File spoon-archives/postanarchism.archive/postanarchism_2003/postanarchism.0307, message 42

Subject: Re: [postanarchism] Always leaving the party early? Part 3
Date: Tue, 15 Jul 2003 20:09:02 -0400

--- Shawn,

--- I guess you don’t know me but I’m responding to your comments here, in 
large part bouncing off of them a bit unfairly, as a way of maybe venting 
and airing some rather unschooled and also schooled thoughts and issues 
concerning anarchism and this rubric or theme/heading of “post-anarchism”. 
Out of left field. I apologize in advance for what is unfair in it in this 
regard. I have prefaced all of my comments with a triple dash, yours with 
"shawn:". I have the feeling I am speaking out of school and am not 
properly with the program…  Consider my response a large boot pulled up 
while you were fishing for some else, if you like, and feel free to toss it 
back in…In any case,  I’ll bite, in a way. In a dirty and troublesome way, 
though I come at this with at least a certain good will and no particular 
desire to “cause trouble”, if this can even be anticipated here. I can 
plead and confess a certain ignorance, the worst kind: an ignorance dirtied 
by some knowledge but not enough, in a kind of writing that I find doesn’t 
take place enough on lists like this, made worse by some genuine 
understanding. I inculcate from this start a certain untaxed Derridean 
gesture, a voice schooled, at least in some ways, in a certain aesthetic, a 
certain rhythm and tempo, (“a certain…”) play and unleashing of meaning. I 
already mean to involve that gesture in the site of this inquiry of your 
and my response. That is to say, I already want to go at least one step 
along the way of your interesting indications regarding a relevance of 
Derrida for some kind of  “post-structuralism” and “post-anarchy”, a step 
in the form of this voice I assume or in some ways embody, that is at the 
same time an embodiment in a way of a certain “Derridean urgency”, a sense 
of necessity and ethical obligation in an experience of need and 
responsibility that gives one, me, to an activated question of style. Yet 
it is also a step of betrayal or departure, from the aporetic, from the 
anarchic, perhaps from the post-structural as well. Your writing here is 
very able, it appears to me. And yet it occurs within a tone, style and 
form that remains a bit uninfected by Derrida. I wonder about this. I 
wonder what it means to “report on Derrida”, to “let Derrida do the 
thinking”, and merely to chart out a few coments on what “Derrida has to 
offer”, but not to take up a certain kind of thinking in kind. I wonder how 
you will respond to this strange comment. I direct it at you because you do 
not simply report; you report very ably.

shawn: To assess Newman's use of poststructuralism, and his subsequent 
abandonment of it for a Lacanian approach, it's necessary to decide whether 
poststructuralism-particularly as it appears in Derrida's work - does 
indeed show its own limitations, and whether poststructuralism thus 
understood can lead - or lead back - towards Lacan. Along the way we need 
to decide if there is indeed a need for some "place of resistance," 
understood this time in terms of Lacanian "lack" -  or whether, perhaps, 
the aporetic terrain of poststructuralism still holds some un(der)explored 
possibilities for radicals.

--- In thinking anarchy I generally I have questions about the sense of the 
“aporia”, and view this as being a certain way in which negation, via the 
“a-“ comes to dominate. I promote a sense of “enporia”, as the spawning of 
a multiplicity of ways within the “en”, a gesture of iteration, 
repeatability that has both an inside and an outside: an outside from which 
the gesture of the enporiaic may occur, for example, as a partial iteration 
of path or road. I find this basic thing (gesture, operation) better and an 
appropriate “post-anarchist” phase. I do this with the “an-“ of anarchy as 
well, and work in/on what I call “enarchy”. I unleash the “en” all over the 
place: you name it, I consider it: entopia, enconstruction or enstruction, 
envolution, etc. I think this is one of the truly post-anarchist gestures. 
I don’t think we get to post-anarchy without some sense of the “en” 
articulated as such. I wonder why this all has to be some dialogue between 
post-structuralism and Lacan. I tend to take the thinking of/in the “en” 
and things along those lines as being “post-postmodernism” and post- 
anarchic. I take the “postpostal” turn as a turn, indeed, on “postality” a 
*another version of what is essentially a negation*: line ‘em up and at 
least look at ‘em: a-poria, de-construction, post-modernism, etc. The 
negative sense of the postal is that it is forward only by being *after* 
something. Post. So I think in terms of this turning towards in some basic 
way. In terms of a “return to Lacan”,  I find myself shaking my head, and 
frankly, very irritated. Why not frame this question much more broadly in 
terms simply of *any turn to psychological explanation*. Mightn’t one move 
past a post-structuralism simply by giving an account of learning 
development (as in stories one can tell about the development of cognitive 
skills in sites of low income, war, etc.)? That is just one of an *infinite 
range* (that infinity I think turns out to be part of these issues) of 
“structural” explanations (though I’m not terribly sure I’m using it right 
here), and I see no way over such explanations, analyses, *knowledges* 
whatsoever. Rather, to invoke them constitutes an *enstructural* gesture: 
they can be use to empower, provide simply that thy are not totalized: it 
looks a little bit like a “return to Lacan” is a certain move towards a 
totalism. Is that the case with Lacan?

