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In Defense of Anarchism: Conclusion

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Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

There you go, the entire lyrics to John Lennon’s classic (except for the third stanza, a refrain). So simple in concept, so powerful in execution. Interestingly, Lennon’s message reverberated with far greater resonance among his contemporaries than it does today. Apart from the Vietnam fiasco and the age-old gripe against the Establishment, the two-prong thrust by the then-radical left, an ideology which has virtually defined, if not driven, Lennon’s political agenda and put the idea of counterculture on the map, America was still the land of opportunity, or so everyone thought, and there were no signs in the offing it would ever cease. The cultural revolution of the sixties was a unique byproduct of the American brand of idealism, fueled by higher than average education and upper middle class upbringing and comfort. The hippies, the flower children of the Haight-Ashbury, the free speech revolutionaries from Columbia to Berkeley, the faculties of major American universities, all shared in the same socioeconomic background and characteristics; all were children of privilege. Why not today, one may ask, when times are tough, the American middle class as good as nonexistent, and the American dream, the emblem of the New World and the beacon, all but shattered? Why not today when governments the world over and the respective nation-states, their proper charge, are under relentless pressure both from without and within: nearly-global economic crisis and embarrassing disclosures of their duplicitous dealings and machinations?

For starters, let’s just say the relationship between prosperity (or the lack thereof) and apathy, especially in the context of the American experience, is complex. We’ve seen that with the right conditions in place, some of us are given to the idealistic impulse. What’s perturbing is the complacency of our rapidly disappearing middle class. Instead of becoming enraged, it plays the patsy, the role of the working stiff: the harder the times, the more intent it seems on begging for scraps, a mere pittance, ever ready to sell its soul to the company store. But this, I contend, is the result of a false sense of confidence and a false sense of values. The American fat cat has been spoiled rotten; so spoiled in fact, the only thing he’s capable of is to dream of past glories and of recapturing the glorious past. There’s not an iota of sympathy in him, no sense of solidarity, no empathy or compassion, only a sense of the overinflated self. Even America’s poor, surely an oxymoron when you think of it, are all infected with the same sense of hollow values, always envious of their betters, always wishing to be like them. Whether the welfare state is to blame or the natural erosion of human dignity due to overexposure to toxic capitalism, American style (sugarcoated, to be sure), by the attendant set of lofty ideals espousing liberty and individual self-determination, the pride of liberal democracies, it’s the modern-day lumpenproletariat, to use Marx’s apt phrase, and hardly the stuff from which revolutions are made. The truly suffering people of Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen put us to bloody shame.

So don’t count on America’s disenfranchised masses to further the cause of the revolution aiming at overthrowing the increasingly burdensome and dysfunctional institution known as “the state” and bringing us closer to John Lennon’s dream of a stateless society, if not the world at large! The American fat cat may have to undergo an extreme starvation diet, coupled with massive deprivation, both physical and psychological, before the reality finally sinks in and hopefully reignites it with a spark of revolutionary consciousness.

About Roger Nowosielski

  • roger nowosielski

    Interesting progression, from a tribal, nomadic lifestyle and mode of organization to one which is sedentary (corresponding perhaps to a transition from a hunting-gathering to an agriculture-based economy).

    The Teutonic Knights offer an interesting, intermediary type of example in being the secular arm of the Holy Roman Empire which, just like any empire, was bend on conquest. Without some such tangible expression and manifestation of power, the authority of the Church, though rarely questioned throughout the Christendom, was (shall we say?) ephemeral and dependent on papal diplomacy which consisted of being able to play one kingdom against another in order to exercise its will. Those kingdoms/powers weren’t states qua states just yet because they couldn’t claim sovereignty, the essential ingredient, which was still firmly anchored in the Church. Which is why I’m inclined to reserve the status of full-fledged statehood for a through-and-through secular institution having a sovereign sway over a well-defined territorial domain and the populace therein. And on this operational definition, such sovereignty wasn’t possible while the Church still held valid claims to it. Only with the waning of the authority and the influence of the Church the State came into being.

    Same with “government.” The term had come to be so closely associated with statehood that when we think of government, we think of a legal arm of the State (not just of “management” or an administrative system).

    So I suppose we have two kinds of analysis, historical (which is what Shenon was looking for) and linguistic. I contend that State is a very sophisticated concept and the mere fact that a number of historical forms may bear certain resemblance to what we today understand by “the state” doesn’t make them so. In short, the birth of the state had to await its conception (which isn’t to say there wasn’t a progression of sorts which paved the way for the eventual formation of a full-blown concept).

