Friday, August 12, 2011

Rights of the Individual: All or Nothing

It was recently said that anarchism might enshrine "one value above all: the autonomy of the individual."

Now, historical anarchism is a wide field. It's not a meaningless category; some things remain present, and I would say that at least one thing that is pivotal to the anarchist or the anti-authoritarian or whatever is just as the Abonilox said--the autonomy, power, sovereignty, right, or something, of the individual. Individuality is part of it, individualism is part of it.

So what rights do we have as individuals? Is there a rational basis for them?

Power, as has been said by the Nietzscheans and a myriad of ugly little rightists who think themselves supermen but who are no less correct on this point, is never to be equalized. From our musculature to our genetics to our fortune to our emotional resolve and so on, inequality seems set as part of life. For my part, I do not think this necessarily invalidates a program of political liberty and civic equality, but it does pose a challenge. Aside from right, it seems likely that power will become unequal and will be abused. Relative strength is not just a system; it is a relational dynamic.

But in Nietzsche rather than the Social Darwinists we find, amidst his perhaps unfortunate attacks on Darwin's science itself, the notion that "survival of the fittest" is plainly not true. We can point out any number of creatures who are fit but unfortunate. Komodo dragons are resilient and incredibly intelligent for reptiles; they just happen to live in some of the most volcanic islands in the world. Individuals who settled near Pompeii might sympathize. What determines fitness? Evolution is a complicated game in which many, many species are lost to valiant attempts and only a few, in times of great die-off, survive, as much due to chance as any nobility or superiority.

So it is with society, which ennobles by whim. The offspring who inherit the windfall of the mighty are not often strong enough to hold onto it, much less to have earned it in the first place. A warlike time places the most ruthless at the top; Zimbabweans may take note of Mugabe who was probably the only type of man who could have undone the rule of fascist Rhodesia. But Stalins and Saddams have great failings to match their adaptive strengths.

So it is with all strength and--intellectuals take note--all intelligence, where some gifts are useful at some times and useless at others.

So where does that leave us? It seems plain to me that there is no way to rationalize the power of some over the power of others. We all have the same right unless there is no right at all. And for me, those are the two rational starting positions, and neither is falsifiable. Either you assume equality of right because there is no grounds for advocating superiority, or you assume the amorality of all actions, as there are no grounds to articulate a moral dimension at all--save, of course, what we posit.

So it's either a Nietzschean, Stirnerian free-for-all, the war of all against all, or we'd better start working on that Heaven on Earth. Somehow I imagine that each would lead to a little of the other, whatever path we take.


  1. Damn, Cuneyt - I have to keep a promise to my oldest that I made weeks ago. (He created a card game, and wants to teach me.)

    But, I wonder if you've read the Neetch through Kaufmann's lens or not.

    I think Kaufmann does a bang up job dismantling the Anglo-American political/cultural edifice built around Nietzsche, to show him as markedly distinct from the images and impressions of him, especially Nietzsche as Politician.

    This isn't to diminish his obvious and perhaps even Diogenian aristocratism, but I think it's telling that prior to his reclamation by English social darwininists, and German neo-hegelians, the Neetch could be read by Emma Goldman as a precursor of leftist individualism.

  2. Well, I don't fault you your priorities. :) Have fun.

    Kaufmann's translations seem the best by far in my opinion, and was actually reading a few of Goldman's comments on Nietzsche yesterday. What I take away from him is very much part of the anarcho-leftist read of him; I just also grant that he may very well have thought me one of the "dogs" whose egalitarianism was a sign of sickness.

    Nietzsche was definitely not a statist or a believer in rigid hierarchies. At the same time, I do see in him some support for amoral egoism--an anarchism without care for others. (Though elsewhere he praises compassion in strength as one of the paramount virtues. He's complex.) But I am so very fond of him, and he is the antidote to the disease of pity and bitterness that can afflict those on the left.

  3. Oh, and in case this wasn't obvious, I should have put a clearer distinction between the Nietzscheans and the would-be supermen. Nietzsche has always had his posers, predominantly in fascist Europe, Objectivism, and college freshmen.

