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What are the different significant pieces in your critique?

+4 votes
do you tend to call what you're against the totality? civilization? power? capitalism? the state? kyriarchy? society?

i have gone through stages of using capitalism, civilization, and christianity as thing-i-was-railing-against. is it more useful or harmful (and in what circumstances) to combine all-the-bad, or separate things out?
asked Mar 22 by dot (57,810 points)
i tend to use "authority" (i sometimes add "institutionalized", although in my mind i don't see any other kind).

when it comes to specific things i speak out against, i usually focus on compulsory education, because i think the perpetuation of institutionalized authority begins in full force there - and it pains me to see how young people get treated based on this authority (as well my own pain from that time). this doesn't garner me many friends.:)

Why the need to reduce a critique to a single word/idea/practice/institution? One of the problems for dealing with newbies and the curious is that what intelligent anarchists tend to present as problems are separate but overlapping/interlocking ideologies -- or at least they can be separated sometimes. At the root of most of them is Dominance, but while that's a good place to start (and perhaps finish) a critique of the nightmare we inhabit, it's not sufficiently descriptive for my taste. 

thanks lawrence. that's the part of the question about whether and when it's good or bad to combine or separate. but just saying it's "not sufficiently descriptive" doesn't say much.

to me the problem with lumping everything under one concept is that there are differences that are significant, even in different types of racism, for example. on the other hand, sometimes i'm just trying to say that it's all bad.
the way i choose to articulate my critiques depends largely on context. who am i speaking to? in what situation? am i responding to something in particular that someone else said or observed?

mass society, ideological thinking, institutional authority, morality, economic worldviews (including the concept of "work"), fear of freedom, the insatiable desire for control over others, victimization/infantilization, ... those (and many others) have all been targets of my critique.

yes, funky. i had similar thoughts about the question.

most often i find myself responding to things people say about a particular topic, event, or situation.

and  many times my anarchic desires arise in the midst of some sort of conflict with another person(s) who circle back to authority as a means to resolve/deal with it. those situations feel the most difficult, and also most important to me.

rarely does someone ask me for my view of life on this planet. even less often do i volunteer it without someone asking. although i've considered doing it more often because i often feel like i've repressed my thoughts in situations where a group of people around me talk and relate with the language of morality/authority/spectacle, etc, etc.

and then, there's writing....

Sometimes it feels particularly empowering for me to recognize a thing in a vague word that symbolizes some feeling of disgust or agitation I feel towards the human social situation, for example, "society". To me, society is the thing that revolves around the more powerful human beings/institutions that we find to be deplorable and want to get rid of, but in a way we can't pretend we are separate from it either. In otherwords, we are inundated with the Master's Tools, and as the "hello: a greeting from nowhere" pamphlet pointed out, we are often trying to get to an "outside".

To try to oppose and destroy the things that we don't like about social relations now adays is hopeless, but that's not to say that I care for giving up and "cleansing myself of all negativity"

I get irritated with talking in the language I use because there's too much of a tendency to just over-generalize and also to be reductionistic to the point of denying connections between anything. For example: the word "capitalism", you could say that this thing expressed in the word doesn't exist because market relations exist in such a diffuse and chaotic manner, but saying it doesn't exist is complete bullshit because many facets of our lives are dominated by the parceling out of the world and selling it, and this whole construct can be referred to as capitalism if we are not to render all communication and honesty useless. However, capitalism is just one part of the state.....

The question by itself is something I hope to answer and elaborate on in the near future (in a completely personal manner of course), but I find it very likely this won't happen because I don't really know what my opinions are of things.

3 Answers

+1 vote
In no particular order: the State, Subjugation, Domination, the Nuclear Family, Essentialism, Consumerism, the Spectacle, Reformism, Colonization, Federalism, Capitalism, Socialism, the Left, Mass Society, God(s)...

