in which the State affects racial politics in the U.S. of A., since, after all, doing so might run the risk of alienating the populist conservatives, paleolibertarians, white nationalists, and other Know-Nothing hardliners that you hope to make part of your pan-secessionist anti-imperial coalition.”
“you have inexplicably written off the state violence involved in forced labor laws as a mere “cultural issue,” which you choose not to emphasize because doing so might run the risk of alienating anti-abortion conservative Christians and other Right-wing men who you hope to make part of your pan-secessionist anti-imperial coalition.”
Well, I’m pro-abortion and somewhere in the middle on immigration. I think the “pro-choice” side has more or less won on the abortion thing and, for better or worse, I think the “pro-immigration” side will win, for the most part, on that issue. Neither of these are issues that I feel compelled to take action towards. I went to a pro-abortion demo in D.C. about twenty years ago, and around the same time I helped to shelter a refugee from El Salvador who had fled the repression going on there at the time. Otherwise, those really aren’t my issues.
I’ve taken a good number of positions that would be offensive to many right-wingers. Probably the most extreme example would be the possibility of recruiting and organizing urban street gangs into anti-cop and anti-government militias. I suppose some pro-cop or “law and order” libertarian like, say, Robert Bidinotto or Thomas Sowell would take extreme offense to an idea like that. My overtly anti-American foreign policy views are offensive to many right-wingers. There are other examples as well.
My position is simply that the two most serious political problems in the contemporary USA are the international empire and imperial system, and the domestic police state. Notice that I said political problems, not cultural, social, philosophical, moral, theological, etc. IMO, the best way to combat these things would be to dismantle the overarching continental regime we have now into more manageable political units. Wider differences of a cultural, philosophical, lifestyle nature can be dealt with to some degree at least by means of separatism. The argument I make to right-wingers of the kind you describe is that their own lifestyle interests are best protected in a system of local sovereignty, private property and voluntary association rather than in trying to control the central government. But I make similar arguments to plenty of people outside the right-wing milieu, with an emphasis on those most under attack by the state, likely to take action against the state, and with the least to lose from the demise of the state. Many of the cultural groups favored by the Left are on the rise politically, which means that with time they will be less likely to adopt anti-establishment and therefore anti-state views.
If others believe that exterminating eight million people internationally, and imprisoning/enslaving millions of others domestically are just fine and dandy, or that these are no more important than, say, use of racist language, then okay by me. I’m an amoralist philosophically, and I don’t think others have any obligation to give a fuck about any of this. I am not a philosophical humanist, and I’m really not all that much of a humanitarian. It’s just that while I don’t think I have any intrinsic obligation to, say, pull someone out of a burning building, I might do it anyway if I have the opportunity, depending on my assessment of the situation at hand. As another example, if I found a wounded dog or cat on the side of the road, I might take it to the vet, depending on the circumstances, even though I don’t really have much sympathy for the animal rights movement.
“What I do think is, where Vance’s views on religion involve him making some objectionable commitment to right-wing cultural politics (actually, this doesn’t even come up much in a lot of Vance’s writings, at least not in the articles I’ve read; someone like Gary North or Hans-Hermann Hoppe might be a better example), those commitments ought to be mentioned and explicitly criticized.” Well, that may be a fairly apt description of the difference between my approach and yours. I seem to be more of a Machiavellian, while you seem to be more of an ideologue. What I mean by that is that you seem to be more into setting everyone straight, holding people to the “party line,” maintaining moral or theoretical purity as you conceive of it and so forth. Of course, it’s not just you that does this. I used to run into the same thing with right-libertarians on the Mises forum and, of course, on leftist-anarchist forums like Infoshop. I approach politics the same way I would approach a literal physical war. It all comes down to interests, priorities, tactics, allies, enemies, strategy, probability of victory, individual battles likely to be won or lost, and so forth. I simply call this “realism.”
Roderick T. Long /#
Can you explain to me why objections to bigoted language remind you of objections to the colour of ink?
Keith Preston /#
Both reflect the hypersensitivity and compulsory or quasi-compulsory moralism common to those who actually think such matters are worth worrying about.
I’m suppose we could go all out, and refer to ignorant people as “knowledge-challenged,” stupid people as “intellectually challenged,” incurious people as “perception challenged,” or closed-minded people as “reflection challenged.” I supposed we could even refer to petty complainers as “patience challenged” or “intestinal fortitude challenged” whatever. Bigotry-Schmigotry.
Really, let’s just not go there. You won’t get anywhere with me on this one.
Roderick T. Long /#
If you can’t see a difference between language that reinforces systematic oppression and silliness about red ink, that’s too bad, but it’s not going to stop me from “going there.”
Keith Preston /#
“But once again, the point was not all those things individually but how they interact. You haven’t mentioned how you specifically view the birdcage analogy.”
I’m not much impressed by it. It might be appropriate to a society where women really do have a slave-like status. Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia, for instance. Comparing women in the societies that we are familiar with to animals in a cage is ridiculous, though I think it would apply to women (and men) who are literally incarcerated in the prison-industrial complex.
“Since we’re talking about maltreatment that results from human actions and institutions, not from Mar@@c3;a2;tre Nature, I’m not sure how that’s relevant.”
Well, my point is that men and women both have burdens that the opposite gender does not share, whether in matters of politics, health, culture, social expectations, economic responsibilities, et.al.
“Well, sure. All I was claiming was that there’s clearly something wrong with a culture where bride-burnings are that common. Of course if they were legal that would be even worse.
I’m less certain, however, that such things are definitive when it comes to gender relations in places like India or Pakistan, just as rape is not definitive when it comes to gender relations in America.
I’m not sure what you mean by “definitive.” I certainly don’t think bride-burning represents the whole story about gender relations in India, not do I believe that rape represents the whole story about gender relations in America. But I do think both are signs of deep-seated and pervasive problems with gender relations in both cultures. It’s not just a few bad apples. (Mangoes?)”
These are good points, I suppose, but they seem to be something of a leftist version of Robert Bidinotto’s tendency to focus on routine street criminals and crimes committed by foreign governments, while cheerleading for the empire and the police in the U.S. Seriously, I don’t think you’re in the same league with Bidinotto, but I’m not sure why common crimes committed against women in India ought to be a primary focus of anti-statists in the U.S., just as we shouldn’t make house burglary in China a primary issue. I would say it’s better to focus on the massive crimes committed by our own regime against people all over the world
Rape sucks. So does armed robbery, house burglarly, car jacking, kidnapping and arson. Most people disapprove of these, and people who do them are frequently locked in prison for years on end. There is no lobby to defend these things. I can’t see why libertarians should make this a principal focus.
“Why does it matter that it be direct? After all, even the rulers in government rarely do this stuff directly either. Sure, the United Fruit Co. didn’t personally invade Guatemala, but then President Eisenhower didn’t personally invade Guatemala either. The people who actually wield violence directly tend to be fairly low on the governmental totem pole.”
What I meant is that no matter how much your job at McDonald’s sucks, if you walk off the job, your boss is not going to call the cops, throw you in jail, put you in front of a firing squad, etc. That’s not to say there are not consequences, often severe consequences, for job loss, but it’s not on the same level.
“If a state turns a blind eye toward domestic violence, does it thereby cease to be a state and/or a monopoly and/or uniquely authoritarian?”
I’d say a state that fails to consistently enforce routine criminal laws, as many of them do, is still a state in every substantive way.
“I think it’s a wee bit inconsistent, for example, to condemn torture and conscription, and then turn around and favour forcing women to carry unwanted pregnancies to term…”
I think that’s a bit overly rigid. Agree with them or not, pro-lifers consider abortion to be the torture and murder of the “innocent unborn.”
“Well, denying abortion rights to women, or marriage rights to gays, seems like a kind of Jim Crow approach to me.”
So is that. In fact, I think it’s an insult to the black victims of oppression in the Jim Crow South, and I’m sure many of them would agree with me.
“I’m not going to refrain from criticising those ideas in the name of movement solidarity.”
No, I wouldn’t expect anything like that. However, I do have to wonder if there is even a “movement” here at all, or are there just individuals with opinions or perhaps a number of overlapping movements. Richard Spencer at Taki’s Mag recently suggested that perhaps there are at least two libertarianisms, which are separate movements. One emphasizes the sovereignty of individuals, associations and private institutions against the state, local communities against central government, and nations against empires. This would be the Lew Rockwell brand of libertarianism. The other kind is more social/cultural in nature, seeing racism, homophobia, “bigotry,” etc. floating around all over the place. Spencer considers the REASON group to be an example of the latter, though most of what is on this blog would seem to fall into the same category.
I’m definitely in the former category, which is why I seem to have less conflict with the Rockwellites, paleos, N-As, and others, despite some differences, and despite some overlapping agreements with the libertarian Left. Oh well.
Rad Geek /#
I certainly agree with Szasz’s work about the therapeutic State, and I agree that that is one of the motivating forces behind the drug war. But I don’t think that that undermines the case for viewing racism as another motivating force. Both can be true at the same time. They may operate in parallel, or, moreover, they may be interconnected with each other, reinforce one another, and work to choose targets and tactics for one another.
In fact, throughout Szasz’s work, one of the things you’ll find is that therapeutic Statism, in psychiatry,etc., has the function of a normalizing force; as a result it tends not to just pick out victims at random, but especially to target classes of people who are seen as elements in the commonweal, etc. for its special solicitude; that’s why institutional psychiatry hasn’t just picked people or conditions at random, but rather has focused on controlling women, gay men, the extremely poor, people who hold unpopular, especially conspiratorial, political views, etc.; also why drug war politics have over and over again been so tied up with hostility and fear about Chinese immigrants (opium prohibition), Mexican immigrants (marijuana prohibition), black people in the inner city (marijuana and cocaine prohibition, crack, just about everything since), gay men (MDMA prohibition, meth), rural white people (mteh), Latin@s in frontera towns, and so on, and so forth. The fact that therapeutic Statism targets everyone, in some sense, does not mean that it targets everyone equally, and I think the reasons for that, with regard to the Drug War, have something especially to do with racism and nationalism, and a lot also to do with classism along the way, with other systems of institutionalized bigotry showing their heads here and there.