  4. Power, as has been said by the Nietzscheans and a myriad of ugly little rightists who think themselves supermen but who are no less correct on this point, is never to be equalized.

    This paragraph approaches my recent feelings on the subject in a way that I haven't been able to articulate. I feel like I want to call out two frauds: the fraud of the right, which says that powers can't be equalized so you don't try; and the fraud of the left which says that powers must be equalized, even when they can't.

  5. I disagree, I think it is the universalism of the individual. The subvesion of the importance of the individual to the nature of the relational.

    You are nothing, the dynamics of any two individuals relationship are the main thing. Whatever individuals are involved is subordinate to the working of the relationship.

    The side effect of this is the autonomy of the individual in the sense that they would likely remain free of coercive dynamics.

  6. There's so much here to respond to. Very rich thread.

    "Power of the fittest." There's no getting around that as a kind of a brute fact. But hasn't this been moderated somewhat successfully in society by moral sanction? I'm talking about everyday human interactions, not actions of the state. Even brutally violent drug gangs develop their own code of ethics among themselves. My point is that in social groups we have demonstrated a capacity (albeit imperfectly) to moderate this behavior. So if that's the case, then it is reasonable to assume that those same tools can be used in a different setting (say, an anarchist society) to ameliorate the coercive tendencies of opportunists who happen to wield excess power (either intellectual or physical).

    On Nietzsche, I avoided being a poser (as a college freshman) by not reading him until I was in my 40's! That's the best time to read Nietzsche. He makes more sense once your ego's been crushed. ("He is the antidote to the disease of pity and bitterness that can afflict those on the left" -- wonderful quote.) He's a nihilist with hope. What a strange combination. So I take it that individual autonomy is an absolute with him. (Though he obviously thought most people acted more like sheep than human beings). And I take him as the inspiration for this line of thought.

    I'm wondering about using the term "rights" and if that creates new difficulties. Perhaps an ethic of anarchist autonomy begins with a sense of obligation rather than a recognition of rights. What rights necessarily follow from individual autonomy, if any? Self-defense maybe? Nietzsche doesn't seem to be a big fan of human rights. The delineation and proliferation of human rights has been a tactic of the left. But who grants these rights? The state maybe? God? Rights become entitlements. I'd like to start over from scratch. Saying that my personal autonomy is an absolute (even an ontological claim) may not entail any rights at all. From a Nietzschean perspective any "rights" I'm going to claim I'm probably going to have to earn.

  7. Balkanization and small communities are the best bulwark against aggrandizement of power.

    Centralization is the surest path for the arrogant, the power-luster, the acquisitive, the would-be oppressor.

    The smaller the community, the easier to keep a check on the would-be tyrant.

    The larger the community, the more the tyrant can surround himself with sycophants and the sycophants themselves with other sycophants. Large societies are pyramid schemes.

    Again I'm forced to ask, why so afraid of decentralization, balkanization, small communities? Is it from an urban sophisticate's perspective which defaults to the idea that large clusters of similar-minded sophisticates are the Valhalla or Nirvana of self-impressed "intellectuals" everywhere?

    That Freddy N was misused by others is not really anything to do with Freddy N's own thoughts, and more to do with the ancient urge to find excuse for what one's conscience deems inhumane. See, e.g., religion. Or national political parties.

  8. The side effect of this is the autonomy of the individual in the sense that they would likely remain free of coercive dynamics.

    I would agree with a caveat:

    Even in a 2-person dynamic, if one is an imposer/dominator, and the other a lump of clay/submitter, coercion will happen eventually.

    Thus how to encourage the submissive person to feel his/her own power, to feel less inclined to submit or follow?

    I think that like physical strength and intellectual ability, "will" or self-confidence or self-efficacy exists on a spectrum -- but unlike physical prowess or brainpower, will is a psychological construct which can be changed through work on one's assumptions and attitudes.

    This, I think, is what Freddy N was up to.

  9. Nietzsche doesn't seem to be a big fan of human rights.

    See my comment directly above.

