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What is the 'other'?

+4 votes
Is it always a negative thing? Do anarchists 'other' capitalists? Is essentializing a process of othering? Can you identify an enemy without othering them?
asked Feb 3, 2014 by formyinformation (2,500 points)

2 Answers

+2 votes
the other is definitely not always a negative thing!
without them i would die of boredom!

anarchists absolutely other capitalists, which is appropriate in some ways and inappropriate in others. the differences between us (anarchists and capitalists) are important. people who seek to minimize those differences are generally people who want to get along (ie people who you can't trust in a fight).
on the other hand, obviously anarchists and capitalists are not othered from each other also.
dichotomous thinking is important in some places/times and a weakness in other places/times.
i think that "enemizing" a person or group doesn't have to be the same as otherizing (although above i implied it did), but obviously it's a lot easier when they go together.
answered Feb 3, 2014 by dot (50,920 points)
edited Feb 5, 2014 by dot
i think this is an acceptable adjunct to l's more fleshed out response. so here it is...
+4 votes
Is Othering negative?
It seems to me that Othering is almost always a negative thing; you're denying the subjectivity of someone(s), claiming to know all you need to know about that person(s) by using whatever discerning criteria you decide is significant. Whether those are the dominant significant criteria of Euro-American culture (the rational adult European male is the banal normative individual) or some other cosmology, Othering presumes a static identity, static relationships (usually hierarchical), and precludes the possibility of change of the aforementioned significant criteria over time. In short, Othering objectifies. If anarchists are interested in a flowering of relationships that skirt, transcend, and/or destroy those based on power, hierarchy, domination, and exploitation... if we are interested in creating a culture of masters without slaves... then Othering should probably not be part of our interpersonal practice.

Do anarchists Otherize capitalists (and presumably other so-called enemies)?
Probably far too often. Probably the only worthwhile insight of Hegel was his radical notion that slavery damages the master as well as the slave. We can update and perhaps understand this insight by saying that patriarchy damages men, white supremacy damages white people, and capitalism damages capitalists. This is not a moral exercise; I'm not saying that we should pity the poor white male capitalist -- he's doing just fine, thank you. But to deny that systems of privilege do not harm the privileged is untenable. Again, I'm merely being descriptive. Nobody should feel sorry for those assholes.
Perhaps the question behind your question is along the lines of "Is it strategically wise to Otherize our enemies come the Revolution?" Or something like that. There are some anarchists who, like Marxists, revel in class revenge fantasies. They hold that on the Day After the Revolution, we can start to clean up all the shit that was holding us down. And naturally that includes individual capitalists, politicians, cops, judges, prison guards, etc... A few well-placed bullets are supposed to solve a lot of problems, AND help keep the forces of reaction at bay... So the story goes.
But the issue is clouded by what is sure to be a large part of the non- or small-time exploiting population who will just want things to settle down so they can take care of their needs with other more or less normal folks -- not counter-revolutionaries. If we believe that The Revolution is some Transformational Event (or series of Events) that has the power to alter previously apathetic and exploited people into self-conscious revolutionaries, then we must necessarily believe that transformation is possible for everyone, even those we previously deemed enemies. If we do not or cannot accept such a possibility, what makes us different from Inquisitors and Chekists? The execution of ten or ten thousand alleged counter-revolutionaries was not the tipping point that prevented the full implementation of Marxism in every place where its ideologues attained state power.

Can you identify an enemy without Otherizing?
Naturally that all depends what you mean by "enemy." I think it's possible to find someone's philosophy so objectionable, their social practice so noxious, their interactions with you so damaging that it would be reasonable to say "that person is my enemy." To do so without dehumanizing her_him is tricky, because as the focus of hatred, it's far simpler to deny her_him equal consideration -- especially if that person has access to systems and institutions of domination and exploitation. Your question brings up another question for me: "What is it we are supposed to do once we declare some person(s) my/our enemy?" Can we separate an enemy from the institutions s_he is a part of? Should we try? Are we interested in collective guilt and guilt by association?

These are spontaneous and provisional thoughts that come to mind by looking at what is a very heavy and provocative (in the good sense) set of questions.
answered Feb 4, 2014 by lawrence (18,030 points)
Well???

Now that you've posed the interesting question (in response) aren't you going to try to answer it?
" Can we separate an enemy from the institutions s_he is a part of? Should we try? "

You mention "revenge fantasies", should we be casting aside vengeance and husbanding self-defence?
To paraphrase kropotkin, "We need not your houses, leave us alone to build our own."  I don't think that is where you were going with this thought, but ...
I find it to be quite annoying for a person to answer her_his own questions, unless that person is a demagogue or a populist. Why don't YOU answer it? You've answered a few others here (poorly), so why not give this one a shot?

I don't know if we should or shouldn't include vengeance in our toolbox; I was explicit about what revenge fantasies I was talking about, and why I think they're stupid. Do you think vengeance is a positive motivation for anything? Why bring up self-defense in this context? It's a non sequitur.
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