--- Isn’t the move against “Structuralism” (with a capital S and an i-s-m n 
the end) about in particular a move against *totalization*? Why can’t this 
be clarified so we can get to some positive enstructural, enconstructive 
space, since that is what people do anyhow: they go to psychotherapists, 
they make use of psychological theory that is founded in conceptions of 
underlying causes an structures, they work with them and can be empowered 
by them. The idea that such things are “purely constructed” strikes me as 
quite off. They may be in some ways, but the building I occupy right now is 
also constructed: but it is effectively immutable within the next hour, 
month, year. Why is it that I find this way of casting the situation and 
these problematics horribly overdominated by certain actors, like some 
imposing “war of the Gargantuas” (and I do find the idea of reading Lacan a 
gargantuan task, and certainly one that is *never* going to take place on 
any kind of larger scale in some kind of broad-based movement concerning 
liberation, a war, a social ill,  things that “anarchism” has a lot of 
interest in).

--- I mean, as people set out to work, to unfold things, do things, to 
“organize”, politically, say, aren’t they really entering a mode not of 
“anarchy”, but of “enarchy”? Haven’t they passed through a moment of 
critical reflection and reaction, to be sure, against some sense of the 
structural, the archical (presumably, the hierarchical)? Is the “solution” 
to the problem of hierarchy *really* just the negation of all “archy” or 
structure? Isn’t it more in terms of the multiple deployment of various 
archical structures, partial archisms, diverse and multiple forms of power, 
structure, etc.? And isn’t this really more appropriately something like an 
“enarchy”?  Well, that’s obviously what I think.  Yet at the same time, I 
am trying to suggest a couple of things: that these basic moves (such as 
post-anarchy called “enarchy”) kind of aren’t being made, that the praxis 
that takes place under the sign of anarchy tends to be dominated by the 
“anarchical” orientation, which leads to a peculiar tendency towards “non- 
hierarchy” and a bit of “default” archism rather than a better re- 
appropriation of multiplicities of structural and organizational forms can 
be unleashed when on moves conceptually of the horizon of the negation of 
archism (and likewise of the aporaic, etc.)

-- Now, for some reason, as I unfold this post-postmodern situation, this 
more truly “post-anarchy” (in my arrogant opinion), I find there are 
problems as we broach Derrida, for whom I have so much respect in at least 
matters of craft. Yet I find myself deeply mistrusting where he goes, how 
he operates, his “negative theology”, you might say, or general 
method/approach of deconstruction. I’ll try to hit off what these problems 
a little bit.

shawn: The question of poststructuralism as a "dead end" seems, as Derrida 
might say,"to come." What is certain is that - in the time since Todd May 
excluded Derrida from consideration in his book on the grounds that he did 
not have a sufficiently developed political philosophy - Derrida and others 
have provided us with a large literature on the politics of "memory," 
"community," "friendship," "hospitality," the "invitation," and such with 
which anarchists and other radicals have not yet come to terms. I focus on 
Derrida because his most recent writings not only specifically address 
concerns we would easily call "political," but because these writings seem 
to represent a conscious effort to draw together the various paths of 
enquiry from his lengthy career.