  • roger nowosielski

    Your thoughts?

  • Anarcissie

    Wikipedia has a reasonable take on the etymology of the word state and its conceptual development. The concept seems mainly to have been developed in the modern era (that is, after 1400). However, this does not mean states had not existed for a long time previous to that time; for instance, we speak of the city-states of the ancient world. These indeed had governments and other permanent institutions and a structure of social relations ordered by laws. It seems to me the main new development in the modern era, beginning I guess in the 16th or 17th century, was the idea of the total state; before then I take it ruling classes were not very concerned with the details of the lives of those they ruled unless they impinged directly on their interests. At a certain point, however, totalitarian claims on the people begin to occur. Take public schools: the idea of setting up a universal system of compulsory education paid for out of taxes, to which every single child is subject, would have astonished people only a few centuries ago, but now they are an assumption and a lack of them deemed barbarity.

  • roger nowosielski

    Beyond etymology (since I’m in the business of re-writing and when need be, perfecting the dictionaries).

    The popularity of the term “city-state,” patterned after the polis, derives no doubt from contrast with “nation-states,” and it’s a useful comparison in that both share important characteristics: a measure of autonomy, self-governance, a set of laws, a measure of territorial and ethnic/cultural integrity – generally speaking, a level of sophistication we moderns can appreciate and relate to. And yet … the Greek cities, except for Athens perhaps, and Sparta, weren’t stable enough as “stand-alones” unless they entered coalitions. In fact, it wasn’t until the Delian League under the Athenian leadership was formed that the Persian invader has been turned away and we can speak of the Athenian Empire. So “permanency” is one of the characteristics (“satellite states” is an extended and derivative meaning).

    Rome presents a different case. I suppose we can speak of “the Roman State,” but the Roman Empire is the most prevalent usage. It might be fruitful to inquire why. My gut feeling is that except for the city of Rome, the seat of the government, and the immediate provinces, the integrations of the rest (of what came to comprise the Roman Empire) took the form of colonization. (Augustus was a visionary and his program of taxation and civil service approximates the kind of outreach modern states are known for, while Alexander the Great aimed even higher.) So “integration appears to be another characteristic. Which is why I suspect that nation-states represent the paradigm of statehood – ethnic and cultural bond – whereas the EU, to cite one example, a form of departure. And yet, both the Athenian and the Roman Empires were endowed with their respective “governments,” most notably so during the Octavian rule.

    You speak of re-emergence of the statehood form in Europe after 1400, and full blossoming in the 16th or 17th century. I would place it with the times of Thomas Hobbes (not Machiavelli, the Italian city-states being but a replica of the Greek ones).

    Another thing of note: neither the ancient Greece nor Rome faced the Church as the sovereign and the source of (ultimate?) authority. Hence my argument that only with breaking from the Church that the institution of the State comes of age and becomes sophisticated and mature. Prior to then, we had only types.

    Speaking of sophistication, you’re touching on Foucauldian themes. The totalitarian outreach of modern nation-states in terms of establishing systems of uniform education, health/sex practices, criminal justice, imprisonment – all are means of social control. By the same token, they’re also the “desirable” objectives of liberal democracies.

    A double whammy!

  • roger nowosielski

    OK, Shenon, let’s deal with your first objection,

    You say, “… it seems governments are not some kind of sheet that is thrown over “We The People.” They are not bestowed unless it is a feudal monarchy. Rather, We The People create our government. There is no such entity called Government that swoops down from the sky and announces itself even if it seems that it does. If a government becomes oppressive, tyrannical, such as feudal monarchies more often than not do but other forms of government do as well, such as Soviet communism, and lasts that way for a long time, it is due to any number of reasons. Then a rebellion usually happens …”

    It seems to me you’re still operating within the confines defined by the dogma of classical political thought and liberal democracies which have sprung as a result – American version, I daresay, since “We The People is a dead giveaway. In support of your argument, you cite earlier versions, a “feudal monarchy,” for instance, claiming thus that all of a sudden, we moderns have been freed of all dogma and ideology that has been the trademark of all societal organizational forms of the past. (Let’s not forget here that the so-called “feudal monarchy” was ideologically grounded in the divine right of Kings,) Granted, the notion of “social contract” whereby “We The People” bestow the government with all its vested powers is an improvement and an attractive idea to boot, especially to the modern mind, but that doesn’t make it ideologically free. Why? Since the notion of sovereignty is proprietary (quality) to individual persons; consequently, any act of relinquishing that sovereignty (of and conferring authority, which comes part and parcel) to an agency outside the individual, however “legal” or sound on paper, is a myth. It may be a pretty myth, but it’s still a myth. (All myths, if they’re to survive, must be pretty.) Only a system that’s based on the sovereignty of the individual (free will) is not a myth: granted, a dogmatic type of statement, but it will serve for the purpose of making the required kind of distinction. (By “sovereignty” I don’t mean here no recognition of interdependence: no person is an island.)