Do you think that that has nothing to do with immigration politics? If so, I disagree (1, 2). The fortification of national borders and the attempt to control who can or cannot cross it is essential to international empire and the imperial system; it is one of the chief activities of imperial powers like the U.S.A. and the state of Israel; it’s also one of the most important forces in making sure that the victims of war can’t get away from the slaughter, and are kept, either at ground zero, or else confined into the network of hellhole refugee camps in which about 40,000,000 people are currently imprisoned, around the world, as part and parcel of the system of international war.
Oh, yeah, like that doesn’t have anything to do with immigration politics. Ihre Papiere, bitte?
As you please, but who believes that?
You said it, not me.
Actually, I’d say that my stance has primarily to do with the standards that I hold myself to (of honesty, integrity, analytical clarity, and practical solidarity), not with my aims vis-a-vis other people.
When it involves not only that, but also some kind of effort focused on affecting interpersonal interactions and other people’s views and behavior, I think that the difference may have more to do with how each of us conceives of what it would mean to build a movement. You seem to think — and, if I’m portraying your views accurately, I suspect it is closely connected with your view of people as essentially— that this is mainly a matter of finding groups of people that, just as they are, are already intellectually or practically moving against the central state, and then ramrodding those groups of people into one big drive against the state, leaving them more or less as you found them, and just redirecting their motion towards the goal that you want.
If that’s how you conceive of movement-building — as snapping together pieces already assembled — then no doubt it will seem like when I lay some stress on mentioning points of disagreement with someone like Hoppe, and criticizing him on the points on which I disagree with him, is trying to lay downdemanding some sort of intellectual conformity, going on an ideological control power-trip, and so on.
But that’s not actually the deal. I think that movement building is a matter of developing a certain kind of community, and that the kind of community that anarchism demands does not yet exist, or exists only in embryonic form. The questions involved are not merely technical; they are largely creative. I’m not trying to reach people where they are, but rather to make connections where each of us lives up to something new and better. There’s not some predetermined set of people ready-at-hand for me to lay down a party line on (I’m not trying to form up a vanguard or hand out marching orders); the community of people that I’m joining with is something new that we build in the process of working together, laying out our disagreements, critiquing, rationally persuading, the giving and taking up of reasons with one another, lending each other a hand, and so forth, and so on.
I think that this also influences, e.g., my attitude towards the relationship between the causes of the Left and anti-statism. In criticizing my work on libertarian feminism, for example, you often point out that actually-existing feminists and feminist political organizations are largely anti-libertarian, and treat this as if it were a defeater for my view. It would be if the view had to do with looking around for premade, ready-at-hand political formations, and hooking them up more or less as-is. If that’s what you expect to be able to do, then of course libertarian feminism will disappoint; while there have been many libertarian and anarchist feminists, there isn’t any large movement of them ready-at-hand to ally with. But that’s not my view and I think it’s not the right thing to expect. My view is that if you can’t find enough libertarian feminists around, the thing to do is to become the feminists that you want to see in the world, to explain your reasons for doing so, and work to persuade others to join you.
I’m sure you do.
However, it sounds a lot like strategy-driven analysis to me; and I think that anyworthy of the name ought to be driven by concern for the truth — by care for the facts of reality — prior to, and at times quite independently of, whatever strategic or tactical use you think you might be able to make of it.
Rad Geek /#
I’m not half as concerned with the words that men say about rape as I am with the actions that they take. Koss’s research (+) found that about 1 in 12 college-aged men in the U.S. admits in surveys to having committed an act that meets the legal definition of rape. Repeated studies have found that somewhere between 1 in 4 (Koss) and 1 in 7 women (CDC/NIJ) in the U.S. has been raped at least once in her lifetime — the variation in numbers depending largely on how conservative an operational definition of rape the researchers chose. (Some researchers measured only sexual coercion through the use or threat of physical violence; others attempted to measure the use of drugs and alcohol to incapacitate victims.) Very few men will say, in as many words, that they approve of rape; but when so many men keep doing it, and when it is not just a matter of random violence against random people, but rather happens in certain predictable, rigidly structured ways, that tells me that there is more going on here than the superficial words being said; that the deeds reflect an underlying law which is no less effective for being unwritten. (Remember, lynching was against the law in Mississippi in the 1920s. But so what?)
Part of the problem is that, although they will say things likethey don’t believe that what they did as really having been rape; as far as they’re concerned, it doesn’t count. (The reasons for this typically have to do with rape myths which work to excuse sexual coercion by blaming the victim or claiming that she secretly wanted it.) Another part of the problem is that many rapists will say things like but are simply hypocrites.
(+) I know that there’s a controversy about Koss’s research and that certain libertarians have heard about it mainly through popular antifeminist critiques of the work. I think that these critiques are ill-founded and at times overtly dishonest, and those who promulgate them, including in published books, have almost never actually spent any time reading Koss’s work, but rather are simply repeating what they read in an earlier critique. If you want to discuss the problems I have with the polemics against Koss’s study, I’ll be happy to discuss it over e-mail, but I don’t want that sidebar discussion to derail this comments thread.
I don’t know what you mean by aThere’s no pro-rape political party, as far as I know. But there is a lot of cultural effort engaged in manufacturing excuses for men who have been accused of rape, and in blaming, shaming, or even physically threatening women who say that they were raped.
Well, regardless of the results on an opinion poll on the topic ofthe fact is that a lot of men choose to rape women, and a lot of women suffer rape at the hands of men, and this systematic exercise of physical violence harms millions of women, as well as substantially restricting all women’s freedom of action in everyday life. If you think systemic patterns of rights-violating, liberty-restricting, politically-structured violence are a matter of concern for libertarians, that’s a reason to be concerned about systemic male violence against women.
I agree that it’s not a reason to be concerned about male violence against women instead of being concerned about empire and war. But who suggested that? My suggestion is to be concerned with both.
Roderick T. Long /#
Well, your original comment was about corporations’ ability in general to “execute people, put people in prison, invade other nations. You’ve now switched to the specific claim that corporations don’t do this to their own employees who quit. Fine. But corporations, through political pull, still get the U.S. involved in wars that may result in people being conscripted into the military, where if you walk off the job you really will get thrown in jail or shot. And corporations, through political patronage, arrange it so that if you quit your job your options are for the most part limited to getting another job with another corporation.
So what makes it a state? Before, you said it was its “monopoly on violence.” But if it tolerates private violence it’s not claiming a monopoly any more.
Of course they do. But the question is whether they’re right. Because if they’re not right, then they are unjustifiably forcing women to allow their bodies to be used for nine months by the fetus (which seems a lot like rape), followed by a notoriously painful and dangerous birth process which, if it were inflicted on you against your will, I suspect would seem a lot like torture.
Well, I’ve just argued that anti-abortion laws are the equivalent of rape and torture. If you have an argument against that (other than “well, that’s not what anti-abortion folks believe”), what is it? Because if they’re the equivalent of rape and torture, it hardly seems trivializing to compare them to Jim Crow.
Moreover, part of the Jim Crow laws was a prohibition on interracial marriage. Is it trivializing to compare bans on same-sex marriage to bans on interracial marriage? If so, why?
“A number of overlapping movements” sounds right to me.
a) Well, it’s not as though the “Lew Rockwell brand” is unconcerned with social/cultural issues; quite the contrary. It’s just that their social/cultural concerns tend to be right-wing rather than left-wing. After all, the paleolibertareian thesis (which has since been toned down, but never entirely abandoned) was that liberty can flourish only in a socially conservative cultural matrix, so libertarianism and social conservatism have to be advanced as a package.
b) With a handful of exceptions (e.g. Jesse), REASON has never struck me as especially left-libertarian. OK, they named Madonna as one of the ten great forces for freedom (or something like that); I suppose that looks like left-libertarianism to right-libertarians.
Roderick T. Long /#
I never said it should be a “primary focus.” Bride-burning in India came up in this conversation not as an example of an issue where we need to focus, but as a counterexample to your suggestion that if a member of an oppressed group becomes president of a country, that shows that that group is no longer oppressed in that country.
Still, I do think bride-burning in India is something libertarians should care about, both qua libertarians and qua human beings.
Roderick T. Long /#
In related news, check out this cartoon.
I’m mostly with Keith, but he misrepresents Richard Spencer & Austin Bramwell. Their distinction was between optimistic & pessimistic (or “tragic” and “comic”) libertarianism. I find myself more naturally drawn to tragic libertarianism but I think Bryan Caplan is right that most people have a “pessimistic bias” and the the ur-optimist libertarian (Julian Simon) was in the main correct. The main thing to be pessimistic about is libertarianism itself, rather than the fruits of capitalism (even with lots of state interference).
Roderick T. Long /#
I see that in his article Bramwell describes Rothbard as a “tragic” libertarian. That just seems wrong — for Rothbard the revolution was always just around the corner.
I’m not sure one has to choose. There usually seem to be lots of things getting better and lots of things getting worse. The tares and the wheat grow up together.
You are right about Rothbard. That’s an area where I disagree with Murray.
Nick Manley /#
The monster thread seems to be dying down. I noticed I never continued my portion of it.
“Well, lol, what’s all the ruckus about then?”