    I'd suggest you're pre-loading the read of Freddy by assuming he is/was obliged to talk about individual human rights. And I'd say that's because you've been biased by "leftists" who put such "rights" at the front of every discussion where they're bitching, keening, whinging about some miniscule fringe interest not having the same "rights" as others. Most of the "rights" advanced by "leftists" are nothing but preferences and wishes, extrapolated out to a larger form of identity politics. "Abortion rights" is a shining, blinding example of this. "Gay marriage rights" yet another.

    Devolve the questions to individual freedom and autonomy and these absurd micro-sector interests (alleged "rights") are mooted.

  10. I overlooked the fittest thing intentionally, but I think it is worth clarifying that fitness is entirely context dependant. Being the biggest and baddest does not make you fit.

    So what is the context? Social norms. If we want to define the fittest to be along physicality, then coercion will be lying in the weeds somewhere. Coercion will only cease to exist so long as the strong decide not to bully others. If we define fitness on personal autonomy, then we have come full circle. Not just your own, however, but others. The right to decide to participate or not in any arrangement, and if not, to walk away free of physical threat. Even if it means social or emotional consequences.

    What does this mean as a bystander? I may call you a prick for refusing to go along, but as soon as anyone on my side tries to force you physically to go along, or make you feel threatened for your well being.

    Personal examples, and from well before I every thought about anarchy.

    (over a decade ago) I was about 20, in college, with a group of my friends at a bar in Athens, GA. A bull dyke (I use the perjorative stereotype as a shorthand) walked by. One of my buddies said something to her to insult her, I wheeled on him, shoved him against a wall and told him he better back the fuck off.

    Another example from a few years earlier. I was walking down the hall of my high school. A group of kids, led by someone I was friendly with, started giving a kid wearing ragged clothes shit by shoving him around. I walked right up the guy who started it, threw him into a wall and slapped him twice across the face. He didn't do anything in response other than cower and that was the end of it. The guy I knew, who was in the group, told me later the guy wanted to have a rematch. I told him that as soon as I saw him giving someone shit, I would be down for it.

    Those are juvenile examples based largely around fighting, but illustrate how I see it from personal experience.

  11. Karl,

    I'm not afraid of Balkanization or small communities. If I could I'd be living in one right now (or completely alone on a piece of land somewhere). But times being what they are, and having a family to support etc... I'm sitting in suburbia.

    You may be right about this, but it's fair, even necessary I think to speculate about under what conditions larger communities could persist in an anarchist society.

  12. Abonilox -- wasn't targeting anyone in particular with my general question. Was asking it to everyone.

    I don't think large societies can be anarchist in nature. I think it's impossible. That's the point of my comment at 2:05 pm. I'd cap an ideal number at 200, conservatively speaking. Maybe 1,000 can work.

  13. Karl:

    Centralization is the surest path for the arrogant, the power-luster, the acquisitive, the would-be oppressor.

    The smaller the community, the easier to keep a check on the would-be tyrant.

    Totally agree with this. That this isn't emphasized among large segments of the left is one of the biggest reasons an anarchist shouldn't dismiss the right, where decentralist impulse is more common, in my opinion.

  14. Well, the "left" has held a flush of new love attitude toward Glossy Karl and socialist-communist centralized power for far too long -- well past the point at which a healthy human would stop idealizing his/her mate. Marx has held too much power over the "left" for a long time. It's the supposed atheist's real religion, Marxism. It's one of the greatest ironies of humanity.

    When "leftists" find the courage to declare Marx what he was -- just another theorist among many -- and move past the reverence, perhaps the "left" can be viable again. Right now, they're hamstrung and fettered and blinkered by their idol, Glossy Karl. Or by his Interpreter Caste followers.

    If we simply focus on individual rights and freedoms, there's never any need to encounter Glossy Karl's absurdly over-wrought, hyper-pretentious writings. We can consider them to be as irrelevant as Mithraism, or the practice of human sacrifice.

    Unfortunately, that's not going to happen any time soon. Too many love their idols; too many fear self-reliance and interpreting their own landscape.

    Too many are still adolescents, regardless of their corporal age.

