Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A Recipe for Making an Anarchist: One Part Awareness, One Part Moral Assumptions, MIx Well

Iceberg wonders whether his younger pre-enlightenment self would listen to his present day self’s anti-statist rants any more than the average schmendrick does:

I am not sure that I would get much traction with the stupid young Vache Folle if I could contact him and warn him about the true nature of the state. For me, enlightenment came later in life, really taking hold in my forties after a gradual process of disillusionment. This began with the Ruby Ridge and Waco incidents and came to fruition, believe it or not, with my exposure to postmodernist ideas when I returned to graduate school during a mid-life crisis. I learned to question basic assumptions and categories and to look at the world in terms of power relations.

Foucault, as I recall, wrote that some structures of power depend for their efficacy on their being unexamined and that problematizing them might with little more render them inefficacious or at least lessen their efficacy. I began to think of the state in these terms as a social construct used to control people, or more interestingly used to convince people to control themselves. If I wanted to control people by brute force, I need not trouble with the fiction of the state, but if I wanted to reduce my costs and increase voluntary compliance, the more “legitimacy” I can muster by use of the concept of the state, the better for me.

For some, even raising their consciousness about the nature of the state as a construct used for social control would not be enough to get them to withdraw their grant of legitimacy to it. They would respond that that is precisely what they hope a state will do, exercise social control over their barbaric conspecifics. In addition to curing them of false consciousness, one must convince them of the immorality of the state and the exercise of force over others. This may be more challenging than consciousness raising.

In my own experience, awareness of the nature of the state and my postmodernist perspective were not enough to turn me into an enemy of the state, at least in principle. These observations and perspectives do not inexorably lead to the moral conclusion that the state is an absolute evil. For me, my rediscovery of my Christian faith and the ideals of non-violence, when applied to my newfound outlook, led to the moral conclusions that I have reached, that states, being predicated utterly on force and fraud, violate the fundamental tenets of my religion. I had to have in place both a moral system and a raised consciousness and somehow to align these.

For those for whom violence and fraud are easily morally justified, awareness of the true nature of the state will not in and of itself win them to the cause of individual liberty. It may perhaps, if enough are impacted, reduce legitimacy of particular states or regimes and render their exercise of power somewhat more costly. This would be no small feat, but an ethos of individual liberty either as an end in itself or as a consequence of the application of moral principles, such as non-aggression, must be cultivated if the state is to be discarded.

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