Roderick and Charles admirably provided some lengthy hints above. What I was arguing was that my point is not that people have a context free duty to care about certain lifestyle or cultural interests. That still doesn’t mean we should accept transphobia as a part of a Libertarian movement. Nobody’s going to put a gun to your head and say go be the big trans activist 24/7. What would happen is the movement’s culture would actively discourage such bigotry.
Soviet Onion /#
I take it that’s my queue to start some shit again.
Another thing that pisses me off . . .
. . . is the way that thick libertarianism prioritizes its concerns. It’s not that I don’t appreciate what Rod and Charles have tried to construct and the (still minimal, let’s be honest) effect it’s had on forcing some people to pull the feigned willful ignorance stick out of their ass over social issues, but I still don’t find this formulation satisfactory.
And the reason for that is simple. Like Will, Aster and (I think) Nick, I’m primarily concerned with the psychological pathology of power-over-others as a mode of being and interaction, and how that manifests in daily life. Every concrete concern I have proceeds from that; I don’t start with the State and work my way down. Yes, it is a big fucking important lynchpin than empowers and enables lots of other aberrations, but that doesn’t make it the focal point unto itself, just an especially important instrumental concern. Its significance is still ultimately defined in relation to the mental landscape of which it is a manifestation, and to its symbiotic relationship with other manifestations; as an expression of something broader and more fundamental than just being biggest example of NAP-violation on the block.
Thick libertarian is about justifying concern over things that should be closer to the core as instrumental tools for dealing with something that is way out there on the periphery, and that should be considered an instrumental concern itself, or just one manifestation of power among many. This is completely ass backwards and exceedingly frustrating, because it panders to libertarian tunnel vision instead of calling for a break with it. And given that part of the ALL’s mission statement is to bridge the gap between red and gold anarchists, I can’t help but see it as just a very awkward and roundabout way to arrive at “permission” to have all the same concerns that social anarchists do(+), but without alienating the Lawyers by making them seem too essential to an-archy by definition.
Why is it so fucking hard to just come out and say that interpersonal dominance matters just as much as formal coercion? Why is the former always subordinate to the latter? Why isn’t the interpersonal dynamic the point in itself? Why is it only important relative to the task of stopping one of its most narrowly-defined and historically recent manifestations?
I’m still unsure about a lot of my beliefs. I’m in the middle of a back and forth trip across the left-right anarchist divide, and most my ideas are still up in the air as far as the super-specific implications go. I’m open to persuasion on all of those things. I don’t even know whether I think anarchism is better founded on egoism or utilitarianism (although I’m fairly certain they arrive at the same place). But I know where my priorities lie. I know what it’s important to be about, even if I’m not certain how to be about it.
(+) I say this because that’s how the movement characterizes itself in terms of its own internal consciousness. That doesn’t mean you don’t have the occasional anarcho-syndicalist crumb-bum who thinks feminism is a distraction/waste of time. I once encountered a primitivist who defended rape as just something that happens in nature, but that’s a whole other level.
Marja Erwin /#
Yeah. I always agreed with the feminist critiques of patriarchy, but used to think the education and consciousness-raising was an unreasonably roundabout method, when you could deal with it directly, by changing the economic infrastructure of society.
Marja Erwin /#
Just as an example of that attitude Soviet Onion mentioned.
I’m not trying to misinterpret his entire argument.
Rad Geek /#
Neither do I.
This is uncharitable and wrong. Only one of the six forms of thickness I’ve discussed has to do with valuing commitments strategically as for dealing with statism or, more broadly, politically-structured violence. is specifically concerned with following out the implications of more fundamental commitments from which the non-aggression principle derives, which is exactly what you complain that the work on thickness somehow fails to do.
Maybe you like arguments based on grounds thickness more than you like arguments based on other forms of thickness. Well, fine. But even for the most instrumentalist versions of thickness, the point of discussing this sort of thing in relation to non-aggression, or to anti-statism specifically, is to show that these things are interconnected; it is not to claim somehow that their interconnections are the only reasons you ought to care about commitments other than non-aggression. Far from it, and anyone who takes it as such has fundamentally misunderstood the argument. (is not at all the same conclusion as ) As I’ve repeatedly said, the main reason I care about feminism (for example) is that feminism is right, and worth caring about on its own merits. However, given that I care about feminism, I also think it’s worth noting how the best understanding of libertarianism interrelates and reinforces with the best understanding of feminism — and vice versa.
On the other hand, I’m not sure what you mean by suggesting that anti-statism or non-aggression (which includes abolitionism towards not only the State as such but also all forms of politically-structured violence, including rapism, bashing, lynch law, child-beating, slavery, etc.), isfor anarchism. Really?
Whose views are thesedirected at? If they’re directed at my views or Roderick’s (which seems like the most likely interpretation, given that the stuff on has, so far, mainly been associated with us) then I just think that this has nothing to do with the views that we’ve actually expressed. If it’s being directed at some other body of work nearby in the neighborhood (e.g. Chris Sciabarra’s stuff on ) then I still don’t think it has much of anything to do with the views that, e.g., Chris actually expressed (Chris’s whole point has to do with understanding political libertarianism as rooted in more fundamental commitment to radical individualism in ethics and epistemology, and as interrelated on equal terms with a liberatory cultural critique). If it’s being directed at someone else, then I’d like to know who, and I’d like to know how representative that person or those people are supposed to be of people advocating thick conceptions of libertarianism, or people working on articulating the logical structure of conceiving libertarianism thickly.
If you’re going to make this forceful of a critique, I’d like to know something a lot more specific about whose position or whose approach is being criticized. Otherwise I think this is going to end up with a lot of shadowboxing and not much of a chance to really bring the critique into engagement with a real and articulated set of views.
Wait, what? Without alienating who?
If you mean natural law theorists, I think that’s a strawman. Holding a natural law position has exactly nothing to do with whether or not you view non-coercive forms of interpersonal dominance as matters for concern independently of and equally to coercive forms of oppression. Some natural law theorists (e.g. Walter Block) think they’re not. Others (e.g. me) think they are. And the reasons for the differences don’t have to do with differences in conception of natural law, but rather differences about other things entirely.
If you mean somebody else, who?
Soviet Onion /#
Well, not even going that far (or maybe going further?), my argument is more that it’s weird to evaluate the importance of patriarchy primarily by the contributions it makes to statism, and that thick libertarianiam effectively subordinates everything to that purpose, thereby preserving the libertarian attitude that it’s all about state and not power psychosis in general, even while trying to challenge that in a limited fashion. We don’t oppose both as expressions of the same core desire(+), we oppose 99% of the symptoms only because that’s instrumental to eliminating the other 1%. I mean, what the fuck?!
As I said before, I don’t have most of the specifics of my position down and I won’t claim to, but I see anarchism as a clarion call to self-improvement. To break down barriers between people, to expand the scope of “accessible” human cognition and empathic understanding. More human than a human is our motto. Rulership is an impediment to that, so it’s gotta go. We won’t advance one inch until we’re prepared to go the whole way and never stop.
(+) And no, the non-aggression principle can’t count as this core desire, because not all forms of power and abuse can be reduced to that. It can still be important for instrumental reasons . . . BWA HA HA HA HA!!!!
Soviet Onion /#
You’re right that I should have given you grounds thickness, and yes, I’m actually more enamored with that kind of argument than the other five versions of thickness. It did actually occur to me do, but I got tired and careless.
As for the other forms of thickness
Thickness from entailment – Applies the non-aggression principle to forms of non-state private violence and ideas that directly call for it. This is just a consistent application of NAP.
and conjunction – isn’t even a form of thickness, not even to the extent that grounds thickness is because it makes no appeal to procession from a common fundamental principle or desire.
Thickness from application – proper application of the non-aggression principle.
Thickness from grounds – I’ll give you that one.
Strategic thickness – Right there in the first paragraph: causal preconditions for implementing the non-aggression principle in the real world. Not important in themselves, important in relation to the non-aggression principle.
Thickness from consequences – This one’s actually quite strange. You say that we should oppose things that likely result from government coercion in themselves, because of how they result, but don’t give any essential qualification that they have to have to have anti-liberatory implications; the examples you give just assume that’s the case.
Theoretically it could work just as well in the other direction. Suppose market anarchy really did end up looking like Robocop or Jennifer Government, what then? To make a less extreme example, let’s just suppose that Kinsella is right and Ancapistan’s economic landscape would look basically similar to the current one. Would consequence thickness oblige us to accept Walmart and oppose the mom-&-pop stores that have now died out from a lack of state support, even if that put it in conflict with the other forms of thickness?
I don’t even know why the second part is there, because it doesn’t offer any kind of qualification on the first, and has no essential relationship to it. You say that we can oppose these things for also being independently bad, but to the extent that something cannot be essentially linked to background coercion, there’s no reason to oppose it via this form of thickness, and also no prohibition on opposing good consequences, a position which would logically result from 1) if 2) isn’t intended to offer any prohibition, which it doesn’t. And if it’s independent then why try to shoehorn it into a form of thickness at all?
So there you have it. Five out the six forms of thickness all lead back toward aggression, which leads primarily back to anti-statism by implication.
But it isn’t just a description of connection, it’s an evaluation of the significance of those connections that subordinates them to aggression by defining their importance primarily in relation to it.
I know that’s not what you’re saying, but you do seem to be saying that they are the only reasons essential to libertarianism/anarchism by definition, and those reasons do subordinate other concerns to non-aggression.
It’s not “way out there on the periphery” in in the sense of being inessential or last on my list of concerns at all. It’s “on the periphery” in the sense that physical violence is only the superficial manifestation of the churning psychological sea that forms the real battleground.