  15. Shit, I didn't know I'd be given so much to think about in return. :)

    Mr. Boyd, welcome! Nice thought about the camps of left and right. In the future, I plan to write about the left's failure to balance power, at least to date.

    Justin, that sounds like a chicken-egg thing. Are relational dynamics not affected by the individuals?

    Abonilox, morality must be posited by some mind. Moral sanction? Sanctioned by whom? Sounds like it's backed by power. Likewise, when you talk about obligation versus rights, you're wise to mention that rights may be guaranteed by some higher force and so I counter "obligation to what?"

    Karl brings up the domination possible even in a two-person relationship. As far as Balkanization, that's another very pertinent point to consider--the scale of communities which is to say (for me anyway) the scale of the state.

    Regarding left and right... Depends on "which" left, "which" right. Which country. Elsewhere, ergo, you said that left and right were irrelevant.

    I would say that here many of the right praise the small town, praise the rural and the wild (even as they seek to plow it all over). Makes sense; rural populism only has rightwing nationalism to feel good about itself. Leftism, true worker leftism, is dead in America. You might not find it everywhere. But sure, the right in the US adopt the survivalism and the posture of the independentist. But when it comes down to it, Democrats and Republicans both believe in state capture.

    I'm not sure how much of the left really believes in Marx, understands anything about him, or really how much any of the left exist in America. The right is very diverse; it has libertarians and isolationists and neocons (who paleos call leftwing because they hate them) and religs and seculars and politicals and apoliticals.

    They have, in Darwinist terms, speciated because they are a fucking bloom. They have dominated and they are finding greater and greater diversity. Leftists? Don't talk to me about American leftists. They are sickly because they are intellectually inbred, stuffed with antibiotics, scared of the sun. And Democrats are nothing more than the backbred hybrids of native left and native right.

    That was a weird rhetorical spasm.

  16. Cuneyt, my use of quotes reflects euphemism and/or imprecision of definition. If I talk about "left" then I'm not being nationalistic or localized in any sense outside what I read on the Toobz by self-identified "leftists." (there it is again)

    I don't believe in the scare quote use of those little hashes. I side with Paul Fussell on that one.

    What I see on the Toobz is a large contingent of self-identified "leftists" from many nations, obedient to Glossy Karl, insisting Marxism is our solution, demanding that anyone "serious" about social change must be serious about Marxism to the point of using The Interpreter Caste's vocabulary and jargon, and knowing the Interpreter Caste's various key knowledge/history points as well as heroic figures of Marxism. It's a lot like the Vatican, IMO.

    I don't really care much about the right vs left method of defining people's views... on that I agree with ergo. I don't care whether there is no vital "left" in America. I don't see that as the root cause of our problems. Failing to listen to Marx isn't where we went wrong. As I've said many, many times before on many people's blogs -- what Glossy Karl observed was and is observable by anyone caring to think about power disparity. There is no essential quality to Glossy Karl. He's just another self-impressed asshole -- the Glenn Greenwald of his era.

  17. You're right, Karl, and your use of quotations made your statement clearer to me than ergo's. I guess I cleave to my post-Marxians and tend to be a little protective. But again, I concur; if the left can't get over Marx, then they're fucked more deeply than they already appear.

    I maintain that leftism is a shallow pool. Those who are even willing to claim the name in the US are going to skew the sample. That may not be relevant to anything you've said.

    But of course, if it's a shallow pool, that means that anti-authoritarian leftists will have an easier time distinguishing themselves, perhaps.

  18. It may be a shallow pool, but why even look at pools? Why confine your examination to "right" versus "left"?

    If you look at the elemental level of personal power and who-gains-what, that's all you need to examine.

    I understand the urge to categorize -- especially among those who consider themselves well-educated. But categorization is not understanding. It's just labelling. Labelling means nothing. The substance is what matters.

    Talking about "right" versus "left," or silently doing so (implicitly) by bemoaning the tininess of the "left" -- this is a diversion from the analysis of what power exists, for whose benefit.

