Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes towards an Investigation) – by Louis Althusser
Postscript on the Irrelevance of Religion and Ideology – from ifinsiturcon
On Direct Democracy – from ifinsiturcon
The Outrage Against Words – by Bernard Noël
Surrealism: The Last Snapshot of the European Intelligentsia – by Walter Benjamin. 1929
The Avant-Garde Of Terror – by Joanne Richardson
Dada Manifesto – by Tristan Tzara, 1918
Growing up with George Carlin
F.I.N.E. When the flashing blue and red lights appear in our rear-view mirror, we often say to ourself "I'm finished now!" In the context of a book or essay, we are often quite content with the idea of its conclusion. It is at least appropriate to declare an end to our project, either as reader or writer. When we agree that a project is finished, we might congratulate the author with "It was fine!" Ironically, we might intend with this statement that it was merely adequate, but certainly not exceptional. On the mental ward, however, "Fine" is an answer to the question "How are you", meaning "fucked up, insecure, neurotic & emotional". In this case, we feel (or have been repeatedly told) we have lost possession of our faculties.
Possession and property revisited: In language, its syntax consorts with its semantics or meaning, which as elsewhere suggested, provides the muscle of our cultural context. Linguistic possessive case is illustrative of the conceptual (semantic) difference between possession and property, at least in its etymology if not in our consciousness. In the context of property, the sentence, "this is my car", cannot be reversed. As an attribute of "me", it is only metaphoric, whereas the sentence, "this is my arm" is less an attribute than a substantive: it goes without saying. As a statement of property, "my steering wheel" is meaningful only by extension of ownership of the car. One cannot suggest it is my attribute except in medically rare cases. Statements of attribution are usually hierarchical, which is to say "taxonomic" – the car is neither part nor sort nor stage of it's wheel, although a car and its steering-wheel may be part of the history or process of the wheel as technological invention or production.
A statement of property is always unilinear. "I own this car" is not reversible to "this car owns me". The latter is only meaningful in poetics – it implies that there is something wrong with your relationship with the car, perhaps that it feels like the car seems to control your life in the sense that it has become central to or dictates your functioning. There are many meanings which might be inferred, but none of them refer to 'property rights' unless one's belief system infers consciousness and volition to the vehicle. In some circles, the statement would not even raise the occasional eyebrow, but those circles are increasingly rare or isolated in wings of institutions, buildings or temples to which the general populace has limited visitation. As a statement of possession, on the other hand, the sentence is quite reversible: "my car crashed and I was thrown through the windshield" becomes "the car's driver was ejected through its windshield". "My house, which I occupy" becomes "The house's occupant". This reversal of subject and object is merely a change of perspective, and few in our culture would even think to raise an eyebrow. The point is that possession is a concept of mutuality and reciprocity, not hierarchy, exclusivity or attribution. The institution of property by King Thug and his henchmen was unintentionally accompanied by linguistic confusion: "My house" became "No trespassing!"
Concluding logic "Finish what you started" is the statement of all parents, teachers and bosses. It is a particularly strong edict of mathematicians and logisticians and factory managers. It expresses the desire for a finished product. Even the empiricist and cop demands "proofs" to put an end to discussion – "Just the facts, ma'am". Facts are, of course, absolute and permanent, and therefore indisputable. In this way, they are much like our ideas, products of logical deduction. But if our logic comes to question the very notions of absolutism and permanence, we might just come to view phenomenology and empiricism equally absurd. But I go too far. We must draw a line in the sand and say "Enough's enough!"
If all logical projects must be carried to their conclusion, the conclusion of all philosophical, religious and scientific discourse is unity – the grand unified theory which will produce peace on earth. R.I.P. Conclusion is an appropriate synonym for death. It is the end of all inquiry, the end of everything, the collapse of the universe. We've played our last move, the game is over. "Ah, but you go too far!", I again seem to hear from across the room. "If we don't conclude the anarchist or revolutionary project, we'll be stuck with these miserable conditions forever". Perhaps if we end the game, we can start playing again, and the point of play is not it's conclusion. The revolution has always been with us, and perhaps we should not look to it's conclusion. We all agree that something is terribly wrong. Perhaps we could set aside our differences and rather than await the perfect alternative (or set of alternatives) given by some astute social planner, get our lives rolling again by refusing that which we reject and taking personal responsibility to achieve that which we desire. This requires a certain sense of iconoclasty.
