File spoon-archives/postanarchism.archive/postanarchism_2004/postanarchism.0410, message 17

Date: Mon, 11 Oct 2004 14:01:58 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: [postanarchism] re: anarchobasics

On Thu, 7 Oct 2004, andrew robinson wrote:
> Shawn P. Wilbur wrote:

> a) if the claim is observational/historical, why is it posited rather
> than demonstrated with reference to sources etc.?

Because i wanted to post something *under* 15K for a change, so perhaps
someone other than you and me could get involved. And because i had no
intention of posting anything other than a summary of "findings." And
because the post was not appearing in a vacuum, so that much of the
source material had been recently referenced anyway. Neither of us has
been exactly providing footnotes up to this point anyway.

> b) to what extent is anarchism - and even more so postanarchism -
> constrained by the "basics"?

Neither are "constrained" in any of the senses that i have been using.
You're making things more complicated than they need to be for the moment.
There are observable similarities between the various things that have
been called "anarchism." I've given a reading of what they are. If you
have an objection to that reading, then perhaps counterevidence would be
in order.

As for the question of my "derrideanism," let me remind you that
deconstruction is not a fixed method, and that Derrida has been quite
clear, in _Spectres..._, about the need to respond in different ways to
different urgencies. The discussion of "two speeds" of response, early in
the volume, is pretty clear, i think. Being a "derridean" means never
having a permission slip for your choices, and always being open to
response. Fine. I'll live with it. There are times to take positions,
build projects, and there are times for pursuing all that haunts them.
We're doing a bit of both here.

> "But the point is really one about freedom from coercion.  If we act
> or associate, then it ought to be voluntarily."
> Which would seem to be impossible, given that you claim that
> unconstrained action is impossible

It should be pretty obvious from my posts that "constraint," as i've been
using it, does not equal coercion.

>  "Can we imagine an *anarchist* association in which the participation
> of the participants was *forced*?"
>  You are assuming the binary voluntary/forced or freedom/coercion to
> be very clear and to leave no remainder...

Actually, i'm not. Even the "basics" here are pretty troubled and complex.
*But* we can talk about them anyway, methinks. In any event, your
objection would apply equally to any opposition. Anti-/state, for example.

> As I've made clear, it is contradictory to impose
> anarchism by means of statist methods.  But as I've also made clear,
> this does not leave repressive tolerance as the only option.  Nor does
> it preclude a right to self-defence against systems of social action
> which threaten one's right to be an anarchist by constructing
> repressive and statist social relations.

You seem to love to argue against positions that nobody has taken - and to
run on ahead as if you knew the line of thinking i'm taking. To tell the
truth, i'm exploring here. I'm following a new path through this material,
and *i* am not sure quite where i'm going with it. For the moment, it's
actually proving useful to fend off your various attempts to stick me
in this "normalist" box or another.

> "One can voluntarily become a nazi. If one associates with others who
> want to be nazis, then that is a mutual and voluntary (but obviously
> not anarchist) association. If you go and put a bunch of people in
> death camps as a result of further association, then your association
> with *them* is not voluntary - and ought without question to be
> opposed on anarchist principles."
> OK then, explain how someone can be a Nazi WITHOUT having the goal of
> putting someone else in death camps, or at least subordinating others
> violently.

The example is provocative, in part because it's confused. I probably
shouldn't have used it, for that reason, but the confusions are pretty
simple, so maybe we can just work through them. 1) "nazi" is an identity,
beyond being just a marker of association. 2) It's an identity whose
essential characteristics we're likely to have pretty strong feelings
about. When i wrote the earlier message, i was really thinking about
neo-nazis that i have interacted with, who seemed mostly to want to belong
to something that made them feel better about themselves - and to feel
better than others. I've always thought there's was a pretty shitty
choice, and have been happy to tell them why.

> What if the bond of connection between fascist A and
> fascist B is not inherent to this relation, but is a result of a unity
> against some racial other, X?

Does the "unity" predate the connection, and the unity-without-connection
cause the association? That seems muddled.

