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+1 vote
for some, bloc-ing up and causing havoc in the streets is a tradition. for some, feeling and acting superior to some "other" is a tradition. for some, growing their own food is a tradition. for some, voting every 4 years is a tradition.

cultural traditions seem to be a big deal for those that are wedded to culture as a concept. also, how does tradition relate to "ritual"? or, reaching a bit further, how does "habit" relate?

i don't think i've asked this as clearly as i can, lacking sleep at the moment. i may clarify at another time, meanwhile, i am interested in folks' thoughts about tradition and its role in anarchic perspectives and relations.
by (12.3k points)
I'm sorry to hear that you are lacking sleep, and having had a lot of insomnia over the past 11+ years i don't take that lightly, it definetly messes with your head.

"cultural traditions seem to be a big deal for those that are wedded to culture as a concept. also, how does tradition relate to "ritual"? or, reaching a bit further, how does "habit" relate?"

I think overall "culture" is a weird concept at best, in the sense that it's very abstract. Seems to be a vague identifier for the thoughts and practices of a group of people, for example i begrudginly half-agree agree with the idea that "white culture is buying things". "Ritual" brings to mind at least for me, pentagrams and sacrifices, hahaha, to me it says that a group of people are meeting to ____________, for example when christians go to church on sunday that is a ritual..."ritual" certainly has some sort of a religious vibe to it.

Habits to me are overall are more personal, an individual ritual. For example, the fact i usually drink coffee in the morning is a habit, having to do with the overarching culture of consumer capitalism, but definetly not a ritual. It probably has more to do with my feelings of irritability and nihilism than it does with anything else...

ANYWAYS, tradition is more or less an abstract word for all of these things, the "habits of our ancestors", etc. Maybe: inter-generational rituals, or something that occurs automatically through the ages, without any intentional effort. For example: it has been a tradition that when children graduate from high school they go to college.

I would really love to hear how "anarchists" apply to any of these things, because from my understanding it's within anarchist tradition to rebel against the major structures of society, hence leaving them out of tradition altogether, i would think that "anarchist culture" is more of a real thing because i have seen bits and pieces of it before, "dumpster diving", "punk aesthetic", "call-out culture", "zines", it's actually a very rich and diverse culture if you think about it...from someone who has more experience with anarchist culture, does any of this ring true to you, or am i just judging as an outsider? Am I perhaps making all of this my own mistakenly?
Hrmmm... I would say leftists bringing da mf ruckus on the streets is a ritual. Like it's kinda like baptism of anarchism. May Day (international workers day) would be kinda like a anarchist or socialist tradition where some leftists engage in rituals like protesting/breaking shit, carry a black/red flag, and sing the "internationale" in unison. Both rituals and traditions are passed through generations and have similar meanings. Hmmm... Tradition is more broad while rituals are act(s) performed by a group. Tradition encapsulates the three and all the crap that's continued on from generation to generation of some group, me thinks. It's etymology is "to transmit"

Habits and rituals aren't really related. To me it's habit -> routine -> ritual. Habits are dependent on the individual's behavior and outside stimuli. They are stuff you do with little to no conscious thoughts about it and are learned. A routine is more of a deliberate act that you think about and follow it on a regular basis. Routines and rituals are similar because both need conscious effort. Habits helps make your brain more efficient by putting you on autopilot, me thinks.

Culture is extremely broad compared to rituals and traditions. Tradition is an aspect of culture. It'd be hard to separate the two from each other.

Tradition is more noticeable within the social anarchist. They point out that anarchists, like Benjamin Tucker, and others from the late 19th to early 20th century called themselves socialists. So all anarchists are socialists blah blah blah. Their attachment to and mostly stuff anarchists wrote in the late 19th to early 20th century seems strange to me. The afaq is an example of being way too attached to anarchists ideas from the late 19th to early 20th century. It quotes Bakunin, Kropotkin and Malatesta like every page while trying to explain anarchism. Maybe that is not an example of tradition or is. I done confused myself.

1 Answer

+2 votes
There's a great essay by Gershom Scholem about Jewish messianic thought that this question brings to mind. Scholem points out an interesting paradox. On the one hand, the messianic idea is absolutely revolutionary and iconoclastic. Jewish messianic movements, such as those associated with Sabbatai Zevi or Jacob Frank, are antinomian: they break with every letter of Jewish law, abandon the tradition, and become enfants terribles. The messianic demands this, as it entails a complete rupture with the world and life one has lived up till then, a total destruction-creation, another world. On the other hand, Scholem argues, every aspect of the Jewish tradition, every letter of the law, every word of the sacred texts and every ritual carried out repeatedly, laboriously, over the years and generations, bears in its heart the messianic, carrying, transmitting, and ultimately giving birth to the force that will destroy it.

I think anarchy and anarchism hold a very similar, if not identical, tension. It is what Bonanno calls the anarchist tension. On the one hand, anarchism is radically anti-traditional. Anarchists can't stand traditions. Anarchy is such a utopian moment, such a radical break from mundane reality that it undoes everything, even everything about the anarchism we live day to day. In crude terms, we must burn the black flags after the revolution. But here's the rub. We have to live our anarchism day to day, or else it is nothing. And by living it day to day, we are or become part of a tradition, even while it is a tradition dedicated to a spirit that annihilates tradition. (If we haven't studied religion, especially along its messianic paths, we may think this contradiction is unique to anarchism. It isn't.) It's tempting to try to deny the paradox of it and dissolve it into something simpler, but this would kill the spirit. Individuals within messianic, supposedly political movements -- i.e. revolutionaries -- would do well to consider their traditions as religious traditions -- or spiritual, if they prefer.

