"Under the regime of the norm, nothing is normal and everything must be normalized" – Tiqqun

    "Centralized Organization?"
  1. Self-reproduction of a monopoly on error crouching above a buried mosaic of motive.
  2. A regenerative cycle, or system in runaway, within the bounds of which the multiplying external disproofs of claims are assessed internally as negative validation for the said claims' already established 'truth'.
  3. A statistical reduction, on the basis of keeping all their eggs in one basket, of the chances of a correct analysis.
  4. A hidebound refusal of the greater formal effectiveness of spontaneous improvisings upon events occurring on an as and when basis.
  5. The institituted forgetting that position exists in advance of plan.
    - frere dupont

From an anthropological perspective, a cultural institution is nothing but a set of social behaviors reproduced over time, and abstracted from their cultural context by curious onlookers questioning their "purpose" or "function". The driving "mechanism", at least from a Boasian point of view, is habit, custom and tradition, not planning, organizing and implementing. In fact, rational decision-making on a cultural level need not even be invoked. With tradition, circumstances alone should be sufficient to provoke a spontaneous response. Institutions need not be hierarchical nor authoritative. This habitual behavior is something we see ourselves on a daily basis, but are uncomfortable when it is pointed out because our culture is oriented around traditions of rational social engineering relegated to so-called experts – politicians or their so-called revolutionary counterparts. We live in a culture with oppressive institutions which everyone agrees need fixed (or abolished), but few would take on the responsibility to change their own behavior – it's much easier to leave it up to the group. For a culture of anarchy (or 'freedom', if that is your bent), I would think democracy (demi- 'half, partial, division' + -ocracy 'rule')[1] would be seen itself as an oxymoron. This does not rule out consensus. Consensus need only imply simple agreement, but that is a personal, not a social decision and therefore need not manifest itself as "groupthink". Personal, consensual relations (often referred to as "voluntary association") do, however, have important social implications. Democracy, on the other hand, produces a synergistic authority – what is decided by the group is also mandated by the group: a model, a golden statue of the golden mean symbolizing normality.

Democracy answers the question "What is normal" and as such is truly the greatest form of social control – we stop thinking as individuals in favor of the statistical probability of group-think. Democracy keeps up with the Joneses. Dissenters can't understand the so-called "sheepish" nature of the "masses" in their compliance, their refusal to refuse: we cannot proceed until everyone is of like mind. When we seek approval, we are actually asking for permission; after all, we wouldn't want to appear "abnormal". "Quit shit-stirring and go with the flow, man! Can't you see the logic of our proposition?" The mere possibility of revolution is denied, for contrary individual action is forbidden, not by the so-called powers-that-be, but by the individual her/himself. When an authentic individual thought resides in some foreign land (is perceived by others as "radical"), the individual becomes an outsider.

Democracy is always a system of control, a regime whose very organizing principles establish conformity, and it is this conformity which defines normality, and in fact declares the metaphysics of reality itself. "Normal" and "natural" are one and the same. If not persuaded by soothsayers, naysayers will always be banished if they do not split off of their own accord. Under any democratic regime, the regime of the norm, whether it be representative or consensual, an outside and an inside is established, with the former always subsumed under some such categorization as "enemy". Democratically formed collectives seek autonomy, but they will always be (literally or metaphorically) at war with any other collective whose paths they cross unless they can form utilitarian alliances for specific purposes. If they find generalized agreement, an extra-local democratic kingdom-like state (the federation) is given birth, but civil war is always waiting on the horizon.

Imaginative social planners promoting democratic assemblies and councils (tweaks and adjustments to models from history) as foundation blocks for a new society, criticize those other social planners, the primitivists, for using prehistorical models to build and manage their "new society". The latter remind us, and historical example illustrates that even simple and seemingly harmless delegation of responsibility involved in "collective" decision-making has often fueled increasing specialization and therefore complexity when efficiency is desired and fragmentation is to be avoided – as if fragmentation is a bad thing. The conundrum for direct democracy on a grand scale is that increased complexity necessarily entails secrecy and even 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 (idea, etc.) looks attractive is not enough reason to engage. We require approval from the group. When practice is so divorced from theory, action from desire or even interest, 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 or is set on hold, awaiting the decision of the collective tribunal.

Many democratically run collectives demonstrate their lack of leaders and proclaim anarchy: after all, all their decisions are made collectively. They proclaim synergy, that the whole is more powerful than any individual part or member. It is a machine. The individual is nominally valued in case some spark of creativity survives which might be of value to the group. If not, creativity is instantly renamed and re-defined in the same language inherited from "abnormal psychology". Humanist groups will try to rehabilitate the offender – to help somebody return to normal life, a creature of habit, worthy of cohabitation. For the most part, democracy attempts to establish the death of the individual, even as it proclaims tolerance or even respect for the autonomy of other individual collectives. The "live and let live" attitude only refers to relations between allied groups and between 'normal' members – the rank-and-file. We must be on the same page to make sense, as if the individual is the same as the written word in a book – a single word is nothing, a misplaced word is easily given a blind eye with no damage to our comprehension of the total "work", but for later editions, scratched out and replaced. This attitude depends on the civilized notions of truth, (that there must only be one answer to any question), conformity to truth, coherence and efficient precision (that agreement must be based on utility) and that groups, which is to say, affiliations center around "projects" – we've never left the mind-set of production and the social relation remains the social relation of production.