> In this case, is not the coercive intent towards X a conditioning
> factor in creating the association between A and B, in which case, the
> association between A and B cannot properly be called "voluntary"?

Any number of "conditioning factors," such as existing ethnic/racial
theories, "educational" factors, demographic conditions, etc, may
influence the choice of association. We're all carrying our individual
load of freight. But, at some level, that troubling level where "people"
matter, it looks to me like the young racist skins i used to run into on
the back of the buses in Portland still opted to join together with others
of more or less like mind. It's quite possible that association in
"radical" circles is at least as conditioned, though i'm happy to say i
much prefer my own set of constraints (but if this was involuntary i would
anyway, wouldn't i?) Anarchists have consistently opposed coercion, and
spoken of "voluntary association." I'm happy to work within that
tradition, while acknowledging, as other anarchists have, that these are
not simple concepts.

> Your position would seem to require
> that A and B have an inviolable right to come together in order to
> persecute X, and that in no circumstances can anyone else challenge
> this coming-together or the social inside it forms.

My position is that folks can "think bad thoughts." I believe in a freedom
to assemble, even for idiots and bigots. And i think folks have a right to
defend life, limb, and perhaps even some sorts of "property."

> "Is the possibility - or even the likelihood - of coercive acts
> developing from an initially voluntary association sufficient reason
> to *preemptively* demand that associations take certain forms - which
> is to say to demand conformity to certain standards beyond those of
> the voluntary and mutual?"

>  Why are the standards of the voluntary (at the level of the ego)

Andrew, for crying out loud, don't try to impose a particular psychology
on me, certainly not an ego psychology. For the purposes of this
discussion, i think it's sufficient to say that there is something complex
which nonetheless says "I" and takes positions. That something has
sufficient freedom to choose between at least some options, within
contrainsts that may be physical or the result of social conditioning, or
may be actual threats or manifestations of force.

The voluntary is important in anarchist terms because it has been
important right along. It's there in Proudhon, and in Josiah Warren, in
Kropotkin as well as in various forms of right-anarchism. Arguably, it's
also there in Stirner.

Do you think it's *unimportant*?

> and the mutual (which you haven't defined) so important?

Actually, i've defined the mutual as the social extension of the

> This in itself
> presumes certain standards of assessment, especially the latter - who
> is to decide when a relation is sufficiently equitable to be mutual,
> and how annoyed does a worse-off party have to be with the arrangement
> in order for the mutuality to cease? - but also the former - how, for
> instance, can an association be called voluntary, when it is based on
> decisions which restrict the future becoming of selves, and how can it
> be called voluntary in cases where its members in fact breach the very
> rules they agree to?

Nothing could be simpler, at this level of definition. The question of
"restricting the future becoming of selves" isn't really all that
interesting. Nearly any choice closes *some* door - even the choice not to
(actively) choose. So we're left with our fragile sense of the voluntary.
And the rest follows pretty simply. Folks can work things out. *THAT* is
presumably a big part of what we're fighting for - a chance to work things
out with minimal interference from bosses and legal fictions and dubiously
constituted structures of authority. There is simply no need for making
the voluntary into another fixed "master signifier." We can roll with a
certain number of changes and deal with some complexity and confusion.

> "It is certainly my *desire* that everyone with whom i interact treat
> me as i would like to treat them - in the spirit of mutual aid and
> mutual respect. But i'm not sure on what grounds i would "insist" on
> that"

>  And there are also no grounds NOT to.

True enough. But that doesn't change the point.

> The simple point is that, if
> someone does not treat one with respect, and therefore does not
> believe in mutual respect, there is no reason that person should be
> able to claim a right to set up social relations based on the
> disrespect or more precisely, the oppression of others.  Such a person
> has already, through disrespect, perpetuated an oppression which
> necessitates a rebellion on my part, or the part of whoever is not
> respected.

Disrespect is not oppression.

> The only distinctly anarchist point is
> the claim that one should side with the oppressed against the
> oppressors in all such conflicts.

Stirner is spinning in his grave.