    I have more in common with a "right" identifier who abhors power-abuse, than I do with a "left" identifier who worships Glossy Karl.

    I have more in common with a person who deconstructs power, than I do with someone who obsesses over whether the "right" has more external indicia of power than the "left."

    I have more in common with someone who analyzes who holds power and for what purpose, than I do with someone who is worrying the smallness of the "left."

  19. Well it's a good thing I know that dichotomies are merely tools, because I analyze power, and yet I observe the comparative characteristics of schools of thought. I know that all tribes and cultures are fantasy and yet I do not ignore fantasy.

  20. Hey... Chomsky... how about speaking directly, rather than passive-aggressively?

  21. I'm not being passive aggressive. I just lost interest in the tangent. If ergo or you want to say that the left or the "left" of whoever have a greater tendency toward statism than the "right" or the right or whatever, okay. If you then want to shift to a general critique of left vs. right, then fine. I feel like there's some equivocation here. Speak about speaking directly. As I said too long ago, "left" and "right" is all well and good as long as we determine which left and which right!

    But my most recent response, the one that seemed pass-agg to you, was one where I was saying that you seemed to be presenting a dichotomy between those who make observations about the putative left and those who make ostensibly real criticisms of power.

    I do both. I don't abrogate my power analysis by saying that there are, respectively, leftwing and rightwing political traditions in Euro-American civilization. I can talk about both at once, one, the other, or neither.

  22. And let me say, a little less hastily, that it's not a useless tangent. I do want to get into the falsity of the left v. right thing, and it's actually on my mental list of subjects. I just felt that we had started to dwell on one corner of the argument and ignoring the remainder; I won't tell you what to talk about, but I had less and less to give as far as effort, so my responses became slighter and slighter. I didn't want to go silent entirely, because I thought that would be rude.

  23. It takes a fairly strong and slanted ideology to posit liberal/power versus non-dichotomy/powerlessness.

    The nostrums of the old Gironde/Montagne divide still work as categories, for a reason.

    People consciously self identify. The sainted paragons of the rightward critique of liberal power are consciously conservative. This is not accident.

  24. If ergo or you want to say that the left or the "left" of whoever have a greater tendency toward statism than the "right" or the right or whatever, okay


    Neither I nor ergo has argued what you said above.


    Devolving matters to analysis of who holds power and for whose sake, that is independent of right-vs-left -- no matter what Fancy Jack says with his citations to historicity (a Marxist game if ever there was one!).

    What matters is what is happening, now, in America. Who has the power. For whose purposes is that power held and wielded.

    Drop the "right" category. Drop the "left" category.

    Analyze the power.

    Or, if you're Chomsky (or Fancy Jack), pretend to analyze power while deflecting attention to Fancy Intellectualism.

  25. Karl, I don't mean to sound pass-agg by merely recognizing your right to say whatever you please.

    And you're right. He was saying that the left and you were saying that the "left" tended more toward centralization.

    And again you offer me a dichotomy. Keep my categories or drop my categories and analyze power.

    I can analyze power while seeing groups and schools of political philosophy as significant. I feel like there's a bit of moving the goalposts here. We can invoke the left or the "left" or whatever in order to bash it, but then if I talk about the left or the "left" or whatever, I'm engaging in useless, distractionary spectacle. And honestly, the fact that this conversation is endlessly circling over one point is why I'm getting tired of it, and why my responses have dwindled.

    And, not content with pressing the point as much as you already have, you're now accusing me of being passive-aggressive with you. I think you've made yourself clear. I refuse to budge from where I stand right now, which is that I may continue to critique power while also talking about left and right as I please. They may not be all-important, but they are useful tools for thought, and the rightward shift in American culture, while it may seem meaningless to you, tells you a lot about how real political balance has shifted and how real culture has responded to the Cold War. Oh God! I used history; I guess I'm a Marxist now.

  26. Okay, this is going to be sort of a non-sequitur but whatever. Most left-identifiers are Democrats. Most right-identifiers are Republicans. If I subscribed to social democracy, I might then make generalizations. Nevertheless there are identifiers of both who are not, who are opposed to participation in the charade of voting in our duopolistic system. Furthermore there are many non-participators who have characteristics and attitudes that many left- or right-identifiers would claim to be consistent with their views. Likewise there are attitudes that left- or right- identifiers would disown.