The beauty of Hegelian, and phenomenological thinking in general – taking the figurative metaphor (that is to say, "symbol") as the literal thing – is found in its reifi­cation or sacralization of the leftist (or any other) project and giving birth to self-fulfilling prophecy The whole is more important than any of the attributes which give it the appearance of life, and hierarchy is reborn beyond anyone's awareness, and then beyond their control. The subtlety of it is beautiful, but the essence of the matter is that hierarchy never left in the first place. We come to demand that anarchy and direct democracy are synonymous, and that the structure of anarchy is a well regulated, scrupulously managed machine. We must be ever on guard, vigilantly concerned that it not cease to function. We must concern ourselves with projects, to make an impact: "Anarchy is not chaos, anarchy demands order, we must protect our freedom!" The whole becomes a runaway machine precisely because of overspecialization and complexity of its constituent parts – those living individuals who think they have achieved freedom. The abolition of masters has produced an autocracy of self-control – for the project of world peace and jus­tice, one must not make waves, everyday life is p.c..

One might come to the conclusion that I am against this idea of synergy, that synergy is an enemy or even that it is not real. I think this would be the wrong conclusion. What I do insist is that synergy is a result of our actions and thinking, our modes of relating we bring into our situations and is nothing but the set of all unforeseen implications – we give it a name (like "capital". "leviathon", "law", "democracy") and then set about to worship or fear it. To ignore it or to set it aside as a separate entity operating by its own rules proclaims predestiny or helplessness and particularly, either irresponsibility or devotion to the rule of law. Even illusion is real in its consequences.

But synergy does not have to become godly; its outcomes depend on what we, as individuals bring into it. Synergy is deified when we choose to win life rather than live it. I am thinking of the gifting kind of relationships seen in the game of basketball of the 1960's and '70's (and which has been in decline since the mid to late 80's). Whether a winning or losing result, the most applauded teams actually demonstrated teamwork (sharing) combined with an individual openness to (or awareness of the possibility of) infinite possibilities. This is to say, spontaneous actions in relation to ones comrades and opponents go beyond the game-plan or "play", an admission that the future cannot be accurately forecast and responses to circumstances planned in advance and religiously carried out. This bending and breaking of "rules" was not only more pleasurable to witness, but also in which to participate. Novelty is seen each time the ball is brought down the court – there is no place for zombies and boredom. An openness to being presents a critical awareness of all that is going on around us such that our responses are seen as spontaneous adjustments to our changing circumstances, not adjustments to the elected or dictated norm. Our experience might provide algorithms, but these are not rules which must be planned, coordinated, dictated and obeyed. This sort of display, in fact, led the Portland team to the world championship, outplaying teams with more individual talent but little teamwork (cooperation) – highly competitive but ultimately boring displays of individualist showboating we see in the spectacle the game presents us today – as well as teams which demonstrated "teamwork" (rigid and regimented followers of rules) but no individual spontaneity or creativity (abandonment of the gameplan when the need arises).

Because the individualist position goes against the grain of the collectively inclined, it is considered anti-social. Among outspoken individualist anarchists, nothing could be further from the truth, else we would not even hear from them. Instead we would only hear proponents of hermitage, seclusion, isolation. Perhaps we would not even hear that, but rather rumors of isolated wildmen, feral hermits living in caves on the outside of our civilization, perhaps shunning all contact – tales of sasquatch. Perhaps we would send missionary explorers to seek them out, determine their humanity, and if that is decided upon, bring them back into the fold. Perhaps we would have to kill them if we found they were sitting on some resource we could utilize more efficiently or which would ensure our collective survival if we felt it threatened. Ends always justify, especially when we have reached consensus.

Consensus has come to mean democracy par excellence. But there is another kind of consensual agreement which is born of concern or empathy for the other and underlies what has in the last few years been labeled "affinity group". This 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 self-sacrifice, "compromise". The basis of affinity group is friendship – displays of mutual trust. The former celebrates unity, the latter not only respects, but demands diversity. Diversity removes the sense of banality from communication, and the goal of communication is not necessarily agreement. As Alan Watts said, "Unless you disagree with me, how will I know what I am thinking?"