shawn: Works such as "On the Name," "Resistances of Psychoanalysis," 
"Politics of Friendship," and "Archive Fever" - to pick a few - seem 
curiously absent from the discussions of poststructuralism and anarchism, 
particularly as postanarchism seeks to ground itself on the Lacanian side 
of some old debates between Lacan and Derrida. Newman passes over pretty 
much all of the old, key questions - the agency and divisibility of the 
letter, the primacy of the phallus, the law of the father, etc - but also 
passes by the entire body of work on life and politics in their aporetic 
forms, forms without exteriority. A "politics of aporia," oriented towards 
"justice" as the experience of the possibility of the impossible, may not 
seem desirable to some, but if *poststructuralism* is our concern, this is 
probably as close to a poststructuralist politics as we have seen - and, 
arguably, it is a form of politics resonant in many ways with the concerns 
of the anarchist tradition.

--- Some basic issues: I like how you point to Derrida, though I wonder if 
you really are handling what the difficulties might be here. A key clue: 
*difficulty*. Derrida’s texts are overwhelmingly difficult for many. This 
is not without a certain element of political expediency, so much so that 
it is no mere aside: it is, I believe, part of what *constitutes the 
political*. We have to wonder *whether most anarchists even can read 
Derrida*. This probably sounds very, very arrogant. I don’t mean to imply 
that *I* can read Derrida very well at all. While I read “in Derrida” and 
come away touched by themes, ways and styles, and so forth, I don’t expect 
that my readings are very good. More than that, however: if we start 
looking in this direction, I think it leads to a certain aporia indeed, but 
hardly the kind that Derrida himself means to lead us into. It is a nowhere 
of an overwhelming, of implications, references, gestures, etc., that are 
so overburdening as to lack any possible efficacy. I think the structure or 
form, the nature or condition of this situation really has to be opened up, 
questioned, considered.

--- How are we to understand “justice” in this sense here: as some 
“experience of the possibility of the impossible”? Is this in fact a decent 
understanding of justice? Perhaps you will not do that, and I apologize if 
I am being presumptuous in wondering if that is what you will do. But I do 
not think justice can or should be summed up in these terms. On the one 
hand, the broaching of the impossible has a very good aspect in its 
question to power, to hierarchy, to determinations and limits, etc. Yet 
ultimately to take this *as justice*, just as Derrida says that 
*deconstruction IS justice* appears to me to go way too far, in a form, 
moreoever, that strangely does not admit of any real question. Once you get 
with Derrida’s program, there is simply *no formulating anything else* in a 
certain way. Of course, one is free to formulate all one wishes. Yes, I 
realize that. But there is something else at work that is truly problematic 
and I believe dominating in this brilliant, powerful philosopher’s work.  
If one works in particular to open the enporaic, this appears to have 
consequences for Derrida’s work, which in a way appears to take a certain 
flight and at the same time have a great deal of stake in keeping a certain 
status quo regarding…what to call it…a certain western positivism and 
failure. Not in the direction of alternativity, but precisely of aporia, 
tacked on but strangely in the position of replicating at the same time 
(reading and inhabiting other texts, and thereby reinstantiating them and 
creating openings only in a negative sense that is somehow beyond the text, 
of all things).

shawn: Derrida has spoken of one of the conditions of being the call to 
respond to two very different sorts of exigency, operating at two very 
different "speeds." On the one hand, we simply cannot be careful enough, 
thorough enough, or defer judgment enough. "There is nothing outside the 
text" in a very material sense -not because "everything becomes text" but 
because the text is already material and has exceedingly porous boundaries. 
On the other hand, we cannot act swiftly enough, with enough urgency and 
respect for all that is already so in need of repair, with enough 
acknowledgment of our own implications in all of that. Two calls - and a 
dilemma from which no calculation can extricate us. Still, we must act and 
calculate, and, at some level, attempt to justify, if only to ourselves, 
our response. With regard to Newman's post anarchism, some of us have 
already asked questions about the care and thoroughness with which the 
anarchist tradition has been engaged. In these last few posts, i've been 
asking the same sort of question with regard to poststructuralism. It seems 
to *me* that poststructuralism as the bridge "from Bakunin to Lacan" is 
rather ill-used, both because some of its defining positions (like that on 
"the agency of the letter") are ignored, and because its project is 
declared closed, or at its limits, without any serious examination of 
that's project's current, developing state.