    Apart from these general considerations, the myth of “social contract” suffers from conditions on the ground – the State’s inability to deliver according to the terms of the contract. It could do so, ideally, if it were a sovereign unchallenged – a precondition which guided its conception. Then and only then it could devote all its energies and wherewithal to administration of justice, unencumbered by other concerns. The political reality, however, of having been forced to compete in the international arena with other states of pretty much the same stature – my main thesis! – makes the State, as a political institution of first order, uniquely unfit to discharge its originally intended function of bringing justice and morality into the land. It’s uniquely handicapped in this respect, and replacing one government with another – whether by means of an open rebellion or legal means such as elections – is but window dressing because the malaise is systemic and traceable to the very institution which, in spite of the best intentions on the part of the founders, was conceived as though capable of existing in a virtual political vacuum marked by the conspicuous absence of honest-to-goodness competition. A fatal flow and – I hate to sound like a broken record – the undoing of an otherwise perfectly workable political construct.

    In the last part you say, “then a rebellion usually happens …” Indeed, we’re seeing it in Cairo, in Libya, and in Wisconsin. Let’s not forget though. Liberal democracies are a fairly recent development, yet already we’re beginning to see the cracks and fissures. More and more people are getting dissatisfied with their government, any government. The US is a perfect example, the Tea Party yesterday, Wisconsin today. It’s only a matter of time when the realization sinks in that no government can function under the present setup.

    (2) “A society of people and its government are created simultaneously. I’ not sure at what point a collective become a state, as there are a variety of idiosyncrasies that could be descriptive of a state. No two in the world are alike and I would find it interesting and relevant to describe their samenesses and differences.”
    See preceding comments whereby I speak to the relationship between the government and the State and to the evolution of full-fledged concept of statehood from lesser forms (types).

    This should do for now except for saying I disagree with your reading of Ms Le Guin’s parable. I see it as a criticism of a pseudo-utopia. Some people are leaving Omelas because they can’t accept the proposition that their relative happiness is predicated on however slight or insignificant suffering of even one individual (but at this point this is not germane to our discussion). If I failed to address some of your concerns, please let me know. Meanwhile, I’ll re-read your response and see whether I missed anything myself. You’re packing a whole bunch into your criticism. It would be much easier (for me) to have to respond on a point by point basis, one point at a time.

  • roger nowosielski

    The closing segment of an interview with Prof. Horace Campbell on Democracy Now! March 2 show:

    “It is precisely because the Western strategic thinkers understand the potential for revolution in Saudi Arabia, along with all over the Arabian Peninsula, why it is urgent for them to intervene in North Africa, because from the time of Cleopatra right down through the Nazis in Germany, the occupation of Libya, right next to Egypt, was strategically important for access to North Africa and Arabia. So the strategic thinkers in Washington, in London, in Paris and Brussels are considering that with the impending isolation of Israel, with revolutionary processes all over Arabia and North Africa, it is very important for the West to have a foothold.

    “It is in this very moment they need ways to divert the working peoples of North America and Western Europe from the practice of capitalism. As we’ve seen in Wisconsin, the workers in Wisconsin gained confidence, gained support, gained courage from the peoples of Egypt. We’ve seen signs where the people say they’re standing up for their rights. In moments like these, when the Governor of Wisconsin is cutting back on expenditure on health, on education, for the poor, and the Pentagon is spending over a trillion dollars in its budget, it is times like these that the conservative forces need to whip up a new militarism in the United States of America to divert attention from the struggles of the working peoples, from students, from women, from the youth, who are against the capitalist system as it exists. We are in the midst of the most intense capitalist crisis since 1930s. This struggle internationally is a struggle against capitalism.”

    On another key note from the show, the protests in Iraq against the corrupt government received a silent treatment by the Western media and Western powers – a testimonial to the kind of “democratic” regimes we’re in the habit of installing.

  • Anarcissie

    Hobbes stands at the outset of liberalism, the anti-Locke.