    Look, I do this myself. As an anarchist I see consistencies with the views of many right-identifiers and many left-identifiers. Opposition to all sorts of status quo establishment policies from bailouts to corporate welfare to aggressive warmaking to police state measures and beyond you can find among both of these groups. I don't much care where anti-authoritarian tendency "comes from". I think it's worth finding solidarity with people where possible.

    Now there's a big stumbling block I have with a lot of these identifiers. I talk about it all the time. It's called the duopoly. I don't think it has anything to do with their ideologies except as something for power-seekers to exploit in their pursuit and maintenance of power. However, consider for a moment that 40-50% of the population doesn't vote in presidential elections. 50-60% does not vote in midterm elections.

    So what if the pool of anti-authoritarian leftist self-identifiers is tiny? Or that of anti-authoritarian rightist self-identfiers? There is an extremely vast segment of the population that is dissatisfied with our current system, for all sorts of reasons. Quite a lot of these reasons are very similar to my own, and probably yours too.

    They may not be all-important, but they are useful tools for thought, and the rightward shift in American culture, while it may seem meaningless to you, tells you a lot about how real political balance has shifted and how real culture has responded to the Cold War.

    Can you elaborate on this? I think there has been a shift toward greater centralization and concentration of power in many areas. But that's rather different than saying it was a rightward shift.

  27. Yes; they are different statements and they can both be true. You can make observations of the support for social programs that benefit common people as opposed to business.

    And yes, while the anarchist may oppose each for being statist, they may, looking through other lenses, have other contrasts that are important to look through. I am not and have never pretended to be a pure anything, let alone a pure anarchist. Lest you forget, look at the punny title of this blog.

    Going on, the rightist may see that post-war history has not satisfied him, and he may refuse to see any philosophical links with himself and the current order. In much the same way, the Trotskyist will insist that his dictatorship of the proletariat would so much better than the Stalinist. And there is truth in both, and a great amount of self-service.

    In any case, I see the push for theocracy, the rise of "states' rights" and other independentist euphemisms for local tyranny, the destruction of labor unionization, the rise of crony capitalism, the further development of militarism, as things that might be considered part of a rightwing shift. And all of this may be dismissed by Karl as meaningless window-dressing, but if you can't see a systematic defamation of "socialism," "leftism," and all things of a similar stripe during the course of the United States Cold War against the "atheist Soviet Empire," then I'd say I guess we're working from different narratives. Your mileage may vary. Shrug.

  28. I mean, if you take the assumption that left and right are meaningless, then there's no way I can characterize anything as left or right to you. And if you assume that right means free, I likewise won't be able to point out any authoritarianism that is rightwing in nature.

    I see leftism and rightism as modern constructs that overlap in several places and may either coincide, be at odds with, or align with anti-authoritarianism and authoritarianism. You might as well talk about feudalism, nationalism, and internationalism because these things aren't really concrete and yet they help us think about things. If anything, left/right are more valid than, say, feudalism, because nobody ever called themselves a feudalist.

    Again, I feel like the goalposts are being moved.

    Ergo, you say this:

    "That this isn't emphasized among large segments of the left is one of the biggest reasons an anarchist shouldn't dismiss the right, where decentralist impulse is more common, in my opinion."

    And then you point out the nonvoting public so as to completely render the possibility of making sweeping statements about "large segments" of this group or that group. Statements like what you just said! And then you say that the "decentralist impulse is more common" among the right, right before you say that it's not about left/right, but about centralization and decentralization?

    Does left/right exist, or does it not? It's hard for me to keep up with what vocabulary regime under which I'm supposed to labor. And I've been pressed to the coals over this issue of left and right which was promptly abandoned the moment I took the bait. How can you make a claim about the left being blind to something and then repeatedly deny any attempt to point out a flaw with the right by saying there is no real "right" to begin with?