--- Such care and urgency seems good and I don’t presume to enter into 
those issues as I don’t think I am able; I haven’t read enough Bakunin and 
Lacan, indeed, I barely know what “poststructuralism” is. I am very dubious 
about the possibility of being either one or the other. I have a feeling I 
have a feeling for what it is. I have a feeling a lot of what it is may be 
having a feeling for it. I think there is a level of resonance with the 
“idea” of these things that is very determinative for what people are about 
politically with regards to these things. There may well be a movement 
against this or that structuralism. Yet a simply dismissal, or a 
totalitarian one, would appear to me to be a mistake, or an illusion. But I 
find such an illusion operating in the notion of “anarchy” in a nearly 
preposterous fashion. I love the idea of anarchy, it is one of the 
directions on my compass, a Mount Fuji in the horizons of my world and 
thought, yet I find that as I look at “anarchism” it is populated by people 
who make use of “archism” all the time, from the use of police to organized 
social practices, to the cities or municipalities in which they dwell and 
make use of, to representative politics, to prison systems, etc. All of 
which may be to say, *all too easily* that yes, they (we) must go ahead and 
act and calculate and yet can not and yet mjust, etc. Which I think in the 
end constitutes a *very* status quo approach. I find the “anarchism” of 
many to be rather hypocritical, and in the end, perhaps it must be by this 
same kind of logic and, one might say, “existential intensification and 
authentication without changing anything”. I think the solution that has to 
happen can not be founded under the sign or within the general 
conceptuality of the *sheer negation of archism*, aporias of action and the 
madness of the moment of decision; hence the sense of “enarchism” I prefer. 
I am not articulating it well. I am tired and hungry and so I am not able 
to write it out very well right now.

--- I read a summarization of “structuralism” on the internet: it says that 
that has to do with the idea that “underlying forces and structures 
determine who we are”, and that post-structuralism rebels against this. I 
find the play of how these terms are set up and laid out, frankly, quite 
hideous. We have all sorts of natural conditions with which we are involved 
in complex dialogue: we by turns “make our choices freely” and at the same 
time are variously determined by situations of complex and variable 
mutabilities, from the development of skills, to linguistic limitations and 
possibilities, to situations of talent, to situations of formation, 
experience, development, psychology, etc. The only kin of “structuralism” I 
can accept is *neither* structuralism is “total determinationism” nor some 
“post-structuralism” that is “all deconstruction of that”. I don’t think 
the terms being sold, and indeed, *capitalized upon in order to create a 
scene of production* (I think this is part of what is going on, in addition 
to some authentic battle). I can only appreciate a condition of 
enstructuralism, where the “en” denotes a *post-postal* phase of having 
passed through or *already being over or not prone to* a structuralism, an 
anti-structuralism, and a certain freedom of play, a certain space of non- 
dominance laid open by the struggle, of the en,  in a certain non-totalized 