Iconoclastic critique of social planning We've been offered many excellent analyses and critiques of our situation. There is probably no better analysis of capitalism than what is provided by Karl Marx, nor critique of the state than by Josiah Warren (who was trapped in the exchange paradigm) or Renzo Novatore (who wasn't), both usually considered individualists against society, but probably more appropriately seen as iconoclasts with respect to social demands:An impression has gone abroad that I am engaged in forming societies. This is a very great mistake, which I feel bound to correct. Those who have heard or read anything from me on the subject, know that one of the principal points insisted on is, the forming of societies or any other artificial combinations IS the first, greatest, and most fatal mistake ever committed by legislators and by reformers. That all these combinations require the surrender of the natural sovereignty of the INDIVIDUAL over her or his person, time, property and responsibilities, to the government of the combination. That this tends to prostrate the individual-To reduce him to a mere piece of a machine; involving others in responsibility for his acts, and being involved in responsibilities for the acts and sentiments of his associates; he lives & acts, without proper control over his own affairs, without certainty as to the results of his actions, and almost without brains that he dares to use on his own account; and consequently never realizes the great objects for which society is professedly formed. - Josiah Warren
We have seen the disastrous effects of attempts to build a Marxist state and Warren's Equitable Communities. Novatore spawned a new age of reactionary individualism, suggesting an agreement with Freud that society itself is the problem (cf., Civilisation and its Discontents). The best analysis or critique will generate any number of different plans, depending on one's own, individual values, desires, or more commonly, pre-existing, habitual societal values and desires. In Ken Knabb's Joy of Revolution, a book which could be considered a cookbook (like Joy of Cooking), his excellent analysis is followed by a plan almost religiously incorporating direct democracy with responsibilities for complex projects relegated to specialists chosen by some sort of consensus. He predicts a future portraying diversity, but then goes on to portray all other alternatives "absurd" and not well thought out. Like Bookchin, Vaneigam, Syndacalists and almost everyone on the left, he has become a social planner.
All social planners operate under pressure. To convince others that a change in circumstances is needed (and almost no one disagrees with this), they have always been faced with the question "But what are the alternatives?" Rather than perceive that this is an absurd question because it removes the onus of responsibility from the dissenters, suggestions are presented as possibilities derived not from analysis, but from one's own set of emotional attachments. There is also the pressure of competition between different social planners who are doing their best to win over the audience. Again, we are presented with the retort "Yes, but what are the alternatives?" or "What then should be done?" Novatore chose not to answer the question:You are waiting for the revolution? Let it be! My own began a long time ago! When you are ready (god, what an endless wait!) I won't mind going with you for a while. But when you stop, I shall continue on my way toward the great and sublime conquest of the nothing!
Any society that you build will have its limits. And outside the limits of any society, unruly and heroic tramps will wander with their wild and virgin thought--those who cannot live without planning ever new and dreadful outbursts of rebellion! I shall be among them! - Renzo Novatore
Some have suggested "Let nature take its course" but are shut down with "But we'd all die!" One line of thinking from Kropotkin has been almost entirely neglected when he compared events after a revolution to people's almost instinctive behaviour following a natural disaster or the behavior witnessed before the revolutionaries (social planners) have taken charge – spontaneous mutual aid. One cannot plan spontaneity nor impose a sense of community.Very different will be the result if the workers claim the right to well-being! In claiming that right they claim the right to possess the wealth of the community--to take the houses to dwell in, according to the needs of each family; to seize the stores of food and learn the meaning of plenty, after having known famine too well. They proclaim their right to all wealth--fruit of the labour of past and present generations--and learn by its means to enjoy those higher pleasures of art and science too long monopolized by the middle classes.
And while asserting their right to live in comfort, they assert, what is still more important, their right to decide for themselves what this comfort shall be, what must be produced to ensure it, and what discarded as no longer of value.
