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Welcome to Anarchy101 Q&A, where you can ask questions and receive answers about anarchism, from anarchists.

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+5 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?
by (53.1k 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....

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.
by (2.5k 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.
by (8.0k points)
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.
Hi dot, I don't want to press you for a reply but it is always helpful if you press me on things, especially this kind of thing. And it would make me very sad if our exchange had ended because we had reached a complete impasse.
oh, press away. i'm not sure we're working on the same plane, or something. i guess my first response is to say that i just disagree. that quotation from audre lorde that kind of drives me crazy comes to mind--about the master's tools. to which i respond, but the master's tools might be the only ones we have. then i switch gears (i think?) and consider the attentat rejection of critique, to the extent that it is a way to stay engaged with things that we (claim to) hate.

but perhaps this is all a big tangent?

at any rate, there, press returned. (would that be re-pressed?! oh no!)
I'm not sure I'm following you wrt Audre Lorde, maybe in part because I've never been sure of what Audre Lorde meant by that aphorism.

If I understand you (your interpretation of and disagreement with Lorde) correctly, I think the point would be that in the struggle against domination/hierarchy/etc., one has to make do with what one is presented with. You say, "The master's tools might be the only ones we have." I completely agree with this statement, and so does Marx, I take it. That is, I think the idea of self-reflexive immanent critique (in other words historical materialism) implies:

1.turning your situation against itself (both intellectually and materially - part of the point is that the intellectual and the material are related)

2.attempting to ground your ability to do this in the contradictions of that situation. (that's the self-reflexivity part)

But I might be misinterpreting you/Lorde, since I'm not sure which "tools" you/Lorde have in mind. I was just looking over the talk where she says this and it seems wildly unclear to me.

Is the Attentat critique of critique online anywhere that you know of? Without having read it, my immediate reaction is just that I understand critique to be an attempt to identify both the limits and the possibilities of a thing. In my mind that's certainly a kind of engagement, but one that tries not to be stuck with just hating the thing in question.

I think I understand the wish to disengage from things you hate, if that's what you/Attentat are driving at. Nietzsche says I think something like, 'where you cannot love, there you can only turn away'. I'm just not convinced that's possible with capitalism. Actually, I would go so far as to say that the very possibility of "turning away"/escaping things you hate could be the definition of a post-capitalist situation.

Also, since you brought this up before, I want to point out that although it's certainly possible to think of Marxists for whom this is not true, Marx himself really really has no picture of what a communist society ought to look like, and is remarkably harsh and consistent about rejecting any and all blueprints for a future society.
+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 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)

by (22.1k points)
edited by