It’s like looking at a school shooting and focusing on just the violent act itself, but not the nature of the school, peer socialization, parenting and home life, and even the individual perpetrator’s sense of choice and control over their life, that all preceded it. I don’t think you would disagree that having that kind of perspective is important.
Come on. It’s pretty common for libertarians to react to the suggestion that they have non-enforceable obligations as if someone was really busting a Glock and trying to force them to do it, so by formulating a conception of market anarchism that makes concern for non-coercive forms of oppression important but still not essential to the definition (as most social anarchists will contend), that sidesteps the usual kneejerk reaction. But that comes at the price of having to play to the existing tunnel vision.
Roderick T. Long /#
I agree that that would be weird.
But that I deny. All that thick libertarianism says is that libertarians qua libertarians have reasons to oppose patriarchy. It says nothing about those being the only reasons to oppose patriarchy. After all, I also believe that feminists qua feminists have reason to oppose aggression and the state. Does that mean that in addition to subordinating the importance of patriarchy to the importance of statism, I’m also subordinating the importance of statism to the importance of patriarchy?
My view is that statism and patriarchy reinforce each other both causally and conceptually. One of the bad things (but not the only one) about statism is the way in which it’s entangled with patriarchy. One of the bad things (but not the only one) about patriarchy is the way in which it’s entangled with statism.
No, but they have to be bad implications. That includes anti-liberatory implications, no? Surely you don’t think we should combat bad results of statism only when those bad results are themselves anti-liberatory?
More broadly — we’ve focused on thick libertarianism in the context of arguments with libertarians. But all those forms of thickness apply equally well to other positions too. I reckon Charles and I both favour thick feminism, and thick antiracism, and so on — and those commitments would have the upshot that feminists, etc. ought to be libertarians, plus a bunch of other upshots as well. So, once again: if thick libertarianism “subordinates” feminist concerns to libertarian ones, then by the same token thick feminism “subordinates” libertarian concerns to feminist ones. Yet I’m both a thick libertarian and a thick feminist. And that suggests that “subordinates” can’t really be the right term here.
The question of how broadly or narrowly “anarchism” should be defined is a different question, I think, from the issue of thick libertarianism. Floating around the movement are, and have long been, three definitions — a narrow one that requires opposition to all forms of domination, a broad one that requires only opposition to the state, and an intermediate one that requires opposition to all aggression (state or otherwise), but not necessarily to non-aggressive forms of domination. I find that I use all three in different contexts (just as I use “libertarian” broadly and narrowly). All three go back a long way and seem to me to be legitimate uses; do we really want to claim that Benjamin Tucker didn’t use the term “anarchist” correctly?
Nick Manley /#
“And the reason for that is simple. Like Will, Aster and (I think) Nick, I’m primarily concerned with the psychological pathology of power-over-others as a mode of being and interaction, and how that manifests in daily life. Every concrete concern I have proceeds from that; I don’t start with the State and work my way down. Yes, it is a big fucking important lynchpin than empowers and enables lots of other aberrations, but that doesn’t make it the focal point unto itself, just an especially important instrumental concern. Its significance is still ultimately defined in relation to the mental landscape of which it is a manifestation, and to its symbiotic relationship with other manifestations; as an expression of something broader and more fundamental than just being biggest example of NAP-violation on the block.”
Wow! I am glad I did my part to restart this thread. There are some really interesting thoughts being shared here. Soviet is on to something that has been identified by both Arthur Silber and Chris Sciabarra. Arthur has stated that he views his battle as primarily cultural-psychological. This is in keeping with the Randian analysis that begins with metaphysics and proceeds to politics — as opposed to only engaging in deductive validation of a select few axioms a la Rothbard.
We do need to focus on the philosophic-cultural-psychological fundamentals that inform/reinforce/cause or otherwise contribute to destructive interpersonal relations between human beings. Nonetheless, I would caution Soviet to avoid psychologism. It can be extremely frustrating to deal with people who condescendingly pretend to a divine like view of your inner psychological motivations for statements or actions. A related error is overgeneralization about what does drive a person. It’s important to be able to note commonalities without losing sight of individual context.
May I recommend more thoroughly incorporating the work of Alice Miller into the canon of humanistic liberalism? She touches on the psychological origins of mindless deference to authority. There are similar threads running through the work of psychotherapist Nathaniel Branden.
I dearly wish that I could contribute to this thread, but I’m currently a few daysinto recoveries from 7 or8 different facial surgical procedures, and currently resemble a flesh golem animated by valium and morphine.
Hopefully, this will get me some transhumanist cred along with the free drugs. :) I’m in doubt as to whether I can walk 10m without falling down, but I can communicate with people all over he world. I love the XXI century!
For now, I’d simply like to affirm most of Soviet’s stated position. Otherwise I’d like to second the importance of Alice Miller’s and Chris Sciabarra’s work. If I prefer Sciabarra’s approach to Red Geeks’ it’s merely bcause I am much more comprtable with continental than with analytic philosopjical aproaches.
I don’t have a serious quarrel with any of the current participants on this threat, TGGP’s views to the contrary. My personal mimunim goal is simply to establish a precedent that transphobia and other more prominent forms of prejudice be treated with as little welcome among left-libertarians as they are among (left-)anarchists and mainstream left-liberals- which hardly seems like an unreasonable demand, as even many of the bourgoisie manage it. I just need a guaranteed baseline my wish I can xpress idead and have them treated as ideas, not mindless epiphenomena of unchosen group membership.
Otherwise, I’m simply glad that we are having this debate. My thanks to Charlesfor hosting it.
Nick "Natasha" Manley /#
“… is the way that thick libertarianism prioritizes its concerns.”
You misread my forumulation. I agree that no transphobia should be the policy of the Libertarian movement. I was just saying that it makes a mockery of individualism to demand that everyone devote their time to X ~ regardless of personal context. That kind of instrinicism was rightly attacked by Rand. You should read her essay on casuality vs duty in Philosophy: Who Needs It? The strength of Rand’s approach is that the only absolute is reason. This provides for a remarkably context sensitive free mind ~ for those who take it seriously. Unfortunately, there are many professed Objectivists who do not ~ having surfed the SoloHQ forums, I can claim to have witnessed it myself.
For example: I need to focus on college right now. This cuts into time I have to talk about transphobia in Libertarianism. I simply don’t wish to be considered “immoral” for doing what is necessary to sustain my life and achieve happiness.
People have an ethical obligation to themselves as rational beings to not engage in transphobia. This doesn’t mean that we all must be activists ~ indeed modern society cannot function without individualization and specialization of labor.
Let me just apologize to Aster for an inadvertent dismissal of the seriousness of the bigotry directed at her. I will extend the same apology to Marja and Victoria.
I wrote above:
“Nonetheless, there are substantive issues raised by both your comments — going deeper than the personal schism above.”
The last part implies that conflict over being subjected to transphobic comments is not a deep substantive issue. I do not recall what state of mind I was in when writing that. Nonetheless, the meaning I conveyed is not at all what my conscious reason tells me right now.
Charles had requested we not turn this into a thread about Aster vs Keith, so I commented to that effect ~ out of respect for him. Nonetheless, my behavior on this forum vis this issue has been marred by excessive neutrality. In the future, I will apply objective reason more robustly.
Nick says everything I could have wished said, above (thank you).
No one has a duty to spend their lives crusading against any evil, no matter how irrational. But it’s in the interest of every individual not to contribute to irrationality and, all things being equal, to speak up against it and refuse to sanction it. My experience with prejudice has been that certain segments of the libertarian movement are mostly rotten on principle (i.e., the paleos, the prestonites), but that the rest are filled with otherwise decent people who turn the other ear to bigotry.
All it would take to stop the likes of Hoppe would be for those libertarians who do see the irrationality or racism, sexism, etc. to call it out briefly but loudly and clearly as soon as they see it. But libertarians haven’t been doing so because of an unfair ethos which holds that victims of bigotry should put up and shut up, or expect to be accused of ‘political correctness’. Hoppe is made possible only by his better colleagues affiliated who, for the sake of libertarian solidarity, keep quiet about his Nazi-ish calls for the forcible exclusion of innocent people from civil society. The result has been not to enhance but to tarnish the libertarian brand.
Racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia are false. They are irrational and anti-individualtic. If you support the principles of the Enlightenment (+), they are against your values and *your interests. “It’s my culture” conservative realtivism shouldn’t cut it as an excuse with anyone who holds the principles prequisite to the broadly liberal worldview.
The reason prejudice is so devastating to the victim isn’t just a matter of emotional offense but simply because there is no way to answer a stabbingly hurtful epithet without confirming that you’re accepting that epithet as your personal designation in conversation, which immediately sets a future social precedent. There’s nothing I want less than for every conversation to turn into a discussion of these miserable and tedious issue. I just want people to deal with my mind, or in those situations where sexuality is rationally relevent (such as discussions of patriarachy, rape and prostitution) to deal with me like any other woman. But I can’t do that while at any moment I’m likely to find that other people aren’t speaking to my brain but to their (grossly ignorant understanding of) my gender identity.
The reason that bigtory should be so absolutely be opposed is because it is the triumph of belligerant stupidity over rational debate. A bigot’s thought-process stops at the most cheaply observable collective characteristic in deliberate evasion of awareness of the target’s conscious and reasoning mind. One this worldview is accepted by others, it creates a soundproof glass-cage which you can’t shout out of… since anything you say gets treated literally like the biological squawkings of a breed of animal. Implicit in all bigotry is a denial of the capable, flexible, rational human mind- either in select ‘inferior’ or ‘abnormal’ groups or, in its most comprehensive forms, in humanity as a whole- the speaker’s own kind included.
