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how do anarchism, magic and science relate to each other?

+1 vote
are magic and science actually distinct concepts?
asked Nov 11, 2017 by seraph9888 (390 points)

i read an article on this subject that you might enjoy...

it speaks about magic and science (and money and education)...

That article makes me want to play "Mage: The Ascension"! Fantasy nerdom with an anti-civilization twist!
I have no answer, but this is an interesting question on a philosophical level, while being ridiculous on the practical level (people who "do magic" or are "witchy" make me want to punch standerbys at random). I did like D&D as a teen though...

I've been around a lot of witches. Queer and eco oriented folks, mostly. They don't bother me. I did get yelled at when I accused a witch of sneaking off with all the candles. I probably could have handled that better and they were uptight as all-get-out.

These are things that I've read about anarchy and magic

1) To Rust Metallic Gods: An Anarcho-Primitivist Critique of Paganism


2) Gods&Radicals - "we’re a registered non-profit Pagan Anti-Capitalist publisher"   (the link is a recent essay)


Also, I just checked The Anarchist Library theanarchistlibrary.org and there are a ton of very recent up-loads on "magic."

I have an International Relations essay that I'm avoiding right now. I get really chatty online when essays are due... in a few hours.

anarchy101 is my favorite class.

To me the word "magic" has already been defined by both science and the media in general as something that is impressive and "wowey-wow cool", and i just don't have an opinion about how to define or think about it. I feel like I've been missing out by not playing nerdy role-playing games, i've been reading the "mage:the ascension" book and it's overall a game with pretty subversive and critical intents. It's refreshing to look into a different fantasy world ideal, because most fantasy fiction is dumb save-the-princess fight-for-the-kingdom nonsense. A lot of people really like that show Game of Thrones but to me it's all very stereotypical depictions of hierarchies and domination.

3 Answers

0 votes

Recent studies in quantum physics suggest to me that science itself can be pretty magical. Back when I was in elementary and high school, I always hated math and science because it was taught in such a dry, decontextualized way. However, I find that, as I get older and start to flesh out some of the philosophical implications of certain scientific theories, the more a lot of it fascinates me and I wish I understood it better. 

For instance, I'm really interested in the whole idea of "wave/particle duality" and how it seems to fly in the face of the "law of the excluded middle." If you aren't familiar with the "double-slit experiment," here's a video that explains it in a pretty accessible way:


As for the law of the excluded middle, this is a principle of classical logic which states that a proposition cannot simultaneously be both true and false, just as an object cannot simultaneously be both itself and its opposite. However, in the case of an electron, it seems we have an example of something that can be both itself and its opposite - i.e. both a particle and a wave.

Another aspect of quantum physics that strikes me as pretty magical is the theory of "loop quantum cosmology," which replaces the idea of the "big bang" with that of a "big bounce." According to this theory, Time and Space did not begin with the big bang. In stead, the emergence of our current universe and everything in it resulted from the collapse (or "big crunch") of a previous universe. If true, this theory would fundamentally undermine so-called "common sense" understandings of time as a linear succession of moments, not to mention the nature of causality itself. Loop quantum cosmology makes it possible to conceive of an infinite number of universes infinitely contracting and expanding, without beginning and without end.  

Anyway, this is the best effort of my layperson's brain to understand and explain something that does not come naturally to me. I've obviously not even begun to scratch the surface and could be completely out to lunch in my speculations. With that said, it appears to me that "Science" (in the sense of institutionalized scientific research) is currently experiencing a crisis in which the "Scientific Method" itself is being forced to confront its own limits. Science does not require "magic" as an independent concept to bring it into conflict with the unexplainable. Old discourses about deterministic causality and the linearity of time are rapidly becoming antiquated and untenable. If anarchism doesn't adapt to these changing times, it too will be left in the dust of collapsed universes.

answered Nov 12, 2017 by Matt Dionysus (860 points)
edited Nov 12, 2017 by Matt Dionysus
hey MD, i appreciate your effort here. i do with you'd said more about the anarchy part of the question (but note that i'm not making an attempt myself ;) )

In an indirect way, it kind of does address the anarchy part of the question, although perhaps not in a way that's immediately apparent. What I was getting at is that the historically normative understanding of anarchist theory is built on outdated epistemic foundations that recent scientific studies are revealing as wholly inadequate. Saul Newman made this same point in The Politics of Postanarchism when he said that,

Anarchist theory is still largely based in the paradigm of Enlightenment humanism — with its essentialist notions of the rational human subject, and its positivistic faith in science and objective historical laws. Just as Marxism was limited politically by its own categories of class and economic determinism, as well as by its dialectical view of historical development, anarchism can also be said to be limited by its epistemological anchoring in the essentialist and rationalist discourses of Enlightenment humanism.