--- Yet the movement against these things,  against “archaism” and against 
structuralism is *due to something*: it is due to a perception of harm and 
violence. I find in general that a turn that is basically post-anarchic is 
one that grasps that the militation against, the negation, etc. is *due to 
harm or violence*. Now, we know that there is this unfolding of a certain 
negative force, power and operation in Derrida, in deconstruction, for 
example, and we see that it operates according to a certain late-to-emerge- 
as-such *justice*. The ethical writings came later, the battle came first, 
right? Yet at the same time, ultimately I think an opening of justice as 
nonviolence is “yet to come” as regards Derrida. Yet this matter, 
situation, call, necessity, truth, element, etc. grounds and permeates the 
political dimension of anarchism in various ways. To be sure, some, many 
and perhaps even all anarchisms propound a certain *affirmation of 
violence*. Derrida certainly goes to bat for violence, and forumates the 
explict question of nonviolence mainly in a militation against totalized 
nonviolence, in a gesture I think is pretty poor, or even more to the 
point, fundamentally failing to grasp what is involved: for in his 
militation, he operates out of a nonviolence. It is in this sense, and not 
the sense of the possibility of the impossible, that conditions 
deconstruction “as justice”, which in the end it never is. Deconstruction 
remains a *neutral operation* and in that sense bounded in a western 
metaphysic that is full of neutral operations and a forgetting of 
nonviolence…and in war. For the warring between the two occurs in this 
dispute in which violence and harm are factors, but this is supposed to 
take a certain back seat. It is to mention this that is to “write like a 
woman”, well beyond any political strategics. And it is to become this 
“woman” of nonviolence (as explicit, thematic, substantive) that is to 
disrupt the protocols of structuralism *and* anarchism. To move into a 
“post anarchism” that has given the *postal moment* to thought, perhaps 
according to what one might call a Heideggerian gesture: that the “in order 
to”, the “for the sake of which”, a certain because *of the move beyond*, 
of the negation, of a “getting past”, is given to thought and allowed to 
reveal itself out of concealedness: nonviolence. This nonviolence, it 
should be noted, is a BIG player on the political side of anarchism. While 
there is a mild violence aspect to political actions regarding things like 
the IMF and anti-war protests, which is where virtually all anarchists were 
located ideologically (can a true anarchism have an ideology?), the 
actional modes were essential in the direction of nonviolent civil 
disobedience as tatic, albeit in an affirmation of a diversity of tactics. 
Yet, at the same time, for those who see it at least the way I am seeing it 
here, there is a terrible limping of action in that it remains ensconced in 
a philosophical accomplishment that is too deeply within the contours of 
the traditional western figure and polemos: one of neutral or free 
accumulation, tracing into the very structure of metaphysical concepts 
themselves, and of a rebellion that plays by the same rules, only in the 
direction of negation (archeanarche), without the dark-skinned, other- 
worldly figure of nonviolence being able to articulate and develop itself 
with the same kind of rich development we witness for things like 
anarchism, deconstruction, textual readings, psychoanalysis, etc.

--- A certain Gandhian gesture inhabits this perhaps unbidden intrusion, if 
I anticipate accurately: unbidden in that my reaction, taken in a decent 
substantive reading, which is asking a lot since parts of it are so poor 
and dirty, is one that really falls outside of the usual terms of 
discussion. Perhaps I simply anticipate too much, or more accurately, I 
reveal my own experience in the anticipation; I brace myself, yet, at the 
same time, I come in and I spin a certain dirty thread, home-spun, I spin 
without “paying taxes on it”, in a way, in a thought into which I invite 
you, in a certain “spirit of Derrida”, a thinking that is, in any case, 
beyond the level of “report on how it is” involved in what you say. I mean 
to question this level, as I mean to imply that what I substantively try to 
accomplish, however sketchy and poor it is here, requires that you make at 
least that leap: into a mode of thought as ownmost and irreducible as 
Derrida’s in his writing. You speak of it in your own assesment, so 
responsibly, so ably:

…..On the one hand, we simply cannot be careful enough, thorough enough, or 
defer judgment enough. "There is nothing outside the text" in a very 
material sense -not because "everything becomes text" but because the text 
is already material and has exceedingly porous boundaries. On the other 
hand, we cannot act swiftly enough, with enough urgency and respect for all 
that is already so in need of repair, with enough acknowledgment of our own 
implications in all of that. Two calls - and a dilemma from which no 
calculation can extricate us. Still, we must act and calculate, and, at 
some level, attempt to justify, if only to ourselves, our response…...