Pre-Rockwell Libertarians used to pride themselves on being the political movemement naturally attractive to reason and intelligence. Is gaining the support of those who have consciously devoted themselves to bigotry really worth alienating people whose only difference from yourselves is an irrelevant unchosen characteristic? Is this what you want? Are the basic civil rights era principles- no favours, no affirmative action, just treatment as equal fellow human beings- really all that much to expect?
All you need do is use your own freedom of speech to condemn prejudice when you see it, and consider that those who say they are experiencing it might be telling the truth. Believe me, I’d rather talk about anything than this stuff. The trouble is that it always works out so that as long as I’m the only one talking about it, it just looks like a pointless complaint and isn’t taken seriously. Only a voice from outside the targeted group has the legitimising effect. The real bigots seem to sense this and count on it.
(+) It always comes back to this. Always.
Nick "Natasha" Manley /#
Thank you for your appreciation. I am primarily writing this comment to say you may have your peace of mind on this. I will do a better job of respecting your wishes with respect to having discussions with others on this forum.
David Graeber /#
excuse me – where have I ever said that I support, much less “adore”, the Chavez regime????
I think about the most positive thing I’ve ever said in public is that while I don’t support him, it’s ridiculous to say he’s a dictator, and that I am happy about his role in helping destroy the power of the IMF
I suppose I should be flattered – I guess I have now achieved that level of notoriety where people can just make up weird random things about you on no basis whatsoever. Yay! I guess.
Soviet Onion /#
From “Teach Me if You Can: An Interview with David Graeber“, 11/21/2005
Steven Durel: I don’t know how familiar you are with Venezuela and what is going on down there. I talked to Noam Chomsky about it a little bit and he seemed to believe that they are rapidly making a lot of progress. What do you think from your observations?
David Graeber: I know that a lot of anarchists are suspicious of anything that is organized around a charismatic leader (A lot? Not, like, all?). On the other hand, I think it is always a mistake to assume through a “Great Man Theory” that Hugo Chavez is responsible for everything that is going on and we dislike him for that reason. I think it is unwise to do that. There has been a massive social movement that has made it possible for someone like Chavez to come about.
There are a lot of people who are working with Chavez, coming up with ideas, reigning(???) behind the throne — a lot of them are genuine radicals who are trying to see what can really be accomplished in terms of profound social change under current neoliberal conditions. I think they’ve done some amazing things.
Is this one of them?
I suppose the PDVSA and UNT are a couple of those autonomous institutions that Chavez is putting out of his power to control?
I can just imagine what the consensus response by the anarchist movement to this would be if a neoliberal capitalist president were doing something like this in the name of “structural readjustment” or “privatization”. Suddenly the standards would all swing back in the other direction and we would begin calling out the reality of the situation for what it is.
David Graeber cont:I think someone like Chavez, if he had taken power fifty years ago, could have had a very State-centered policy. Nowadays, what he’s actually trying to do is create autonomous institutions that will be there even if he isn’t. I am very excited by the possibility that something might come out of it.
Now where have I seen this before? It all seems so familiar, I just can’t put my finger on it . . .
I suppose the next interview will be titled My disillusionment in Venezuela, no? Seriously, when are anarchists going to learn their lesson about state-socialists? It’s the same fucking thing every goddamn time.
Danyl Strype /#
Kia ora koutou
Been offline for a couple of weeks, but I’m going to attempt to jump into this thread with some observations:
“I don’t start with the State and work my way down. Yes, it is a big fucking important lynchpin than empowers and enables lots of other aberrations, but that doesn’t make it the focal point unto itself, just an especially important instrumental concern.”
What are the differences between the state and other loci of power, and what is its relationshiup to them? There are a number of anti-authoritarian viewpoints which assume that all institutions of concentrated of power are the tip of the iceberg, the visible surfaces of a single centralization trying to disguise its homogeneity. New World Order conspiracy theorists come to mind but there are other examples.
Others consider one of the visible scrunches in the fabric of power to be the centre. Some anarchist theory is based on the often unspoken assumption that ‘the state’ is that centre, while other proceed from the assumption that it is ‘capitalism’ or ‘corporate globalization’. Many in the culture jam type groups, and in the Indymedia networks, often argue that the ‘mass/ mainstream/ corporate media’ are the centre.
Direct action types tend to sympathize with the primitivist view, that forms of technology that move humans away from a direct symbiosis with wild environments are themselves the cause of the whole phenomena of power scrunching. Ironically this ‘Leviathan’ is at least superficially similar to the notion of ‘the Beast’ that underlies the Christian wing of the NWO conspiracy mileau.
Hakim Bey tries to get around the problem by taking a step back and trying to umbrella the whole phenomena of power scrunching under the label ‘the Totality’, echoing counterculture references to ‘the Man’, ‘the System’, and ‘the Establishment’. This sort of terminology is very inclusive but it doesn’t solve the central problem, that very different kinds of political practice logically take priority depending on where you think the orders are really coming down from, and where the levers of power are.
There’s no point attacking the State as an abstract (although defending yourself from a specific state is another story) if the reigns it holds are really delegated by a secret elite, and can be shifted elsewhere if the State is seized and dismantled/ democractized. Similarly there’s no point in smashing the windows of McDonalds if the corporate world is taking its orders from the Church (another institution a lot of anarchists see as primal evil), and the Church wants to, and can afford to, make sure such operations continue to exist.
Sorry if this doesn’t make sense, or I’m teaching Grandma to suck eggs, I had a puff on a potato pipe earlier, and it’s past 3 in the morning here ;)
Soviet Onion /#
It’s precisely because the source of power isn’t concentrated that it makes no sense to choose one obvious manifestation the focal point, even before deciding what central manifestation is. It has to do more with ingrained psychological habits and worldviews, or how people view the relationship between themselves and the world.(=)
The specifics of an solution would involve a shift away from reified thought-forms first and foremost. Nationalism, racism, classism, sexism and homophobia are all fairly prominent and vile manifestations of that (and incidentally the first three have all been explicit ideological foundations for states), but I’d even go so far as oppose things like ethnic pride, NIMBY, preservation of “cultures” etc. The worship of constructs designed to represent a group of people in place of those people themselves makes it that much easier to dehumanize, dominate and hurt them, and for others to stand idly by while it happens.
If this sounds ridiculously extreme or totalitarian, you should know that I’m not the only person to frame anarchism this way. Both Stirner and Goldman did the same. Primitivists also make the same case a la Dunbar’s Number. But where they would reduce the population to make society fit the number, I would say do what we can to improve ourselves and transcend whatever limitations are there (even if it eventually comes at the expense of biological integrity).
But because so many of our existing mental subroutines are good and useful, and have gotten humanity to where it is today, I don’t subscribe to the Puritan tenet that superficially “evil” desires need to be purged from our from our consciousness to create a New Anarchist Man, as most “social justice” perspectives seem to contend. Greed and selfishness simply need to be declassed, and their association with dominance replaced with the post-scarcity power of self-improvement (which allows others to share in it without getting trampled, and indeed, benefit equally through the process)(===). Seriously, crack open some Fourier, people. Most psychologists will tell you that such a desire is naturally emergent in people who aren’t beaten down or shamed from it at some point.
That’s where anarchy lies, at the crossroads of egoism and empathy, and the best anarchists among us have always known that.
(=) I realized that to some people this could look extremely close to Baudrillard-style relativist idiocy. The difference is that the issue is objectively bad in all situations at all times, for the same reasons, and can be identified as uniform and universal as it manifests in people and societies. It isn’t a case of post-modern “anything can mean anything” bullshit.
(==) It’s my opinion that anti-consumerist swamp should take their rightful place beside the primitivists, Marxists and other latter day manifestations of the Abrahamic tradition. That these factions are often opposed to each other proves nothing that conflict between different sects of Islam doesn’t.
(===) That’s also part of the reason I’m in favor of freed-markets. Sure, there’s the obvious material advantage of not having to stand in lines outside the co-op store for our bread ration as anarcho-communism would inevitably have us doing, but polycentric ordering institutions lend themselves less easily to being worshiped as an end until themselves. They prevent elevation of “the community” to the detriment of the community.
Danyl Strype /#
“If people who want to ban such-and-such from their public streets aren’t allowed to, won’t they just respond by forming private communities with private streets, so that the results will be the same?”
If people are banned from public streets, any people, they cease to be public streets, by definition. I support the freedom of Nazis to march in public spaces, for the same reason I support the right of anarchists to stage counter-marches. I’m opposed to authoritarian and totalitarian theories and practices, not the human beings that mistakenly (imho) promote them. Since I’m opposed to those ideas, it seems paradoxical to enact them by banning people from expressing their opinion – however offensive they might be to me personally – in the public sphere.
By the same token, I support the existence of individual and collective private spaces from which people can be banned, so that people who are only happy when they don’t encounter Nazis have somewhere to go to be happy. Public spaces that are inclusive of all human beings and private spaces that aren’t, and a clear distinction between the two, are crucial to provide spaces for both open conflicts of ideas, and personal emotional survival.
~ ~ ~
Nice to see you here, and to hear from you, as always.
We’re still in the middle (or, it seems, endgame) of a war here, which has mostly long moved on from this thread (which has been formally christened ‘The Monster Thread’), and has instead moved on to a pretty direct confrontation on this issue which has erupted into a full-scale left-libertarian civil war. The ceiling cat vs. basement cat has been over the issue:
Resolved: ‘Left-libertarianism should make a clean break, on principle, with national anarchism’.