    And liberalism certainly came to imply the total state, summed up very succinctly by Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address: ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people’; that is, the total involvement of the entire population in the state, in state relations like governance, both as governors and subjects. No one escapes. Lincoln’s mystical view of the Union is well known. It sometimes makes me wonder if he had read Hegel: ‘Es ist der Gang Gottes in der Welt…’, the state as a sort of godlike hyperbeing. And his definition was uttered appropriately in the midst of one of the modern era’s first total wars, if you don’t count the extermination of the Indians.

  • roger nowosielski

    Great post, Anarcissie. You’re making me rethinking Hobbes. I like William E. Connolly’s” account in Political Theory & Modernity.

    Are you suggesting that Locke’s view of liberalism was less encompassing? I’d tend to agree, but what were his measures to fight off the totalizing effects of the state?

  • Anarcissie

    I haven’t read Locke thoroughly enough to recall his suggestions as to political forms. Perhaps we could rely on Jefferson and the other Founding Fathers, who virtually quoted Locke in the Declaration of Independence, and seem to have applied Lockean ideas to the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution. The government was to be inhibited by the famed ‘checks and balances’ and warned off some areas outright. It is also divided vertically into three supposedly independent branches, and horizontally as well, so all the parts can impede one another. The one thing they could be counted on to unite in defense of was property. I would expect to find something in Locke pointing in this direction.

  • roger nowosielski

    You might want to check the following out, Anarcissie.

    “William Connolly – Capital Flows, Sovereign Practices and Global Resonance Machines,”, a lecture by Connollly at Watson Institute for International Studies.

  • roger nowosielski

    William E. Connolly’s home page.

  • roger nowosielski
  • roger nowosielski

    Another book of note, also from Google Books, The EU’s Role in World Politics A Retreat from Liberal Internationalism.


    “Debates on EU foreign policy have been dominated by two opposing schools of argument. One includes a broad range of work that extols the virtues of a European liberal concept of power and the other sees the EU’s commitment to cosmopolitan liberalism and soft power as a sign of weakness rather than strength.

    This book judges the EU on its own terms as a liberal power, examining its policy record, rather than simply asserting that the EU’s liberal commitments in themselves denote either a superior or inferior foreign policy approach. Youngs argues that the challenges facing Europe’s role in the world appear to be in its retreat from liberal internationalism through a series of case studies on policy areas: trade, multilateral diplomacy, security, development cooperation, democracy and human rights, and energy security. Presenting detailed evidence that show the EU is moving away from cosmopolitan strategy, Youngs asserts that Europe needs to reassess its foreign policies if it is to defend the kind of liberal world order necessary for its own and other countries’ long term interests.”

  • roger nowosielski

    Interesting excerpt from the introduction to book linked to in #112:

    “In normative terms, sovereignty involves a state’s right to govern itself, to shape its own destiny, and this is definitely constrained by the notion of universal rights; some states, for example, in the European Union(EU), have accepted this constraint and internalized international standards – but others, especially in Asia, but also including for most purposes the United States, have rejected the idea on the basis that self-determination (let alone constitutional and responsible government) requires a strong doctrine of sovereignty.” page xii

    This is of import because some sort of federation is the most likely geopolitical structure that will emerge if we’re ever to move away from the present notion of nation-states as bearers of “absolute sovereignty.” Hence the relevant question: in what respects the United States, the federation, differs from, say, the EU? One natural answer which suggests itself has to do with the origins. The US was conceived under different circumstances and for different purposes. The formation of the union to function as one sovereign state could be said to figure in as the main objective. Hence the relationship between federal law/legislation and federal powers to state-issued legislation and powers is markedly different from that obtaining in the case of the EU.

  • roger nowosielski

    Another interesting excerpt from the aforementioned text:

    “Instead of providing an idealized conception of sovereignty to hold up against its critics, we pursue a different task. We show that our central concern is the possibility for politics. This emphasis give us good reason to appreciate the constraints of sovereignty, but also good grounds to judge theoretical and practical alternative to the sovereign state. That is to say, alternatives must be assessed by the extent to which they expand our political and moral horizons in international affairs. (my italics, page 2)

    Fair enough, but this opening statement displays a built-in bias. To wit, in selecting “international affairs” as the overriding context within which to evaluate the possibility for sovereign-free politics, the authors beg the question by assigning positive value to the state of international affairs under current practice. The object of investigating the possibility of politics without sovereignty ought to aim at envisaging the future contours of “international affairs” under (radically) new conditions (rather than taking the existing conditions for granted and assigning them positive value).

  • roger nowosielski

    William Connolly on “resonance machines,” an example.

  • Shenonymous

    I guess I am a beast as per your last email!

