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Is anarchism "navel-gazing"?

+1 vote
The most common critique of anarchists is that they spend too much time talking about society, politics, etc. not enough time on action. A lot of talking in our culture ends up being a self-psychoanalysis and I get sick of it too depending on several factors, but through a lot of experimentation i've found out that "just keeping my thoughts to myself" isn't really good enough, and if im working on projects with people i have to think aloud or else i just get confused and irritated and i simply can't make good recommendations or decisions.

Of course every individual is different in terms of the kinds of conversations they can stomach or are willing to participate in, even though they are influenced by group-think and convention. Some of the more nihilistic anarchists have criticized the types of conversations that people have as "naval-gazing", but then they just participate in the same type of conversation, even if it's more indirect.

Do what extent do you agree with the people who think that we just shouldn't talk about this shit? Do you think there are some good parameters for talking other than just the level of nastiness and hostility (i don't believe i've met anyone who enjoys that, unless they are dishing it out and not taking it.)
asked Jun 23 by Nihilist (50 points)
edited Jun 25 by Nihilist

when i was first finding my own sense of anarchy, i enjoyed much of the discussion that was going on around me. it fed my hunger for ideas that were different from those of the progressive left that i had previously identified with.

but at some point, it became apparent that theoretical discussion was getting repetitive, ideological/dogmatic (right vs wrong), and was losing my interest. my time as a progressive activist had taught me that i was never going to "change the world" (in any way that i truly desired). my exposure to anarchist ideas taught me that that is ok; i can still change my own life and the way i relate to others and the world around me. that is when i largely dropped the term "anarchism" along with how its proponents pursued their objective of "changing the world"; and began creating my own life in ways that allowed me to experience some anarchic relationships - particularly those i cared most about.

i have to wonder how much academia plays into this issue. not that academics necessarily avoid or decry action; rather, that academic discourse tends to feed on itself, creating ever more abstract (? not sure that is the right word) and highly intellectualized iterations of conversation that wind up having very little in common with a more action-oriented approach to life.

though i have been accused - and sometimes accurately - of being anti-intellectual, i am actually not against intellect. i am against the elevation of intellect above all else. most academics i have known demonstrate that to some extent.

is what you (nihilist) refer to as "navel-gazing" somehow related to the over-intellectualization of anarchist discourse?

and of course, there is the huge question of: what is "action"?
I find this stuff to be of little importance not because it prevents people from taking action, but because it can limit ones perception of who you can work with to take action or cause you to be tangled up in a cult like mentality with a bunch of people who are just going to dick around and bitch.
yes, sometimes anarchy -and even more so 'anarchism'- is navel gazing.  but also sometimes a bit of navel gazing is fun, especially after a camping trip when youre trying to pick the fluff out.  i myself enjoy a good bitch, and dicking around is like my favourite thing to do.  its practically all i do and i refuse to harbour any twisted second-hand protestant guilt about not 'working'.

also i like @boles thoughts on the dichotomy of 'though v action'

1 Answer

+1 vote
i understand the reflex of the binary 'though v action' but is it really tenable? the presumption is that 'action' will bring concrete results, but my question is always 'how do you measure results?' is there some kind of metric that can be used to determine so many units of social change (if that's the goal)? if the effectiveness of some particular action can be determined (which is doubtful), is there not some context of a change of consciousness that is included? and if there's a change in consciousness involved, then doesn't it makes sense to increase the analytics of social change?

tl;dr: binaries are stupid
answered Jun 23 by boles (80 points)
i could not agree more! binary thinking is for computers.
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