On the decentralism vs. cosmoplitanism issue, it actually seems that everyone on both sides has shown that once they’re shown the other side’s concerns and understand others’ loves and fears that they are willing to make an effort to make sure the that any sense of public consensus must include the fair expectations of everyone for humanity, dignity, fairness, their own non-oppressive preferences, and the ability to live out their own particular interests, ideals, and passions. Score one for the forces of good alignment and the anarchist concept of ‘democracy’. Go humanism! (no disrespect to the trees intended).
I think the history of the war might personally interest you, and I hope to explain the issues and the playing field in this post. I think that a radical green post-leftist with a long background in the left-anarchist scene could bring a lot to left-libertarian discourse.
On the War:
I’d first go to the crypto-national anarchist Keith Preston (AKA the Big Bad)’s recent… er… article charmingly titled: ‘Is the Defense of Sodomy no Vice?”:
I urge you to read it, but keep an airplane bag handy. And yeah, that was an open call for an IRL POGROM!?!(!)WTF? t throw specifically me and lots of other people out of the movement for being openly queer or anti-racist or otherwise making Keith’s grand alliance of total bastards unhappy (neo-Nazis + White separatists + racists of colour + Maoists + neoConfederates = does this guy have an evil fetish or something?). If it weren’t the fact that this is a Very Serious issue one would be tempted to just mention that Godwin’s Law applies not just to bringing up the Nazis but for actually being a closet case philo-Nazi and failing to get a room about it.
And I would be mortally frightened to know that this sort of horror is still possible in the 21st century (deadly seriously, an open fascist got elected as major of Rome), if it weren’t for the fact that Keith’s base are belong to us.
Once were done touring the lower planes, I’s also highly suggest that you then look at a few deeply appreciated responses from left-libbers Mike Gogulski, Brad Spangler, Darian Worden, and Keven Carson, who took a principled and difficult stand he didn’t have to take to against a former friend. And of course there’s Soviet Onion, who has been beyond gallant.
http://www.nostate.com/2036/taking-sides-on-the-right-to-be-a-complete-jackass/ http://bradspangler.com/blog/archives/1343 http://darianworden.com/blog/?p=704 http://mutualist.blogspot.com/2009/05/open-letter-to-keith-preston.html
(worth precisely 1,000.00 more than the others, even if I’m not blonde):
You can read my views as to where things ought to go from a left-libertarian movement secure in its defense of basic liberal civilisation principles here:
http://mutualist.blogspot.com/2009/05/open-letter-to-keith-preston.html#c4660441024403854206 http://radgeek.com/gt/2009/05/22/friday-lazy-linking/#comment-20090524173449 http://radgeek.com/gt/2009/05/22/friday-lazy-linking/#comment-299444
You also can read the ‘neutral’ relativist/pluralist/decentralist left-libertarian Jeremy Weiland’s very noble if in my view deeply misguided attempts to defend the possibility that left-liberations and national anarchists belong in the same movement. I think he’s totally wrong on very deep priority one epistemological and metaphysical grounds, but he means well, and you might find you two have a a lot psychologically uncommon with one another.
He’s welcome to provide a link to his best piece on this issue, but his arguments are scattered around and I can’t think of where to specifically point you. My response to him is here:
Also, Preston’s politics have predictably enough starting to see national anarchists trying to ooze their way into the movement you can see that result here:
http://mutualist.blogspot.com/2009/05/open-letter-to-keith-preston.html#c611080724979531740 http://darianworden.com/blog/?p=704#comment-710 http://darianworden.com/blog/?p=704#comment-715
…and my asymptotically cold response here.
The best summarisation of the debate as a whole is at Forums of the Libertarian Left:
I believe the evidence shows that the white hats are winning. Thank goddess. especially because I want done with this whole affair, even if I increasingly find the military science itself enthralling.
As for why all this drama is worth your attention, the reasons are 1) I think left-libertarianism could very easily develop into precisely the kind of post-leftish thing you’ve been looking for yourself, and (2) I’ve been announcing the existence of our intention to do the Barbarians for Civilisation gig, and this would give you the sense of the kind of community I’d like to try starting by engaging with myself (altho you’d likely be more interesting in focusing on different factions and interests that you think worth thinking and talking to, which is cool).
I believe that there have been very real issues at stake which have likely made a small but not insignificant difference as to what the political debate of the 21st century will look like. Yes, it was yet another schism and even still more movement drama, but when it comes to fascists trying to entry into a movement which could otherwise discover truth and improve the world, one has no choice but to go to war.
I know that it’s a lot of research to recommend to you, but I believe this might prove worth your time. I think you’d find a number of kindred spirits here who are finding themselves working through precisely the same political questions you’ve yourself posed to the anarchists, if usually from a different starting point. And if we get BfC up an running, this is what part of the online neighborhood looks like. If you’d wish further suggestions for research, the three most original and philosophically able minds in the movement are (in my opinion) Kevin Carson, Charles Johnson, and Roderick Long, while Chris Sciabarra is the academic living dead white guy who got first got the ball rolling.
I’m so glad to see you. Just let me conclude to say that I’m glad to see you, and that you’ve walked into a left-libertarian blogosphere conversation which I believe to have been far more consequential than the great Wellington Anarchist Toilet Paper War of 2008. Liberal civilisation could use your help. And it will rock.
Oh, and thanks for the courage of the Tea Pride shout outs. We need more of this. Also, giving the point about the Conspiracy movement and the Beast rhetoric is also personally appreciated; I’ve got a powers-that-be personal stake in this one, and there are similar frictions between the sex worker rights movement and academic feminism’s odd love affair with liberation theology.
(=) Yeah, yeah, mom, I know: gloating’s very bad form. But this guy spent a year insulting me in ways that brought back a lifetime’s traumatic memories, and he did it on purpose. Much more importantly, he tried to bring fraggin’ neo-nazis into the libertarian and anarchist movement. I mean, who is he, Othello? Arthas Menethil from Warcraft? I must admit that when it comes to magnificent bastardry, Keith haz it, down to allusions to Laveyan Satanism (with which I’ve no quarrel) and references to certain anti-Rousseauean dead white books. He does as much with the role as John Simm’s Master in the new Doctor Who, altho’ his take is obviously much grittier. Anyone know where you can get the movie version of Stephen King’s Apt Pupil without paying actual money for it? if it weren’t for Keith, I’d have never found the interesting film American History X, which you can (or could) rip off youtube.
Soviet Onion, it’s pretty fucking crazy how much you’ve written in your last post that I agree with.
So is your contention that the invention of social constructs is not an innately human function – that’s it’s not essential to the human condition? My tendency is to see these constructs as the particular territory we happen to find ourselves on as individuals rather than good/bad in and of themselves. They are the setting for individual actions, and we must reach those individuals.
So I’m much more willing to accept these group identities as arbitrary – even instrumental – constructs instead of demolish them because they’re abstractions. They came from somewhere, and wherever that was, it was a human place. When we’re declassing negative human behaviors – and amen to that project! – we should remember that they are human behaviors; in declassing them, we’re trying to understand them, and by extension ourselves.
Whoa. Let me clarify something. I do not believe NAs and LLs belong in the same movement. Keith’s model is sort of a federation along a single issue. I think LLs and NAs could get closer to sustainable versions of their individual projects – and we could learn more about the viable structures of human freedom instead of going down this globalist road of how much more efficiently a boot can stamp on a human face. I suspect we would need to join forces with a large number of people on purely pragmatic grounds in order to trash the establishment power structure.
Once again, I don’t see decentralism as an end in itself. It’s a means to being able to realize a more radical politics. It’s not without danger. But if I thought there were better, more workable, and more immediate strategies for liberty and freedom, I’d adopt those and abandon pan-secessionism.
Nick "Natasha" Manley /#
Not to be a party pooper, but I don’t really think anything said here has much of an impact on the politics of the 21st century. I look forward to this new project, but I am VERY skeptical of its ability to be successful.
Many people do not want to give up the inane things they cling to ~ and I have plenty of experience trying to get them to.
Nick "Natasha" Manley /#
To further clarify: the dominant political debates of the 21st century don’t tend to include subcultural voices by definition. What is said here has an impact on the subcultural politics under question, but I don’t think it has any influence on the power centers that be ~ where actual political trends coalcese.
I think both Soviet and Aster are far too optimistic about the potential to save liberal civilization through subculturalism.
Soviet Onion /#
Well, as you guys all know I’m partially in this just to make the bastards pay. Anything else is icing on the cake ;)
As a wise man once said: “Why so serious?”
Nick "Natasha" Manley /#
I know you have your own personal stake here ~ so do I. The generic liberty sphere of the web has given me access to some of the greatest minds I could have ever hoped to find. I just am frustrated by my inability to change the world around me in a deep way.
Why so serious? Well, when people are talking about building an agorist subculture-prisoner support, then they are generally talking serious business. A small subculture doesn’t have the resources to fight a sustained battle against a political structure. I can’t afford to do anything in America that runs a major risk of me ending up in prison ~ and I don’t see why that would change in New Zealand or anywhere else. Agorism is criminality incarnate, so why should I not worry or take it seriously? Will we end up writing our memoirs from prison like Leonard P?
Aster has the best of intentions and the most inspiring of goals, but I am relatively worn out from years of banging my head against a wall polemically. I am willing to concede it may be more successful in NZ than America, but I really do feel that people generally read/think/hear what they want to hear ~ and most people probably don’t want to hear consistent agorism. I wish I had less cynical conclusions, but this has been my experience. Aster and you need to provide more historical examples of this approach working ~ in which case: I will have to revise my dim outlook.
I mean: building what we want and enjoying it is a better activist idea than relying on traditional rhetorical appeals to masses of people. Its change through example rather than shoving reams of abstract theory in their faces.
Its just that I am relatively geographically isolated from most agorists I know ~ and far too paranoid to bring in 30,000 dollars a year tax free over the net.