    My interests are only in “right” thinking and if that is a long and winding road, then so be it. You say, be reactive! Speak from the gut. Being reactive is not what I consider as thinking reasonably. It allows irrational emotional restlessness to override the truth.

    I don’t have a comprehensive worldview, or a set of coherent ideas, nor do I have any hidden goal. The only one I have with respect to this blog is to see whether what you claim has any verity.

    If I have an ideology it is closest to the liberal one. The history of people has shown a constant conflict between liberty and order. Of course I value my freedom and liberty. But there are limits I realize that are by the very nature of the society in which I choose to live that are essential to maintain order and justice.

    I do not believe in the sanctity of the individual. I am a social animal, evolved that way right from the beginning of human life. Evolution does not produce one individual, it produces a population. And as I see it, if that population is to survive, which is the basic imperative, individuals who cognize their individuality must train themselves to cooperate.

    I am not procrastinating participating in this blog. I am struggling. Most of the beliefs I’ve come to have about living in a society from the time I was child to now as an older adult have definitely been challenged. Discussing these issues with those who have a definite one perspective that in my gut feels not quite right I am finding very difficult. I need to bow out of conversation so that I may find more information so that I can come to some better understanding of what is the reality of the world I live in. There is a lot I can say, a lot to which I can react, have “gut” feelings about but that does not ease my discomfort that I simply do not know enough to speak intelligibly. I’ve written pages and pages of my thoughts and have tried to coalesce them, distill them into some articulate form and at this time I find I cannot.

  • roger nowosielski

    Shenon, that was only a figure of speech, endearingly so, I had hoped. Sorry you took it the wrong way.

    And btw, look at the excerpt linked to in #112. IMO, it provides a context for the discussion.

  • troll

    Shenonymous – our traditional catechisms as expressed in #117 are suspect

    consider for example your Being reactive is not what I consider as thinking reasonably. It allows irrational emotional restlessness to override the truth.

    my experience with systems is that ‘reactivity’ based on ‘irrational emotional restlessness’ – an aesthetic experience – is an invaluable tool in the search for proof – which leads me to question the validity of an absolutist rational/irrational juxtaposition

    …it’s usefulness as a rule for governing the progression of thought is limited as there’s an ‘interpenetration’ even at this seemingly basic level of ‘contradiction’


    The history of people has shown a constant conflict between liberty and order.

    is it any wonder that a history written by barbarians [technical term for folks who are trained to willfully bracket their empathy] would be a history of conflict?

    …just a couple of responses from this swine to your pearls

  • Anarcissie

    Connolly’s essay on the link or ‘resonance’ between Evangelicals and (certain) business-interest rightists seemed short on evidence.

  • roger nowosielski

    What would count as evidence in presenting a case like that? Max Weber’s classic was the original thesis, and I think Connolly improves on it. Besides, I think the very idea of a resonance mechanism that’s intriguing here and deserving of further thought, regardless of this or that application. And let’s not dismiss the idea of resentment which fuels the notion.

    Considering you’re pessimistic about the human condition and all attempts to rise above it, I should think you’d embrace Connolly’s notion of a mechanism. Speaking for myself, I find it depressing.

  • Anarcissie

    Connolly’s abstract ideas are reasonable, I suppose, but they need to be grounded in evidence obtained from real-life evangelicals and capitalists. Here’s another, simpler theory: rich people buy off leaders of various political factions, so that it appears that every faction supports whatever the rich people like. Evidence: records of political contributions, continuity of government policy despite changes of party and rhetoric.

  • Shenonymous

    Meaning to revisit sooner, this week was spring break, and I’m sad it is over today, the first day of spring, but squeezing my life into my life, I found some time to devote to this forum, about which I am very interested and I apologize I was not able to apportion more time. As all of you probably know, life is full of distractions. So with this mea culpa,…

    I will start with looking at Roger’s comments at #94 where he says, “ My first impression is, Shenon is somehow conflating, or failing to appreciate the distinction between, a historical and logical analysis. There are important overlaps or areas of intersection, to be sure. The trick is to recognize the general principle and its many applications.

    To better understand what you mean, would you please make the distinction between “the general principle” you are talking about and one or two of its applications. And where do you see the overlapping of an historical and logical analysis and how I am conflating the two?

    To begin to address your comments at #105, I would say that more than disbelief, I understand the utopian political program anarchism to be a “doctrine” that urges the abolition of government or governmental restraint as an indispensable condition for full social and political liberty and that anarchists advocate the use of violence to undermine any established government. I don’t know anyone who would not want justice to have free sway in their society, whether or not they have it. It seems justice is the only way to have a society succeed. When you say they “must raise up the despairing, and by all means in its power lead them back to their lost faith in society.” Where do you find this despairing situation? And if there is such, how do you propose the “raising up” is to take place. Will just a few armed anarchists like Timothy McVeigh be enough of a squad to at start a firestorm? But first don’t you have to make sure it is really what the people who is being championed want?