Whether it's clinging to essentialist notions about "the Working Class" as a collective "historical Subject" or viewing "revolution" as a dialectically preordained "historical moment" residing in an abstract future, anarchism is long overdue for a radical overhaul of its most basic presuppositions. By challenging "common sense" ideas about the very nature of time and causality, recent studies in quantum physics help to illustrate this necessity more clearly now than ever before.

i read quite a bit on quantum mechanics back in the early 80s, and i did find it rather interesting at the time. i can surely understand drawing at least an analogy between quantum theory and magic. i can still find the concepts pretty interesting.

but i have to acknowledge, any theory that relies (almost) exclusively on the mediation of highly technological inventions (with everything that implies about capitalist production and the perpetuation/increase of specialization and class stratification) for any direct observation or experience, is of very limited interest to me these days. i was a math/ science wiz as a kid (i won several awards in high school), but you'd never know it now.
0 votes
I see that there has been a lot written on this already, but before i delve into any of that I'm going to share my current thoughts on the relationship between anarchy magic and  science.
these are /just/ words.  only words.  but words have power.  words connect, and words divide.  words guide.  and we control our words, it is up to us to create our own language, whether we acknowledge this or not.  it is this creation I call magic.
science is an exploration of the world.  but it is not one I am particularly interested in.  science is a mathematical reduction of reality. the language of science is passive, it tries to portray itself as a passive receptor and recorder of objects.  but all forms of discovery involve an element of creation.  it is this creation I call magic, and it is this creation that science in general hides from.
i see as a barrier barrier to my greater understanding and expression of anarchy my unthinking instinct to understand, control, impose, apprehend everything.  the strive to limit, to reduce, to know.  the opposite of mystery.  it is this mystery I also call magic.  I see magic as an antidote to the political, the artstic, the intellectual, the spiritual, the scientific.  it is all of those things and none of those things.
I see magic as the spinning centre of everything, the motion at the core.  because I do too many drugs.  of course.
answered Feb 12 by shin (2,170 points)
genre-breaking question! eek!

but ok. so, to the extent that magic, science, and anarchy are all ways of looking at the world, potentially all ways of questioning what we know/assume/expect, then obviously they can share that. to the extent that they're all things you do, rather than things you are, that is another way of similiar-being.

i don't experience people who quote science (scientists, scientific studies, etc) as being questioning though (although i'm sure they would disagree with me). otoh, plenty of anarchists are also all about the answers vs the questions or the uncertainty. maybe it all comes down to aesthetics and subjective experience?

but maybe i'm going too meta with this answer, in fact, i think i'll make it a comment. fuck answers! lol
"i don't experience people who quote science (scientists, scientific studies, etc) as being questioning"

i second that!
dot- I find what you are addressing to be the core of the real question. That these are all ways of interpreting/engaging with the world, sometimes they overlap, but a lot of times they don't. I experience "science?" much different than "Science!" Personally, I appreciate my witchy friends, but I just don't get it (but I still have my own rituals that ward off, evil, shitty day, etc.).

a men

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+2 votes

If we’re using anarchism and science as positions in thought, then it appears to me that they are relatively distinct; but only just relatively distinct due to their common gesture of enclosing, their magical circles (see the cover of Disruptive Elements for an illustration) and the belief in their own sufficiency. Anarchism, as (anti-)politic theory, and science, when it leaves its posture of practice and begins to explain, enact both an unspoken decision (literally “to cut off”) and an authoritarian stance in determining (often over-determining), that is auto-positioning, everything within their discourses; that is, they believe themselves adequate to that which I’ll simply name, in this instance, the Real, which remains foreclosed and indifferent to thought. The maneuver to claim adequacy can be named the Principle of Sufficient Anarchism/Science, depending which has pretense to domination ( most often this the more blatant ‘philosophical’ position, here anarchism). As befitting the inherent contradiction between the decisive enclosure and that which it seeks to enclose (the Real), ‘magic’ might act as a name for the circle each discourse casts around and encloses itself within (again, the magic circle of discourse) , that is, the “superstitious” belief in self-sufficiency, as well as a belief of a synthesis of them, which is simply another discursive (re-)enclosure.

Since quantum theory has been mentioned, in this instance we might use Magic as a name for a superposition which is neither a synthesis of two nor destruction of them, but its own occasional identity. We can take up a scientific posture and look toward the discourses of science (its discursive theories, etc) and anarchism (as political-philosophy) as relatively autonomous material in the world. Here, I will name this vision or ‘perspective’ Anarchy-in-One, ‘One’ simply another name for the Real and ‘Anarchist’ the unique and radically immanent lived experience, or an anarchy-without-anarchism. Now both science and anarchism are both undermined of any pretense of authority and neither dominates nor conflicts with the other. There is, if you will, a communism of thought, an equality as material. A third identity, the 'superposition' or what I’m naming Magic here, is doing what I’m saying and saying what I’m doing; using science and anarchism to mutate each other in-as a posture loosened from the discursive authority of either. Not only are they seen for what they are, relatively autonomous material in the world, but we’re liberated from the decision and its presumed necessity as well as the authoritarianism of one or other discourse. Maybe Anarchy=Magic.

answered Feb 18 by AmorFati (7,520 points)
edited Feb 18 by AmorFati

and af pops in with a typically light and fluffy ponderance! devil

interesting, as usual. good to "see" ya, af!

f@, just doin' my part to undermine and empty those habitual patterns of thought where I'm able.  laugh anyway, i'm eating civilization a bit more these days, so we'll get to play more often. best!