Rad Geek /#
Well, agorism is not just deliberate criminality. Just as electoral strategies involve more than just casting a vote or running as a candidate for office — there’s op-eds to write, posters to make, yard signs to put up, fundraising dinners to put on, etc., agorism involves more than just direct involvement in black markets. You certainly don’t need to start your own multimillion dollar heroin ring tomorrow to promote the counter-economy; there’s lots of other things to do, many of them mostly or completely free of risk.
To pick a few examples off the top of my head, there’s analytical and polemical defenses of black-marketeering to be written; there’s knowledge about best practices to be shared in the form of books or articles; there are legal ways of deliberately reducing or eliminating your exposure to government taxation (e.g. buying over the Internet or from friends who won’t charge sales tax, rather than at big brick-and-mortar retailers; shifting more of your living expenses over to informal-sector and/or cashless forms of exchange, like getting your food through a local Food Not Bombs, etc.). If you’re worried about the risks involved in practicing heavy-counter-economics, then why not get involved in the light stuff for a start, and focus on promoting the idea while others specialize in the practice?
I’m nodding in agreement with almost everything Nick is saying. A lot of my present thinking has sprung from frustration with the energy that participating in the left libertarian conversation takes vs. the amount of value I get out of it.
Roderick T. Long /#
Will we end up writing our memoirs from prison like Leonard P?
Leonard Peikoff is in prison?!
On a more serious note: not all alternative-institution-building is especially illegal. (I guess by Konkin’s definition it doesn’t count as counter-economics unless it’s illegal, but can still count as building the new society within the shell of the old.)
Nick "Natasha" Manley /#
Thx for the informative response
Roderick T. Long /#
I knew which Leonard P you meant!
Marja Erwin /#
On Prison and on Breaking Free
As you know, one of my primary reasons for leaving the United States was that I saw the line of my course of action I had chosen converging with a cage, under conditions which would have made suicide an unquestionably better option. And, sure enough, within a year after I ran for it, a transsexual sex worker rights activist living in San Francisco got nailed by the pigs using false police testimony and a press that kept confusing her with some ghetto ho out of their stereotyped imagination.
I’m not an altruist, and even I’m not such a drama queen as to go buy a pet snake and be done with it unless I really don’t have any other option. I got the Hell out of dodge, unlike some of my friends who were hoping for an Obama to save them, or others who very seriously told me that they recognised the risks given the way things were going and wanted to stay and fight for their country. One of them, may she never run out of hit points, got herself elected as a valkerie(=1) in my eyes when she told me precisely. why’d decided against finding Canada(=2).
These are the real B.D.Heroes. Intelligent people around the world are starting to wake up and life or death are being made every day. Gogulski had the courage to say it first and loudest and soon a thousand other voices will join him. The fact that he stepped forward the way he did might buy us a few months more time to mobilise and rearm before the Wehrmacht come to our doorstep. Especially if we TREAT HIS ACTION GRAVELY SERIOUSLY and AMPLIFY HIS VOICE UNTIL EVERYONE NOT STICKING THEIR FINGERS IN THEIR EARS CAN HEAR IT.
With due respect to the Heath Ledger’s unforgettable performance, the reason we ought to be serious is because liberal civilisation is in danger of failing, fascism under various names is creeping back on the world stage, and millions of people are getting killed. We both know people who have been tortured. This is not fiction.
Yes, in an age:
where the British government has just enacted laws which basically mean the state can at any moment bust down the door of your hard drive at any moment,
when the American prison system is a full-scale rape and torture gulag which is beginning to show signs of taking explicitly political prisoners without notice or trial,
when a fascist just became mayor of Rome- Rome– on a platform of stomping down gypsies(=3) and the influence of cinema and who has put 3,000 soldiers on the streets,
and innumerable other stuff all of us read on the telling-the-truth-osphere, every day,
then, yeah, anyone who stands up for the most basic values of the Enlightenment is taking real risks. These aren’t light and transient matters. We live in serious times. And it sucks. Going la-la-la-la-la-I-can’t-hear-you doesn’t look work as a cute lollipop thing any more and doesn’t help.
I certainly don’t believe you have any duty to put yourself in the slightest harm’s way. It’s your life, not mine. You owe them nothing. You owe me nothing. And I don’t owe anything to you, either.
But those of us who do have enough safety, privilege, spare time, and sanguine temperament, would be very well advised by their own self-interest to take some risk of prison rather than the 100% certainty of what an intellectual faces in a fascist society. Charles Johnson, who publishes the names of police officers engaged in fascist brutality, has been risking his life for what he believes in for years. And I’d personally rather risk the attention of the NZ$!S right now (you bastards) than watch as everything and everyone I know and love dies before my eyes.
The French resistance wasn’t exactly all fun, which isn’t to say that there wasn’t a storied place for passion and pleasure in its culture. But letting the Vichy regime solidify and redefine what kind of world you live in- that’s a total bummer. Worse than zero. Which is why I very seriously am making sure I know how to get an asp if I really need one ($40 American, at most, if anyone wants to know).
We’ve been down this road before. Torquemada. Stalin. Auschwitz. We know what happens. And it’s got to be stopped, even if these idiot so-called homo sapiens around us, who don’t seem to have learnt a single damned thing from the death totals of the last century, will have to be saved along with me, myself, I, my friends, and those I care about and love.
There are some eras in which peace isn’t possible, and we’re in one of them. There’s a storm coming, and Liberty begs for every man, woman, cyborg, and furry creature from Alpha Centauri to pursue their rational self-interest and man the barricades. We’re losing America. We’re losing England. We just lost freaking Rome.
Here in New Zealand, I am very lucky. I am much more free to speak as I wish without fear- which is a good thing, as I’ve been cutting and running all my life since the age of 19, and it’s time to stop. The prison system here, while comparably bad in numbers to America’s (the one socio-economic indicator which we have no excuse to be smug about), is far more humane, especially in the womens’ prisons. In the next six months I should be able to get some papers in order and put the transgender thing permanently behind me. At that point- yes- there are risks I’m willing to take. It’s pretty lame compared to what most of you are facing, but there it is.
One of the reasons I think it’s worth it is because I like the sublime experience of saying whatever the fuck I want and the empowerment of reading and writing in ways which will change the world.
Because, as Allan Bloom claimed that Aristotle said somewhere, and Scott Adams definitely said recently, thinking is the only pleasure on a level with sex. And, as Strauss said (he put in a slightly different style) you can’t get the ego rush of knowing that you are doing it right unless you actually go out and do it in reality and see if you’re right by seeing iof it works.
The possibilities are endless. No, they’re not endless. The human spirit can do anything, but it always takes up time and space, and at the end of the day we’re all going to die. Human beings are insanely fragile. A lifetime of studied cultivation of the mind can get slapped down at any moment by some stupid meatspace accident like getting hit by car crossing the street.
And, yeah, talking about revolution, which is what we’re doing, is the kind of thing could get us killed. Which is exactly what we knew in the first place. I to inform you that life has a 100% fatality rate.
You’re dying. Fortune’s a bitch and she watches the clock. So what are you going to do with these last, brief, failing years of your existence. Play video games?
If so, Nick, we’ll see who wins at a game where there’s enough video, audio, and plot to keep things interesting.
I prefer humans or undead (why is there no female undead hero unit? WHY?) I guess I should play night elves, but the units are so fragile that Blizzard’s attempt to give neo-Pagan ecofeminism its due managed to come across as yet another slap in the face to the girl gamer community (see: shrub.com ). But Starfall+Tranquility still equals and always will equal crowning moment of awesome. That touch was sweet.
Part the Twooth:
You ask if any of this matters? Let me ask you something: what holder of high political office has ever changed the world as have a certain butt-ugly stonemason and a certain limp-wristed carpenter? Both of whom got in a heap o’ trouble for spending all day talking on their meatspace equivalent of the internet and hanging around with social delinquents when they we’re supposed to be doing their chores, paying their taxes, and generally being goody-goody two-shoes little respectable members of society.
Let me drag out the obligatory I See White People quotes:
What did Ayn Rand- a sharp girl who knew her advantage- say was the key to understanding history? Didn’t you read the Ominous Parallels? Rand was one girl. Marx was one guy. The Bolsheviks started in the double digits. The Nazis started in the single digits. Feminism was started by one woman who got mocked at and called names like ‘hyena in petticoats’ (it must have been a furry thing). Feminism is, of course, an incomplete project, as are sexual liberation and LGBT rights. But I notice that neither you nor I are dead yet. And by any comparative historical standard, that’s a natural 20.
And the people we have thank for it almost always turn out to be a privileged bunch of Jews, queers, and loose women who shirked their duties, screwed around, took way too many intoxicating substances, and played games with each other to see who could come up with the neatest and brightest and truest mental constructs. Or at least that’s how I read every Golden Age of culture from ‘Periclean’ Athens (#cough#) down to the Renaissance, the philosophes, the Left Bank (#tubercular cough#), and the 1960-1973 height of the American Empire. And now it’s even more fun, since Second Wave feminism, because now there are other ways girls can get in on the action besides washing boys’ toes and smiling a lot and telling people how wonderful they are.
And I’ve heard people say the same stuff about the golden age of Islamic culture (add ‘Persians’ up in there with the Jews and Queers), Asoka’s India, and Tang China. I don’t know. I’ll hold off most of those suspicions for anti-Orientalist reasons. Anyone who can throw the right dead asian books at me so I can start studying up would be greatly welcome.
Fun wins. Or at least fun in the only thing that keeps us alive long enough to make the important things worth winning. Decent revolutions are done by people who know how to love and live life, and who figure out one day that the greatest adventure of them all is the Great Game called IRL.