    I think you may have misunderstood what I was saying when I mentioned feudal monarchy, I meant that participatory governments are not imposed as they would be under feudal monarchies. While I have not forgotten that feudal monarchy encompassed the Divine Right of Kings, I am not sure what is your point here. I did not say nor even imply that all of a sudden moderns have been freed from all dogma and ideology…

    As you know, sovereignty may apply to states as well as individuals.

    Sorry troll (at #119), I am not able to follow what you mean here. What aesthetically irrational experiences did you have that yielded proof and proof of what?

    As an absolutist rationalist, I find the aesthetically irrational useful only in the pursuit and creation of art.

    Before I can make any conclusive assessment of anarchism I believe there must be a sturdy understanding of freedom because anarchism is all about absolute freedom and everything else follows from the premise that personal freedom is the primary state of human life. If I do not have that correct, I’m sure you will correct my lens on this observation. So I propose that the definition of freedom, after Steiner, is the power to determine action and thought without restraint. I go further to say that individual freedom is a mental construct because in nature individuals are not created as individual but are created as part of a group. A society, in a manner of speaking, is a natural phenomenon. Once humans developed consciousness of their individuality is when morality also developed for then awareness of being one of a group and how one behaved towards others and others behaved towards the one becomes tantamount to living harmoniously thereby promoting the health of the species. This evolutionist view leads me to a perspective on rights which I will devote spend some time on in my next visit to the forum.

    I look forward to any discussion. Too bad the site does not have a notification feature such as is found on websites as Truthdig.

  • Anarcissie

    This site has notification through RSS.

  • roger nowosielski

    Good to know, Anarcissie. I was just going to contact the management.

  • roger nowosielski


    OK, Shenon, let’s start with the Logical/conceptual- vs. historical analysis distinction.

    My presentation in the four-part series on anarchism was in essence a conceptual analysis/deconstruction of the concept of modern statehood, taking rightly or wrongly Thomas Hobbes as the progenitor of the concept. Thomas Hobbes presents his argument on behalf of the institution in terms of his metaphysical/conceptual system – which includes nominalist philosophical position in vogue at the time, and invents in the process a theory of the subject. However, there are also historical forces/motives at work which render Thomas Hobbes’s ideas ripe for their time – the general decline of the authority of the Church, the Cromwellian era which followed the decapitation of the English king, etcetera. The need to anchor absolute sovereignty (and authority) in the modern institution of the State was made viable and ripe for historical reasons. Yet Hobbes was a philosopher, not a polemicist, and he doesn’t justify his concept in terms of those reasons but in terms of his own metaphysical/philosophic system which he constructs for the purpose.

    For an example of the kind of interplay between the historical and the conceptual, see the end of part III, in particular my reference to R. G. Collingwood.

  • roger nowosielski

    Let me take a stab at paragraph 2, if I understand it correctly.

    (a) I don’t advocate the abolishing of governments by violent means (though I recognize the actions of people who do as responses to the culture of terrorism exercised by the state); my argument is that states will fall of their own accord. Their influence, as far as I can see, is already on the wane (as exemplified, for instance by the developments in Libya, as well as the very fact that the action taken against that rogue state is undertaken by a UN resolution, the court of the international community, that is. So think of anarchism on my terms of presentation. Let’s forget old associations.

    (b) the state’s sovereignty is granted it (John Locke’s idea) by the consenting subjects, and can be withdrawn at will. You’re arguing for it while presupposing ideal conditions. Well, my argument is that those conditions no longer obtain (if they ever did), because in the real world, given inter-state competition for prestige, resources, etc., the states have because entities all their own, forced to be moved more by their own interests (which includes survival) than by the interests of their subjects and justice.

  • roger nowosielski

    The penultimate paragraph.

    (a)I don’t believe that my concept of anarchism entails that notion of freedom, let alone any kind of freedom conceived as an absolute (right?) In fact, it has always been sound policy, IMO, and sound thinking to have a right kind of “rights-responsibilities” mix, the one mitigating the other. So yes, I agree with your “evolutionary” mode of thinking, whereby freedom and rights make sense only within the larger framework whereby we as individuals acknowledge the nexus of interdependence. In fact, apart from that nexus, acknowledged to boot, I wouldn’t understand what freedom is or means. (Perhaps we both should devote some time to this subject.)