The goal of the affinity group is community, which is an expression of friendship or kin-ship. It is truly a mutual social relation, not a permanent organization of like-minded opinion. Among the civilized, sharing is only seen within families or among friends. Mutuality is isolated and impounded. That is why potential friendships must be surveilled (or even prevented) and child-rearing institutionalized. The search for truth demands only one answer to any question. Childhood is thus seen as a disease of ignorance which must be overcome, cured – we must, out of love, protect them from suffering unwanted consequences which only we best know how to avoid. Friendship is antithetical to the true spirit of competition which, we hear shouted from the balconies, "produces excellence". To allow conditions of 'childlike' spontaneity or subversive friendship would threaten any democratic arrangement proclaiming equality. Democratic liberty is the freedom from individual responsibility for the consequences of our behavior. Thus, to live and let live is a criminal offense when the paramount goal of the civilized is production, efficiency and organization – even when that organization is called "The Revolution". A brief look at Ambrose Bierce' Devil's Dictionary illustrates that this is also the definition of "CORPORATION, n. An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility".

Perhaps our social planners could question their notions of efficiency and organization (management) and reformulate them in terms of a spontaneity and mutual aid as a consequence of giving rather than the mutual punishment implicit in "reciprocal altruism" as envisioned by avant-garde social psychologists. But then they'd be out of a job and so would be the entire tit-for-tat economic order! Of course, "planners" and "organizers", "administrators" and "managers" are themselves only meddlesome oxymorons in the context of egalitarian social relations. There are no specifically anarchist strategies of collective decision-making. This does not mean anarchists do not make decisions and come to agreement. A decision must ultimately be personal and made in the context of the satisfaction of desire or, more pertinantly, the actualisation of interest. Otherwise it is an edict. "Arming desire" only replaces meddlement with merriment.

There has recently been some discussion among academic sociologists about swarm behavior which, even on a large scale, seems to achieve a beautiful order out of chaos, a networking with no central planning, group decision-making, nor any other organizing principle beyond the individual going along with the 'comrades' next to her/him. This is seen among schools of fish, flights of geese, buzzing bees and swarms of activists such as was seen in Seattle '99, something the democractist, David Graeber ironically described as the most advanced organizing principle the police had ever had to confront. Spontaneity is a requirement. Planning and democratic consensus is obviously cumbersome and dangerous as insurrectionary strategy, beyond establishing familiarity with routes of potential escape or dispersal (or in fact, sources of nourishment or replenishment) in one's own territory or trust in the territorial intimacy of one's neighbor displayed by the newcomer. This is in fact, also a requirement in any community.

The issue here is whether social institutions, like communities can be planned, coordinated and implemented – constructions requiring architects and tradesmen to bring the architect's dream to life. I would say that, unlike the chain gang, the social relation cannot be planned, constructed, coordinated and implemented no matter how collectively or democratically decisions are made. This is social engineering, not cultural tradition based on affinity or consanguinity – desire, engagement, connection and reproduction.

The radical dissenter might be mindful that the most out-of-control fires are those created from small, spontaneously forming wildfires. If you have a mass of institutionihilating napalm, use it, but don't discount the value of a single spark from individual refusal, the subversive power of camaraderie, or the destructive force of the gift. When ridiculing simple-mindedness, don't forget that compliance shares the same root as employment and complexity[2], and in social relations, increasing complexity generates at least miscommunication, at most bureaucracy, and certainly the end of what most consider beneficent democracy.

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.

 


Notes:

[1]:  The more common etymology (adapted from www.etymonline) suggests demos 'common people', but this itself formerly referred to district 'administrative division, area of jurisdiction (market, industrial park, ghetto?)' :
democracy:   1574, from M.Fr. democratie, from M.L. democratia (13c.), from Gk. demokratia, from demos 'common people', originally 'district' (see demotic), + kratos 'rule, strength, power' (see -cracy).
demotic:   1822, from Gk. demotikos 'of or for the common people', from demos 'common people, the people'; originally 'district', from PIE *da-mo- 'division', from base *da- 'to divide'.
also
demi-:   early 15c., from O.Fr. demi 'half', from L.L. dimedius, from L. dimidius, from dis- 'apart' + medius 'middle'.
-(o)cracy:   from M.L. -cratia, from Gk. -kratia 'power, rule', from kratos 'strength', from PIE *kratus 'power, strength'

The etymology of the sometimes platonic, often gnostic concept of demiurge, a synonym of proletariat, is also illuminating:

demiurge:   1678, from Latinized form of Gk. demiourgos, lit. 'public or skilled worker' (from demos 'common people' + ergos 'work'). The title of a magistrate in some Gk. city-states and the Achζan League; taken in Platonic philosophy as a name for the maker of the world. In the Gnostic system, "conceived as a being subordinate to the Supreme Being, and sometimes as the author of evil" [OED].

In any sense, the very word "democracy" acknolewdges and contains within itself the division of society, is literally equivalent to "Dictatorship of the Proletariat" and it is this which is as well deconstructed above to "Regime of the Norm".

[2]:  cf PIE *plek- "to plait, twist"; Gk. plekein "to plait"; L. plectere "to plait, braid, intertwine", O.Fr. ploi "to bend, to fold". See 'plot', 'ploy', 'ply'.

 


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