  29. We're getting into mystical territory here, which is not my forte, but I'll try to follow as best I can.

    I think people identify as leftists and rightists. I also think using left v. right as an understanding of how power functions is misguided.

    I will clarify my previous statement. I think it is more common for right-identifiers to emphasize decentralism than left-identifiers. That is to say, I read a fair amount of left-identifiers and I do not often see this emphasized. I read a fair amount of right-identifiers and I do see this emphasized. Not all left-identifiers do this (e.g. left-libertarians), just as not all right-identifiers emphasize decentralism (e.g. neocons).

    Viewing how our ruling class operates as a function of ideology is not helpful and serves to perpetuate existing divides which benefit the ownership class. Viewing how our ruling class operates as a function of power is more accurate and more helpful in my view.

  30. Okay let's take some of your examples of rightism:

    the push for theocracy

    And the "secular" statism supported by progressives is somehow not theocracy? It's a different religion. Look, I'm opposed to any form of authoritarianism. Wake me when these people are actually making policy, as opposed to being exploited for votes by charlatans.

    the rise of "states' rights" and other independentist euphemisms for local tyranny

    States' rights "rose" over two centuries ago, and never fell in certain areas. Furthermore, this misses the point, and is just used as an excuse to tar decentralism. It ignores the fact that existing federal tyranny is far less responsive and far worse than whatever hypothetical neo-Salemite society you can imagine. Again, wake me when these successfully seceded states are carrying out their own forms of tyranny. This does not justify centralization.

    the destruction of labor unionization

    This is obviously a function of the ownership class preserving their wealth and power against the population. That union movements have put their energies into electoralism, as Jack pointed out recently, does not help them. Furthermore, unions have been under assault from the establishment "left" to the same degree for the same amount of time, they are just more insidious about it. Which is worse?

    the rise of crony capitalism, the further development of militarism

    How is the "left" not totally complicit in these developments?

    I don't deny that socialism and communism have been vilified. This was done to attack unions, for reasons of power dynamics explained above. Later, this was important to do in order to maintain imperial hegemony during the Cold War.

  31. Use of the state, however misguided, is not analogous to the belief that Christian doctrine should be a guide to leadership. Churchillian welfarism to stem worker rebellion is not the same as Khomeiniism.

    As far as "justifying centralization," I'm doing no such thing. I'm criticizing the putative right, which is considered being a fan of big government and tyranny and federal rape--by rightists.

    "I don't deny that socialism and communism have been vilified." Okay. Then, to take your phrase, wake me when "right" and "conservative" are as respected as "communist." From a crude, silly parliamentary view, any child could see that our spectacle is skewed. Do I want to go beyond appearances? Sure I do. But it is curious, isn't it, when people claim right and center but nobody claims left? Is this all-important? Hardly. Policy matters more. But is it irrelevant? You and Karl are very clear: it is. It does not matter, and I am brooding over it pointlessly. I'm not so sure. I've played this game before with Marxist apologists who believe that nothing bad could ever flow from the ideas, the beautiful ideas. And I think I've been rather clear about my willingness to blame ideas for the realities they inspire (or retroactively uphold).

    Ergo, thank you for the challenges. I apologize for any frustration that I express here; you're offering me a different perspective that I sorely need, and I hope I have not disrespected you in the course of expressing my present disagreement.

  32. Cuneyt:

    No offense taken, I've enjoyed the exchange. Sometimes I (perhaps too willingly) just kind of go by my own intuition, so it's good to have to articulate why I think what I do.

    Use of the state, however misguided, is not analogous to the belief that Christian doctrine should be a guide to leadership. Churchillian welfarism to stem worker rebellion is not the same as Khomeiniism.

    I'm not saying that. What I am saying is that statism is a form of belief, hence a religion. People don't think of it as such for various reasons. See this comment by Professor Coldheart from a year ago here:

    "Similarly, anarchism is the belief that there is no State. By "State," I mean "some independent body of law that limits the unjust use of power." There is no such animal. I can't sum up my entire argument in a blawg's comment box, but, in brief: (A) what we call the State is not a singular entity but a network of agencies with different agendas; (B) the State is no more immune to human folly than the humans it governs; (C) the State is a concentration of power, not a bulwark against it."