I think most of it can be reduced to the subjugation of individuals (and the rest of existence ...suchas the Earth, or whatever) to their ideas, but when that's fleshed out there's exceptions ...especially when you get deep enough into the rabbit hole that you begin to question the nature of the Self (or, the Ego) and subjugation to it.
answered Mar 22 by Squee (2,870 points)
+2 votes
I have been saying that the thing I am critiquing is capital, which I don't mean as a shorthand or summary of other problems. I mean that it seems to me that capital constitutes what I tend to call a "dynamic" or a "logic" which (however mediately) determines the form of human society and is ultimately responsible for almost any problem I am able to name, except maybe love and death. So I do not think that by naming "capital" as the problem I am subsuming all problems under a single heading. I am trying to talk about their relatedness. I did not used to think this, but it now seems to me completely necessary as an attempt to explain modernity. The way I previously thought, which was more like what Lawrence said, now seems to me plausible, but only descriptively.
answered Apr 6 by asker (10,080 points)
aside from your use of it as a connector, people using capital as The Word is not uncommon in anarchist circles. it might even be more common than the state as the One Word to Bind Them All. it was pointed out to me a couple years ago that that is a problem, or at least an indicator of a problem, both because of the marxist underpinnings of seeing the economy as the foundational issue (which is implied), and because there are plenty of people who can say they are anti capitalism who are not anti-state.
great point, dot.
I think that's right, dot, although I would want to be careful about exactly what aspect of the economy is supposed to be fundamental. For example if you think it is class or exploitation that is at the center of the problem then you are likely to draw very different conclusions than if you think the problem is with value or commodities. Both of these assumptions are "Marxist" but I don't know if that tells me very much immediately about whether the perspective is useful or not.
'useful" depends on what problem you're looking at, yea? my argument is that having a single word that you use to bind all the problems together is a constraint on the imagination, and i find marx to be a major constraint on anarchist imagination in general (although obviously very useful as a stage in many people's analysis), so i'm motivated enough to respond here. :)
and i segued smoothly from a question of what might be an internal dialog into how we name these problems with other people,  which is maybe a different subject?
In what sense do you think it's a constraint? I think you mean something like the following: that if I understand all problems to derive from a common source then I am likely to imagine one single (necessary, inevitable) solution, which is to solve all the problems at one stroke, and that this prevents me from really pursuing the thought of political freedom. Is that your concern, or something else?
not that, but something like that, sure. i think it keeps people from defining the problems in different ways, as well as considering possible alternatives to the problems. and that marx encourages people to focus on the economy, and a particular vision of the economy, in a way that the culture already encourages (partly in response to marx, probably)..
In the last part of your comment, where you say that Marx encourages you to focus on a particular vision of the economy, do you mean that he encourages you to focus on a particular notion of how the economy presently works (I'd agree with that but I also think that's good) or do you mean that he encourages you to focus on a particular vision for how it ought to work, in the future?
both, but the former is more significant.
Right --- I think the worry makes sense. What I would want to say here is that basically Marxist thought is guilty of all the things you accuse it of. It has to be, because the idea is that capitalist modernity can only be explained by a theory that tries to be totalizing and tries to identify its fundamental cause. According to this reasoning, alternative definitions of the problem are going to be detrimental, not helpful, and so will be imagined alternatives in the future.
and do you agree, not just with the idea that marx provides an appropriate (correct) totalizing theory, but that a totalizing theory is even a good way to address our problems?
I think I do agree, although I'm more sure about the second part than the first.

That is, I think that there is maybe a greater risk in eclecticism than there is in totalizing theory, which seems to me necessary because I think capitalism embraces everything about our historical existence.

I think that Marx's particular theory is essentially speculative (and this is something he makes a point of admitting). I basically understand him to be saying that the value form is bound to become obsolete while wage labor has to be maintained, and that this will produce (or maybe is now producing) a terminal crisis. If this is true, then the theory will be retroactively justified.

If not, then I would say it will still be necessary to find a way of doing materialist analysis no matter how many of Marx's specific theses have to be discarded. That's why I say I'm more attached to the principle of totalizing critique than I am to Western Marxism per se.
+2 votes

What I emphasize as far as my critique depends on the situation at hand, including what I am specifically focusing on, who my audience is, and whether I want to approach them in a more antagonistic or friendly manner. Some themes that are always present or at least just under the surface include:

  • A critique of civilization - I was starting to become critical of civilization before I was comfortable with the term anarchist. I've written about that elsewhere, but questioning civilization and all of the implications that go along with it is central to my anarchism.
  • A critique of capitalism - I don't really see capitalism as existing without civilization, but given the reality of ancaps as well as assorted other wingnuts who might hold semi-critiques of civilization but still be all about property and capitalism, I find it necessary to most often make explicit my own anti-capitalism, unless I am in circles where I know that is a given.
  • A critique of organization - I am decidedly wary of rigid organizational structures. Attempts to build formal federations, syndicates, groups with formal constitutions or platforms, or institutions designed to be as permanent (and toxic) as plastics are all things I run from. I value impermanence, mortality, and an informality based upon affinity and shared goals, as opposed to shared ideology.
  • A critique of oppression - Not in a leftist or progressive anti-oppression sort of way, but in one that recognizes that the ways in which capitalism and civilization have spread are inextricably connected to patriarchy, colonialism, and white supremacy. While I wholeheartedly believe that that capitalism and civilization can exist outside patriarchy and white supremacy (and vice versa), I am also a white guy who lives in the United States, and even beyond that, the reality of our world that is that these are underlying systems of oppression that enforce and perpetuate capitalism and civilization.

The rest sort of spins out from there.

(edited for clarity and such)

answered Apr 14 by ingrate (23,770 points)
edited Apr 15 by ingrate
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