    (b) So therefore the question becomes: How it can be anarchism if it doesn’t guarantee the individual “absolute freedom”?

    (c) Your notion of harmonious communities and of propagating the well-being of the species is an attractive one. (Perhaps you’re closer to my idea of what anarchism is/ought to be than you think.) It’s known otherwise as an “enclave” theory of morality. I would add one necessary proviso. You’d still need, however, a(n)(absolute?) moral justification as to why the species ought to be preserved.

  • roger nowosielski

    Lastly, concerning the aesthetic impulse, Shenon – why do you wish to delimit it to works of art only? what about thinking?

    Just like an idea can be thought of as a starting point of an eventually perfect execution of a composition, why do you deny it such powers when it comes to thought?

  • roger nowosielski

    A belated response to your #122, Anarcissie.

    Why not look at Connolly’s notion of “mechanism” as a supplement to your admittedly simpler theory of some people buying other people off? It’s definitely Foucauldian in important respects, hinting at the invisible hand, as it wore, exercising its insidious influence in the realm of human affairs. Granted, Connolly doesn’t develop it to the same extent Foucault had done in such instances as sexuality, the penal system and psychiatric/medical professions and means of societal control, but still, I find Connolly idea intellectually satisfying and intuitively sound. In fact, I regard it as a form of “invisible hand” explanations, as per Nozick, for instance. (BTW, do you find Foucault’s own accounts empirically satisfying?

    Also, have you listened to Connolly’s lecture on Hegel and “global resonance machines,” as per link in #110?

  • roger nowosielski

    Shenonymous, Anarcissie, Cindy & “troll”:

    I’ll be back at this site by Friday at the latest. Meanwhile, feel free to post any responses or comments.

  • troll

    Sorry troll (at #119), I am not able to follow what you mean here. What aesthetically irrational experiences did you have that yielded proof and proof of what?

    As an absolutist rationalist, I find the aesthetically irrational useful only in the pursuit and creation of art.

    the usefulness of ‘irrational emotional restlessness’ becomes clear (for example) in the study of mathematics and formal systems theory…when battling demons in higher order number classes (view these as levels in the math logic video game) one learns to pay attention to the hairs on the back of his neck

    Rx: a week of reading Father Brown stories

  • Anarcissie

    Occam’s Razor, I suppose. I’m not denying resonance, I just don’t see it as an important causative principle. If plutocrats can buy the allegiance of workers, students, housewives, liberals, conservatives, union leaders, businessmen, hobos, hipsters, why not that of Evangelicals?

    The only audio or video material I have been able to metabolize which was not art for art’s sake was a collection of Feynman’s ‘lost lectures’.

    troll’s remark reminds me of the famed ‘Weirdness Quotient’. When you get out on the Edge, be it in science, mathematics, art, war, romance, dirt farming, or motorcycle racing, things stop making sense. If they make sense, you’re not out on the Edge any more.

  • Alan Kurtz

    Extensive coverage here of Saturday’s rioting in London, with colorful pictures of hooded anarchists smashing things. What’s interesting is how the anarchists leveraged an otherwise peaceful protest by the Trades Union Congress, a 6.5 million-member federation representing the majority of UK trade unions, and in so doing attracted far more media coverage than any standalone anarchist smash-fest could’ve hoped for.

    It’s quite a contrast with recent U.S. union-organized protests, such as in Wisconsin involving state workers. Whatever anarchist presence might’ve lurked in those demonstrations, it failed utterly to divert attention to itself. How do you explain that? Perhaps America has only armchair anarchists, a bloviating bourgeoisie who’d sooner book a fortnight at the Ritz Hotel than to wield a battering ram to shatter plate glass windows on the hotel’s storefront shops.

  • Anarcissie

    They had some provocateurs in Wisconsin — more like Republicans than actual anarchists — but the demonstrators were fairly well organized and on the lookout for that sort of thing.

  • Alan Kurtz

    … more like Republicans than actual anarchists …

    My point exactly.

  • Anarcissie

    So your point, as it stands, is irrelevant to a discussion of anarchism or anarchists. Want to tie it in somehow? I want to present my anecdotes, but you’re not offering much of a platform.

  • Alan Kurtz

    My point is that America’s self-professed “anarchists,” presumably such as yourself, talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. Instead they act more like Republicans than actual anarchists.

    If that’s irrelevant to a discussion of anarchism or anarchists, please forgive my intrusion into this lofty realm. But I get the impression none of you “anarchists” need a platform from me in order to present your anecdotes.