    Progressives have this belief system, and it has numerous negative consequences, as I'm sure you'll agree. Yet nobody calls them theocrats. Why is that?

    Also, I should have been more clear, I wasn't saying you were justifying centralization. I was saying that that is how the reflexive dismissal of "states' rights" is used in our politics.

    Look 40 years ago, fewer people would admit to being a conservative. Would you therefore say we were living in a leftwing time? If you would, on the basis of the New Deal which defused potential revolution, or the Great Society, which did the same to a lesser degree, then I would disagree with you there too.

    Most people I know who have leftwing or rightwing views, even if they are tribalist in their affection for Bush or Palin or Obama or Clinton or willingness to vote for Republicans or Democrats, I think mean well. They don't want tyranny. I don't even think most are happy with the system we have. Even the more religious right types I know, I don't think they would support throwing gays or atheists in concentration camps or whatever useful hysterical fiction someone could conjure. But the crucial observation to make is that these people have no power. Yet we have a system which is tyrannical in different ways and to different degrees. Now why is that? Is it a function of ideology? Or is it a function of power?

  33. Cüneyt, my friend, if there is one thing the internet has taught me, it is that you can enjoy hearing other's views without being fundamentally interested in them. If people want your response they'll engage your concerns. Otherwise they are free to appeal to whatever audience is interested in theirs. It's not your fault if that's not you.

  34. Progressives have this belief system, and it has numerous negative consequences, as I'm sure you'll agree. Yet nobody calls them theocrats. Why is that?

    Ergo, I think that's a fair question, but I chalk that up to the limits of English. It reminds me of Christians saying "Well, atheists have beliefs, too; they believe there's no God." The belief in supply-side economics, or the belief in technocracy, may have their flaws, but they are patently not the same as the belief that Jesus Christ is the son of God, that there is a God, and that the Holy Bible is blah blah blah. That is not to say that secular philosophy can't create ideas that are as unshakable and as untestable as your average bit of scripture, but I don't think that you can say that all use of the state is comparable to, say, the fascist belief of the state being the sole and ultimate enshrinement of human existence. It's a spectrum, you know? I think most people see the state merely as a power to be used or avoided as they please.

    I don't believe that people have no power. I think that more of the mass is responsible for the forms our tyranny takes than we give ourselves credit/responsibility.

    And as far as 40 years ago, I can't say; wasn't here. But as far as the 1920s and 1930s, it does seem that in spite of the first Red Scare, more people were comfortable with identifying with ostensibly leftwing ideas and movements. Was that more leftwing as a society? I doubt it, really. But maybe it was a time in which the label of the left was more permissible. It helps that the right usually affiliates itself with native culture rather than any philosophy; it is philosophy that insists it has no agenda.

    And Mr. Boyd, you speak the truth. I am newly returned to this whole thing, and I am enthusiastic to engage with those who flatter me with moments of their attention. That said, it's the fucking weekend, I start a very intense job (after a long period of unemployment) on Monday, so maybe I will step away from this for a little while. Time to write the fiction that knows it's fiction.

    Thank you all; keep percolating if you please. I will return to my obfuscation, diversion, and grift soon enough.

  35. I do think that at this point in history, "secular" imperialist statism is far more destructive than extant "theocracy". Was this always the case? No. Will it continue to be the case? Who knows? Bear in mind that theocracy is still statism.

    The religions of the world can be divorced from power. We have that now in this country, ludicrous Cold War relics such as "under god" and "in god we trust" notwithstanding. On the other hand, to divorce the religion of statism from power = anarchy.

    I don't believe that people have no power. I think that more of the mass is responsible for the forms our tyranny takes than we give ourselves credit/responsibility.

    Fair enough, though I think it's worth distinguishing between people who hold positions of power, and people who do not, despite their overt or tacit support for our system.

  36. I have been thinking about this thread for days. Still trying to work out a useful addition which I'll post on my own blog. Your posts have been stimulating...