The "right to well-being" means the possibility of living like human beings, and of bringing up children to be members of a society better than ours, whilst the "right to work" only means the right to be always a wage-slave, a drudge, ruled over and exploited by the middle class of the future. The right to well-being is the Social Revolution, the right to work means nothing but the Treadmill of Commercialism. It is high time for the worker to assert his right to the common inheritance and to enter into possession.
...That we are Utopians is well known. So Utopian are we that we go the length of believing that the Revolution can and ought to assure shelter, food, and clothes to all...If only the Jacobin bayonets do not get in the way; if only the self-styled "scientific" theorists do not thrust themselves in to darken counsel!
Give the people a free hand, and in ten days the food service will be conducted with admirable regularity. Only those who have never seen the people hard at work, only those who have passed their lives buried among documents, can doubt it. Speak of the organizing genius of the "Great Misunderstood," the people, to those who have seen it in Paris in the days of the barricades, or in London during the great dockers strike, when half a million of starving folk had to be fed, and they will tell you how superior it is to the official ineptness of Bumbledom.
...In any case, a system which springs up spontaneously, under stress of immediate need, will be infinitely preferable to anything invented between four walls by hide-bound theorists sitting on any number of committees." - Petr Kropotkin
Kropotkin is one of the few anarchist thinkers who acknowledged an association between human society and biological (ecological) communities. Murray Bookchin followed this line to great effect (at least on a theoretical level) but had to give up notions of anarchy to maintain his emotional attachment to social planning. By all means, don't just wait to see what happens, which is the usual interpretation of "let nature take...", but don't let incapacitating fear of the future, like a fear of the gods, prevent us from finally starting to live. Social meddlement will not become a thing of the past till we stop expecting others to solve our own problems and realise that society is not something to be engineered but, given the opportunity, is a matter of spontaneous generation.
Iconoclastic Anti-meddlementarianism: Imaginative social planners promoting democratic assemblies and councils, (tweaks and adjustments to models from medieval history) criticize those other social planners, the primitivists, for using prehistorical models to build and manage their "new society". Historical example illustrates that even simple and seemingly harmless delegation of responsibility involved in "collective" decision-making fuels increasing specialization and therefore complexity if fragmentation is to be avoided – as if fragmentation is a bad thing. Increased complexity necessarily entails secrecy and democracy dies, superseded by bureaucracy. Perhaps democracy, even direct democracy is not the historical road to egalité we once thought it was? Seeking majority or even total consensus to restrict or modify behavior sets up conditions of the permit. It is the birth of authority and the death of spontaneity. One's pleasure is no longer allowed to inform one's behavior. Beyond the individual, joining in with another because their behavior looks attractive is not enough reason to engage. We require approval from the group. When practice is so divorced from theory, we are no longer responsible for our own behavior. When the group is elevated above the individual, when it is so reified, permanent organization is born and any sense of personal ethics or even desire is tossed into the garbage bin of history.
But there is another kind of consensus which is born of concern or empathy for the other and underlies what has in the last few years been labelled "affinity group". "Consensus ... doesn't seek to impose uniformity, but foster and create alliances which celebrate differences" ( - Regina de Bray). "One trusted comrade is worth a thousand revocable delegates!" (- Wildcat). The basis of democracy is sacrifice. The basis of affinity groups is friendship. The former celebrates unity, the latter respects diversity. Perhaps our social planners should abandon their notions of efficiency and organization (management) in favor of spontaneity and mutuality (autonomy and mutual aid as a consequence of giving rather than the mutual punishment implicit in "reciprocal altruism" or the "work or starve" sentiment of equitable commerce), thereby replacing notions of meddlement with merriment. But then they'd be out of a job! Of course, "planners" and "organizers" and "managers" are themselves only meddlesome oxymorons in the context of egalitarian social relations. Communities are not buildings requiring architects and tradesmen to bring the architect's dream to life, no matter how collectively or consensually decisions are made. The social relation cannot be planned, constructed, coordinated and implemented, nor is it bound up in notions of exchange and cannot be quantified.
Demand the time to think, form meaningful relationships, and enjoy the journey. For any chance at success, we must love each other more than our enemy hates us. To these ends, our inefficiency is our weapon – curious george brigade.
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