  • troll

    …stumbled across this reading of Feyerabend’s take on the Weirdness

  • roger nowosielski

    As usual, Alan’s talking from both sides of his mouth. His very complaint against what he views as this site’s unduly strict censorship, along with the recommended solution, is precisely along anarchistic lines of self-regulation/self-rule.

    So once again, we’re being treated to another random instance of Mr. Kurtz’s willful misrepresentations – this time conflating principles with a method.

  • roger nowosielski


    I’m less than happy, Anarcissie, with your application of Occam’s Razor to the case at hand. Two reasons.

    First, the uncanny staying power of capitalism (especially in the overdeveloped West where the majority have tasted the bitter fruits of the system); yet they keep on voting against their interests. So unless you’re going to fall back on the idea that we’re dealing here with a kind of mass hypnosis, the simple explanation simply won’t do.

    A related point. The theory that everyone can be bought off (including the evengelicals) rings untrue. It presupposes that by and large, we’re dealing with dishonorable persons. And even if you were right (to a point) about the higher echelons, what about the rank and file? Are they all dupes?

    For which reasons, it strikes me that an underlying mechanism may well be at work to account for this kind of behavior on the part of those who ought to behave and act contrary to the ways in which they do. And the idea of resentment, which fuels the actual behavior, appears to resolve the seeming paradox.

  • Anarcissie

    I do have a mass-hypnosis theory, which I call ‘the shadow of slavery’ — the cultural after-effects of the seven thousand years or so, from the beginning of history until the initial victories of liberalism-capitalism, in which most humans were serfs or slaves. However, I could be wrong — the need for domination (active and passive) could be inscribed in our genes. In that case we’ll just kill ourselves off in the not-too-distant future, and there is not much point in worrying about the political details. So that could be your underlying mechanism.

    As for buy-offs, these are usually masked in such a way as to preserve the honor of the purchased. Or some of it.

    Alan Kurtz seems to be just making stuff up; I was hoping for some more fantasies, but no luck.

  • roger nowosielski

    I tend to be skeptical of anything smacking of genetic determinism, Anarcissie, but that’s just me. No question, we’re dealing with what may be called a “complex system” (see brief discussion on today’s Weekend Edition on NPR, so perhaps Connolly’s is but a valiant stab at trying to attain a holistic understanding of what is by definition irreducible to simples.

    Anyway, this may well be a moot point, an effort on Connolly’s part to justify his conviction that a “no state” solution is beyond the realm of possibility. Hence the dire need to invent the notion of a “global resonance machine” which could then be exploited for weak spots as part of guerrilla warfare striking at the fringes. Jean-François Lyotard had a similar idea when (after Walter Benjamin) he spoke of paralogies (The Postmodern Condition).

  • roger nowosielski

    Shenon, you might consider posting on this site until your email situation gets cleared up. Anyway, I’m looking forward to your input.

  • Anarcissie

    The idea of ‘resonances’ is interesting, but I don’t see it as a necessary mechanism of social control. Having a lot of money would be more effective. That is, ‘Candy is dandy but liquor is quicker.’

    We can probably count on our established order to destroy itself — to continue destroying itself. Apparently power really does corrupt. The question is what is to come after. Voltaire, or someone like that, said history was the sound of boots going up the staircase and slippers coming down, but when the boots get heavy enough, the staircase itself will break.

  • roger nowosielski

    An update on Libya:

    A five-minute history of British involvement in Libya, presented by Jason Pack of St. Anthony’s College, Oxford.

    Click on World Update, 31/11/2011 show. The relevant segment starts at 44:30 minutes into the show, and will be available for your listening pleasure for the next seven days.

    Here is one of Mr. Pack’s article on Libya in the Christian Science Monitor, “Upheaval in Qaddafi’s Libya isn’t just another Arab uprising”, although somewhat dated (Feb 23, 2011). If and when I come across more recent stuff, I’ll provide the link.

    I thought it more appropriate to post these links on this site rather than on Libya-dedicated RJ’s site. After all, I’m not concerned that much with the prospects of Mr. O’s impeachment (small potatoes, IMHO), but with liberation movements the world over and overthrowing of tyrannical (as if there were any other) states.

  • roger nowosielski

    On related news, Syrian opposition form National Transitional Council, in anticipation of the falling of the Bashar al-Assad regime.

  • roger nowosielski

    “Arab Views of US Motives,” an extract from an article by Dr Burhan Ghalioun of Sorbonne, the elected head of National Transitional Council (see #147).