--- Do you yourself accomplish this in your own writing? I don’t mean to be 
presumtuous here! Perhaps you do, but on the other hand, I think I am on to 
something when I say that your *reporting on* (which is largely the mode 
you are involved in in this particular piece of writing) *points to* a 
certain “spirit of responsibility” in the issue of the two speeds. You 
yourself invoke this “activist spirit of Derrida”, precisely for its 
relevance in to the horizons of action within which you situate the writing 
of Derrida and general themes and problematics of anarchism and its choice 
authors.  Derrida remains magnificently exemplary of a certain *activism in 
thought* in a certain way, both in the explicit articulation you invoke and 
rightly align with an urgency of anarchism and in how he himself 
instantiates that derridesideratum… This is not to say, at all, that there 
aren’t plenty of authors who enact things in their writing. On the other 
hand, I don’t think I am too far off when I suggest that writings, theory, 
etc., tends to be more in the mode of “reportings on” (so and so says, my 
argument is that so and so else’s rejoinder has this problem and that so 
and so’s project would be aided by). There is a certain activation, a 
*standing in thought*, in a richer sense of thinking that takes place in a 
Derrida not only of *themes* but of *gestures*, of perspicuity, of 
technique, strategy, etc., that it is somehow needful to replicate. Maybe I 
am wrong about this. I will grant the point  (to myself) for the moment 
however, if only to be clear that I do not mean to isolate and over 
monumentalize Derrida as the only exemplar of such thought. But I think I 
am indentifying something crucial here and it has to do with why you 
mentioned it and why Derrida said it and *why the texts of relevance you 
are pointing to are getting passed over*.  And at the same time I must say 
that for me to think in a thinking inspired by Derrida means also to call 
into question some issues and themes of Derrida, in particular, that there 
may be more that is urgent that the “two calls” you mention, or, to grasp 
them as calls, it means to unfold problematics that are lying outside of 
those explicitly contained in the way you have formulated the problem and 
question, in the direction of some very broad problematics that it seems to 
me are simply *never* getting articulated.

--- This strikes me as very strange and problematic. What about you? I am 
saying that there is a certain *reference to authors* (Bakunin says this, 
Foucalt says that) that is *so* operative in spaces like this that it is 
symptomatic of a fundament problem, in a situation of massive textual 
reference, difficulty, etc., that is so great that it constitutes a 
fundamental problem in it self. Why has this never been entered into the 
mix? What kind of ethic is it that “refers to Kant” without ever taking up 
what it means for his writing to be terribly difficult. This was not your 
question. I’m not putting it well but I’m seeing this that there is a 
problem of a lack of activation of thought, perhaps a certain learned 
helplessness or dependency on the Author with a capital A, perhaps a 
situation of a certain capitalism on the part of the authors in question, 
within a vast and increasing world of texts built upon other texts, demands 
for reading, etc. I see this certain way of relating to authors as 
something that has to be called into question here. Now. In this urgency 
that fills every second of my mind as I write, in response to the calls you 
mention, in favor of the directions I mention here: something post-postal, 
a sense of enarchy, a radical departure into a sense of nonviolence whose 
“to come” already came in, for example, Gandhi, and whose “to come” 
therefore reveals a certain strange contratemporality of the thought of, 
say, Derrida, who does not treat of Gandhi or nonviolence. Neither did 
Heidegger. And neither does most “anarchist” thought, which reveals a 
major, fundamental problem.

--- I have a certain motto or axiom: *no post-anarchy without nonviolence*. 
I mean both that post-anarchy is not possible without nonviolence and that 
it must be called for and can not be found in the structural, schematic or 
historical possibilities intrinsic to any “getting beyond” anarcy (into a 
potal phase). I think that this double condition *is postanarchy*, yet for 
me it is the only postanarchy I will endorse (as per the motto…) This has 
something to do with the structure or nature of nonviolence, in part. It 
has to do with how, for example, when a political action is “nonviolence” 
it is in the form not of a “natural occurrence”; its nature is a certain 
choice, but it is no *simple choice*, and no choice, I believe, really is 
very simple, is without its history and context. The problematics of such 
contexts of choice and action range far beyond the authenticating issues of 
a deconstruction that can work assiduously to free choice and action from 
attempts at the insulation of calculation, and certain entails a critique 
of any effort to reduce the conditions of choice to this problematic only. 
This, I believe, may have something to say to the more substantive themes 
you mention Derrida engages and that have relevance for a “post-anarchy”.

--- Well I couldn’t make this short and I apologize.

--- Tom Blancato ---

shawn: I'll leave this set of questions and criticisms there, except to 
suggest that if Newman's approach in _From Bakunin to Lacan_ is 
"postanarchist," then that term means something other than anarchist- 
poststructuralist - and may even mean something like post-anarchist-post- 

shawn: I'm curious what others think about these issues.

Using M2, Opera's revolutionary e-mail client:


Driftline Main Page


Display software: ArchTracker © Malgosia Askanas, 2000-2005