Really. Here you are giving yourself a rule that limits future actions,
based in terms that assume a very simple view of power - an oppressed/
oppressor binary.

> And this has to do with extending a
> preference for open rather than closed social space.

>  "To put it another way: should we demand that people always act in
> ways that we consider freeing, and in their own best interests?"

>  "Demand" is too strong a word.  There is a long way between demand
> and repressive tolerance.  Are you really saying that one should never
> try to persuade someone else to do something which would free them?

Nope. I'm not saying that. I've said the voluntary appears to be the key
standard of anarchist practice and that anarchism proper appears as that
is extended into the social realm of the mutual. And that's really pretty
close to what you're saying, i think. In part, as well, i'm trying to work
this out in active and positive terms.

Hell, maybe i'm even trying, even as we speak, to persuade *you* to do
something that might free you, or at least help the process along.

> "I can quibble with the best of them, but, honestly, all the Deleuze
> and Foucault in the world doesn't change the fact that "people" exist
> - if only as fairly stable sites in complex fields of force - and that
> people experience "freedom" or its lack in particular ways. And
> anarchism has historically concerned itself with that sort of freedom,
> though not to the exclusion of other concerns."

>  There are many strands historically within anarchism which also
> discuss freedom in terms of resisting spooks (Stirner), liberating
> ecological entities and animals (primitivism), resisting norms and
> conformity (Situationism), etc.  And this creates something DISTINCT
> in anarchism, since liberalism and socialism equally claim to want to
> "free" "people".

Environmental concern and resistance to ideology are not distinct to
anarchism. Certainly, nonconformism is not distinct to anarchism - or

> The so-called "fact" that "people exist" is not a fact but a
> conceptualisation,

Quibble. Quibble, quibble. Honestly, you can talk yourself out of
anything. But even our micropolitical analyses always seem to be couched
in references to our-selves. I'm talking about "fairly stable sites in
complex fields of force." Do you *really* want to argue that nothing of
the sort exists? Where is your Stirnerism in these moments when "my own
interests" seems like precisely the thing to appeal to?

> and since facts are dependent upon the
> conceptualisations which produce differences between categories, the
> claim that "people exist", which is to say, the claim that the word
> "people" has a meaningful libidino-praxical referent which is
> significant and specific when used in conjunction with the other
> concepts deployed in the specific context of a particular theory,
> cannot be a "fact", not can it be stated as obvious.

Which is to say...

Trust me, when i said "people exist," this particular circumlocution was
not part of the picture...

> Even if anarchism historically has been concerned with liberating
> "people" and with voluntarity and mutuality between such entities
> (which you are far from having shown as exclusively as you would
> like), and if such "people" are taken to be molar selves with (for
> instance) a consistent and dominant ego and superego and a continuity
> of will, this does not necessarily make such a conception useful in
> the current situation, nor does it make it liberating.

OK. One more time. "Fairly stable sites..." "Vast, containing
multitudes..." "The most fragile of things..." "Something which says
'I'..." "A necessary arrogation..." I'm not a freudian, though there is a
'poetics of identity' suggested in his work i sometimes find useful. My
only attachment to Lacan is that i like that diagram in the first seminar
where he suggests that identity is a trick done with mirrors.

If complete deterritorialization is not the goal, then we're stuck with
ourselves as agents, however decentered and troubled in other ways. It is
useful to realize, following Deleuze following Spinoza, that "we don't
know what a body can do" and that, following Deleuze following Artaud but
also Guyau and others, the "organization of the organs" is perhaps not
always a given. Sometimes it is extremely useful to follow this stuff out
on the side of machinic analysis - though it is still "i" that does the
analysis - and sometimes it is it is useful to put the self more directly
into play - moving towards the BwO, for instance, in more viscerally
experimental practices (where deterritorializations and
reterritorializations make short work of less fluid notions of identity,
but where some form of continuity still remains (see Bergson, even
Deleuze's Bergson). There's simply no need, however, to choose one set of
practices over another, or over a more conventional "politics," where we
deal with "people" as we find them. To make such a choice, without regard
for circumstances, seems fundamentalist and silly. It may involve the sort
of "one sided egoism" that Stirner warns about, where we let some portion
of "our concerns" possess us as surely as any "external" "spook."