Nasty revolutions are done by stodgy terks- fundamentalists, Communists, Nazis, y’know, the kind of people you’d expect to find in a room with Keith Preston. People who think the point of life is slodging through miserable grey mud and who believe the only way to make the world better is to drag people away from their interests and pleasures and force them down into the mud and make them build and maintain society.
But they’ve got it bass-ackwards. Success, individual and social, doesn’t come from pain and duty: it comes from the playful freedom of the curiously inquiring mind. And that mind has changed the world so enormously, so unspeakably, over the last two or five centuries that no one has any rational reason to doubt its efficacy on a world scale. You can see it from space.(=4)
The thing you’re reading this on is the brainchild of a couple of guys in a garage. Go look at Wikipedia- remember that old Enlightenment dream of the Encyclopedie? We did it!(=5) We can now access all of the knowledge of the world at something very close to the speed of thought. Hell, my own body was chiselled out by an artist who personally invented the tools and wrote the instruction books. You read cyberpunk? Welcome to the Sixth World, chummer (please, world, don’t end in 2012). The biological 21st century is now. All that’s left is for somebody to invent a hoverbike so that a hot individualist chick can offer me a ride on it.
There’s a pattern here, people. Same old story, same old characters. Same game, different name. The names are a dime a dozen, and languages and persona(lities) are just different ways of cutting the concepts and, if need be, stacking the cards. And the game has rules- the utterly stupid thing is that the people who make it their business to tell everyone else about the rules, i.e., conservatives, get them almost precisely and totally wrong. There are reasons for that, but that is another rant and will be ranted another time.
Civilisation is not a pattern of stern patriarchal discipline breaking your back holding up the city walls, which is the idiot mistake made by the Prestons, Hoppes, and Rush Limbaughs of the world. They’re just the actual or wannabe established churchmen who get paid to lie and rewrite history and keep the slaves slogging away selflessly for the ‘benefit’ of their masters. They’ve somehow developed there minds without having experienced any fun which didn’t ruin their lives and now they’re out to inflict their condition on the rest of us. Their tragic experience has been that life is pain and that denying your loves and desires is the only way to survive. The only problem with their theory is that it’s completely false and has an unbroken record of creating Hell on Earth in practice.
Fact is, there’s no contradiction between saving the world and having a great time, because the fullest use of the human faculties involves and leads to both. Fun and seriousness are not opposites. Tragedy is comedy generously giving its time and concern to the problems of the world. Comedy is tragedy done on one’s own time with all the unacceptable bits of this Vale photoshopped out for the moment(=6).
Both appeal, at the very bottom, to the same kind of mind, a mind passionately concerned with what it perceives. They are forms of play and curiosity. They are the mind of a child raised a few orders of magnitude to an adult’s power. We need to encourage that mind. Because the greatest danger in the world is that it’s best and brighest get so disillusioned by a hurting world which doesn’t want to admit that they exist that they give in or give up altogether.
I used to share your despair. I confess that what’s changed it, aside from a number of very noble people sowing me that morality really works in this world (and how!), has been several changes for the better, all at once, in my personal circumstances.
It is a very sad and also a very encouraging realisation that so much of what we call ‘goodness’ is less a reflection on ourselves that it is a matter of circumstance and of how we have been treated. Progress isn’t forcing ourselves to be better. It’s improving our knowledge and circumstances to relieve the burdens of necessity and give us a chance to be easily better. That’s what so many Christians and socialists and environmentalists get wrong: prosperity is good for us, as kindness from others is good for us, as pleasure is good for us. Civilisation is about getting that going- Isabel Patterson, interesting enough, identified it as a “long circuit of energy”.
If circumstance and the treatment of others prevents you from seeing the beauty of the world, or your power within it, then I am deeply, deeply, sorry. But I can’t change those things without a Christlike sacrifice which no one ever has a right to demand of another. The only thing I can say is: the light at the end of the tunnel is also the only means of reaching it, and that living well, being kind to yourself, and fighting for yourself ’til your last breath are the only way forward which can possibly work.
The terrible truth is that on this planet the majority of human beings are still breaking their backs, threshing cereals on rocks all day for survival in a senseless race to reproduce before malnutrition, disease, and governments bring their short and miserable existences to an end. Philosophy and reason have spectacularly demonstrated their ability to change all this for the better, and can do so again. Left-libertarianism is showing every last telltale sign of being one of those ‘agains’. Which means we’re all in a very nice place at the moment and should keep going exactly what we’re doing. Screw Fukuyama. We left Hegel in a ditch a couple centuries ago and are still moving.
But what philosophy cannot do is conjure solutions to material problems with a few words and the blink of an eye.
Ideas can teach you how to grow so much food as to give an unprepared populace an obesity epidemic, but you can’t feed a concept to someone who is starving. If you’re stuck in Kansas, the way out is going to include a calender, a budget, organisational skills, and a train ticket, and asking those close to you for help. Red shoes and white witches don’t exist in real life (Baum had some weird religious beliefs). The Empire, unfortunately, is an objective reality and can’t be wished away with a chalice and a magic wand. Wishes are not a substitute for human action. There is no alternative to reality. A=A.
I don’t write for the future. I don’t write for the world. I don’t write for you. I write because I like seeing what I can do with the talents of my mind, which is, whether they’ve identified it or not, motivates every one of those Rilly Important dead white guys who had something important to say. And unfortunately, just about anything true you come up with ends up offending people who use lies to keep on top, which is why People With Braind tend to find themselves getting annoyed at the terks who run run the place and in bad times find themselves involved in revolutions.
Now, it’s pretty clear to me that left-libertarianism is completely about fighting evil and dangerous power structures, not least the American Empire, and that it’s utterly pointless to object to something doing exactly what it ought to do according to the kind of thing it is. So, that puts us in the world-saving business (not to be confused with altruism or miltaristic vanguardism. yech.) Lives, fortunes, sacred honours. The left-anarchists we’re trying to get to accept us as allies have been facing this for a couple of centuries.
You want in, or not?
(=1) I think your goddess will forgive you for not being in a position to offer her boar meat. Just go to a freakin’ grocery store and fry up a pork chop already.
(=2) Hint for Americans: look up at the sky at night. The big shiny star means freedom. Or, follow the biggest and pointiest arrow on that map glued on the inside flap of your history textbook. Of course, African-Americans already knew about this, which is why the smartest and luckiest of them didn’t stop at the Mason-Dixon line and just kept going ’til they got to Canada. Oh, they forgot that part in the history textbook, didn’t they. Must have been an error of judgment. Kinda looks bad for the Best. Country. Ebber.
(=3) No offense to the Roma people, but sometimes you can’t do rhetoric any other way when there are only so many English words that rhyme with ‘God’.
(=4) Yeah, and you can also see the pollution. that’s the no-fun part, but thankfully it’s an issue at least partially separable from the immediate problem of doing the non-violent, anti-heirarchical, 21st century, anti-American-exceptionalist equivalent of shooting Nazis.
(=5) Jimbo Wales, an Objectivist, is an entirely true heir to the honourable tradition of Diderot, as well as Voltaire’s Philosophical Dictionary.
(=6) Rand: you didn’t do your followers a favour by forgetting to mention that part- i.e., that romanticism is romanticism, which incidentally makes rich people feel better. And you loved Hugo. And you were poor. You knew. Thanks for nothing.
(=7) That is one lesson libertarians had damn well better learn, before they’re lynched by mobs of starving people for telling the truth in a way that sounds like a threat to everyone else’s survival (and which has been applied, by neoliberal economists, to serve the ends of imperialist killers). Carson fixed that one.
Marja Erwin /#
I previously suggested C.M. Kornbluh’s Rebel Voices. I’m going to extend the suggestion to every left-libertarian.
Social movements and cultural awakenings can go hand-in-hand even in the face of persecution. My fiction is not the best, but my game designs – I want to break away from milhist and help create our countercivilization.
Nick "Natasha" Manley /#
Heh I know. I am not that humor blind ( :
As for Aster’s essay, I have a headache. I read it fast, but it’s too much for my mind to deeply ponder right now ~ just come back from chessing with some kids at my former middle school.
Just a few thoughts: well ok; I am not really opposed to the project ~ despite not being sure where I precisely stand between a Randian esque classical liberalism and left-libertarianism. I was thinking out loud about its potential for success. I’ve mentioned there will be a new agorist themed blog on Facebook on a comment by an agorist on a friend’s page ~ should be posting it on there.
Nick "Natasha" Manley /#
Thinking back to the times when I wrote something particularly beautiful without regard for what others thought ~ like my piece on coercive psychology.
Those were the best of times. I can barely emotionally recall when I wasn’t neurotic half of the time. When I was 19, I felt like anything and everything was possible ~ San Francisco was a movie like experience for me. I kid you not. And at only near 22, I’ve felt more spiritually aged than I ever could imagine.
I need to become spiritually 19 again.
Ok ok! I am in. Let’s make the bastards pay already. I’ve already sold my soul to the “devil” of radicalism at the crossroads. There’s no turning back now ~ am a marked man and can’t live any other way.
Roderick T. Long /#
I think your memory of Joyce Kornbluh (who wrote Rebel Voices) is being pulled off course by C. M. Kornbluth (the science fiction writer)?
Marja Erwin /#
Thanks for the correction. It’s more than likely… they are both good authors, though very different ones.
In case you’re wondering, the spine simply says
Kornbluh REBEL VOICES: An IWW Miscellany
and doesn’t include initials.
Marja Erwin /#
An IWW Anthology.
Marja Erwin /#
I mean, there are shadows across the bookshelf that obscured the title.
Roderick T. Long /#
It’s always the Shadows! Even Victor Hugo knew this.