Aside from our antinomianism and messianism (i.e. a deeply embedded, healthy resistance to tradition) another reason anarchists have a troubled relation to tradition is that ours is such a "broken" one. The lines of transmission and the ancestral lines are ruptured so often by a whole litany of factors and tragedies, often it feels like the elders aren't there or the youth don't care to listen to them. And, though the ancestors are sometimes remembered, it seems there are not many encouragements to seek relation with them. But the traditions persist anyway, as others have pointed out: smashing windows and quoting Kropotkin (ancestor!) are both traditional. We have holidays: May Day (ancestors!), June 11th, Haymarket Martyr's Day, etc. We have special styles of dress, of language, of eating. But in my opinion these too often manifest as habit rather than ritual. I'd say that habits are what we do unintentionally and rituals are practices of hyper-intention. I propose we infuse more intention into our practices, to allow ourselves the feeling and awareness of ourselves moving within a tradition as we live out our day to day anarchy. This, I think, will help in creating-destroying the tradition.

There's my initial stab. Interested to hear what others think.
by (19.8k points)

"Aside from our antinomianism and messianism (i.e. a deeply embedded, healthy resistance to tradition)..."

interesting. while antinomianism seems to fit this discussion, i am very curious about what you mean by messianism. messianism has a very clear meaning to me, and it would be the very antitheses of anything anarchic to me, and surely would not indicate " a deeply embedded, healthy resistance to tradition". what am i missing?

that is very interesting, first of all, can you tell me the specific essay by gersham sholem, im dying to read that and based on a search he was overall pretty influential so it will be hard for me to find which essay you are talking about...

second of all, under your definition my coffee drinking is a ritual, because it is hyper-intentional, because its always the thing i want to strongly do before any of the more boring or irritating shit, and then my social media usage is more of habit, one that ive been trying to cut down on (with a lot of success, even though i consider the anarchy web to be social media, even though other anarchists don't...)
Ah, I can see how that would be confusing, funky. The biggest messianic tradition in the world today, Christianity, has vigorously suppressed everything I'd consider messanic about it. So what do I mean by the messianic. When the messiah comes it destroys the tradition, as the tradition is just the ritual expectation of the messiah. Some of the anarchist terms for this are: we will have to burn the black flags, there are no anarchists "after the revolution," there are no road maps from here to our destination, or blueprints for the new world.

Does that clarify at all?

Nihilist, the essay in question is "Religious Authority and Mysticism" in On the Kabbalah and Its Symbolism. The actual terms are somewhat different than I remembered them, but I hope I got the gist right. In any case, definitely worth a read!

Glad to hear you're having success cutting back on the social media!

cool ill put that book on my list, i tend to make enormous lists of books, it keeps me from buying too many of them, haha, what you posted is bizarre and interesting to me.

In order to control my social media usage i had to delete both my facebook and twitter, i hate the validation aspect of it, i normally hated getting likes and hearts on those websites, i generally prefer responses in the form of comment, because simply validating feelings vapid and subservient. Online discussion in the service of meeting in real life is also more appealing to me, yet thats also kinda scary, so i understand why people have little interest in that overall.

anok - thanks, yes that does clarify a bit. my concept of the term was rather limited.

however, this:

there are no anarchists "after the revolution,"

does not resonate at all. i would want to dig deeper on that. my anarchy is how i choose to relate with the world around me. why would that change "atr" if everyone else on the planet also chose to relate anarchically?

this, however, i totally get and agree with:

there are no road maps from here to our destination, or blueprints for the new world.

the bit about "burning the black flag atr" makes a lot of sense to me in the sense that flags are a symbol of authority, rigidity, private property in the shitty sense, but any sort of non-transcendent or epigrammatic use of the r word leaves a sour taste in my mouth...not that im telling people not to say it, go on! Let's flesh out these ideals/ideas!
burning any flag is something i can get behind. i see them less as a symbol of authority than a proclamation of support for some ideology, which typically - though not always - entails submission to some authority.

funky, I think the question you raise is a good one, probably deserving of its own thread. I've been thinking a lot about non-revolutionary anarchism in recent years. The most visible and vocal anarchists all seem to be revolutionary -- I think it would be a bit silly to say they are revolutionary, but many would consider themselves revolutionary, or aspire to be, or are for revolution (pro-revolutionary) -- but I suspect that many anarchists are not revolutionary, or not in a major way. I think there are many ways this non-revolutionary, or not-primarily-revolutionary anarchism might find expression. One expression would be that anarchism is something to live today, so "after the revolution" is a minor concern, if not simply an object of scorn.

Idea of a new thread aside, I suppose I should clarify that I don't necessarily think the statement "there are no anarchists after the revolution" makes a ton of sense or should be accepted at face value. It's more that I want to gloss what seems to be an existing notion, a part of the anarchist tradition, and what I think it might mean in the context of anti-traditional aspects of the tradition.