> if "people" are molar selves and therefore
> have reactive psychological structures and character-armour,

Just a thought: be a little careful using Reich in this context. Although
he provides a bridge between Stirner (an enthusiasm of his youth, before
he became embroiled in other politics) and Deleuze & Guattari (who make
rather selective use of his work), and although there is much,
particularly in the early sex-political work to admire, there is a strong
element of conservatism in Reich. All of us who have worked through Reich
have to figure out what we'll lift from the work (orgone energy, "red
fascism," UFOs, cosmic superimposition, cloudbusting, etc...?). It just
seems worth noting that references to "character-armor" by themselves
aren't terribly helpful. For Reich, character armor exists because orgone
energy exists, and can be trapped, with consequences for physical and
mental health, unless normal circulation is restored. It isn't at all
clear that Reich meant for folks to "dissolve their character," as Voyer
puts it, though that seems in keeping with the "libidinal wing" of

> Now, following from your next answer, suppose that "people" are NOT
> "molar selves" - and the question becomes not one of
> voluntarity/mutuality between such selves, but a question of
> articulations between rhizomes.  The problem becomes one of thinking a
> kind of "voluntarity" which does not rely on a dominant ego or
> superego - and which thus also requires that molarity and reactive
> structures be challenged, rather then being covered up beneath a
> superficial emphasis on voluntarity at the level of the ego alone.

Fine. We agree on the need to think voluntarity outside of "the level of
the ego alone." So have *some* anarchists for over a hundred years now.

> "If, in pursuing it, we need to rethink "the human," we can do that."
> The fly is still stuck in the bottle.  Let it out.

Suppose for a moment that it's *not* stuck in the bottle. Come join the
party. There's dancing - and there has been for a long time...

> "What does "freeing desire" mean, if separated from "people"? ...
> Having learned the skills of schizoanalysis, of seeing the becomings
> that occupy the place where some had imagined an atomistic ego, it
> would be slightly ironic if we opted to "fix" that "insanity" by going
> completely to the side of deterritorialization."
> Pure deterritorialisation is a myth (or a danger, depending which D&G
> text you're reading).  But smooth space, a plane of consistency, is a
> possibility.  Thus, the point is not to "fix" the "insanity" of schizo
> flows, but to create a space where they are not repressively overcoded
> by paranoiac/neurotic repressions and reactive structures.  One could
> maybe call this a right to live in a smooth space, which requires a
> resistance to all striations.

But aren't D&G quite clear in Thousand Plateaus that smooth space by
itself if not liberatory? At times, Deleuze seems to suggest that the
active/reactive difference is only a matter of intensity. Smooth and
striated space only exist in mixture. It's not enough to "smooth," though
smoothing is important in combating various kinds of "fixity." I think the
cautions about "making yourself a BwO" have to do with the fact that D&G
share the sense of other poststructuralists and theorists of "the gift" or
"event" that what we open to may always be "the worst." Recall that the
smooth/striated distinction comes from two kinds of muscles, and the
smooth is also the involuntary. We can't simply side with the involuntary,
though even a good "derridean" knows we have to take account of "what
comes" (whether we will it or not.) In fact, a good derridean might say
that "justice" was what was at stake in this question of the smooth and
the striated, but i still wouldn't say we can "take a side" in any simple

Andrew, you've made much of my "derrideanism" - much of which i've snipped
as not helpful. I assume part of that is an attempt to differentiate my
approach from "deleuzeanism." But the truth is probably closer to this:
having spent a lot of time reading Deleuze, and a lot of time reading
Derrida, and a lot of time reading other poststructuralists, and their
sources, and the contexts for those sources, etc, i'm really working
within an attempt to articulate some rhizomes - "Derrida" and "Deleuze"
among them - with "anarchism" and the experience of being a "postmodern
subject." You may not like the results, but i wish you would quit wilfully
misrepresenting the project.



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