I’ve written in the past on anarchism and why I don’t subscribe to the idea. I was writing from the perspective of someone who’d considered himself one in the past. At the time, I’d only heard briefly of Dora Marsden’s position, but upon recent discovery, found that her argument against anarchism was quite similar to mine. Anarchism is actually unnatural, contrary to what anarchists will tell you - that people were anarchists for thousands of years until something went wrong.
Her appeal was to human nature, from my understanding. The call for anarchism in both its individualist as well as its collectivist strains is a call for castration. One subjugates one’s will for the sake of a principle that benefits society. The absence of law simply makes the state omni-present within the breast of all the lawless ones.
This is why I refer to anarchism as decentralized fascism. I’m quite committed to this position. I’ve argued with anarchists about it to no avail. Perhaps I communicated my point poorly, but invariably, they tend to completely misunderstand what I’m trying to say. They often come away thinking I’m one of them when my contention all this time could also, paradoxically, be described as thinking of anarchism as something which doesn’t and never could exist. Even if something is only a principle which rules over the social body, something rules. There’s always an unofficial republic built around complex sets of taboos, desires and security measures.
I don’t blame anarchists at all for trying. I think they make the best socialists and republicans; more than anyone else, the people who create the most interesting models for government are people who want no government.
They just don’t seem willing to admit that even someone with the best intentions or someone not thinking about it at all could make things hell for everyone else. If you don’t have absolute laws in place, then people carry out justice according to emotion and fancy. Coercion is part of life. Ideally, you would want to coerce people who are going to make life hell to stop doing so.
I stumbled across the phrase ‘mystical republican’ in The Romantic Encyclopedia by Novalis. I’ll recycle it as needed, I should think. It calls to mind sovereignty as modeled by Lao Tzu in the Tao Teh Ching.
Criticizing anarchism by no means robs me of being apolitical. It’s just that my approach would probably be closer to Max Stirner’s. In a democracy, this is quite easy. One always approaches politics at the level of self-interest, even if that self-interest is being projected onto the collective. I’m not anti-political. I have described my position to a friend as that of a scientist in the jungle. Don’t get too close to the danger, but observe it. As politics today lacks a central Logos or direction, most people are free to choose political movements as they see fit and can exit them as they like (at least, this is always true at the level of the heart, even if others find their entering and exiting troublesome).
Political identities may be quite useful in some respects, but they have no value for me, personally. I try to take things on a case by case basis, but I understand that this can become a daunting task, as even trying to talk about the world in terms of isolated variables leads to all kinds of trouble. If one takes a wide enough view, everything is connected. The way you trace your dots are going to say a lot about you, your particular prejudices, tastes, desires, fears… all the stuff that makes up an ideology.
But perhaps there’s a way to approach this that doesn’t extend from self-sabotage. Perhaps there’s a conceptual hierarchy. Maybe one can figure out what one’s ideology is if one first examines all the variables and how reality works. One gets a picture, even if it’s not complete. Ideology from the bottom up, rather than imposed on reality from the top down. Perhaps this would defy the function of ideology altogether and would describe the realm of the Idea.
I’ve noticed, over the years, there’s this cute thing that Left-leaning public figures of all kinds do. Perhaps sincerely but also for shock value, they express some fondness for or interest in Hitler/Fascism/Nazism in kind terms. This is usually qualified with the usual apologies: ‘Well, of course, I don’t like that he killed six million people.’ ‘Well, of course, invading north Africa was a losing strategy.’ ‘Of course, all the unfortunate racial chauvinism and nationalism got in the way of the artistry.’
Gore Vidal once expressed admiration for Mussolini in his youth. I recently stumbled on an old zine of Ran Prieur where he spoke of his admiration for Hitler in this way. Other examples evade me but are absolutely endless.
I make note of it now, not to dampen the reputation of such people, but to bring a curious set of circumstances to a point.
If anyone is considered close to the Right at all in any way, every one of their intellectual interests are scrutinized. A hardcore capitalist’s interest in Ayn Rand is often a source of contention. Someone who expresses admiration for Heidegger and doesn’t immediately qualify it by saying, ‘Of course, this doesn’t and shouldn’t have any relation to politics,’ is thought of as a Nazi sympathizer just as old H. was. If someone leans Right and likes Spangler or Junger, it’s seen as a bad omen or a blemish on their character.
In this way, one could speak of Left privilege. There is a sense in which one suspects that people who lean Left can get away with this without drawing much attention because they have the benefit of a ‘once saved always saved’ state of political grace, having won an old culture war - yada yada yada. Or, at least, that was the case until roughly 2016, when something sort of broke.
I’m not even sure that I know what to do with this set of circumstances, or if there’s anything that needs to be done with it at all, other than just sort of put one’s finger and thumb to the chin to say, ‘Hmm.’
Going back to anarchism, I tend to think that anarchistic ideas will really only survive if they become embedded into other philosophies and other ideologies that aren’t so militant. If I were a reductionist, I might even posit that anarchism is sort of a relic of the nineteenth century, the last time that there was really any kind of geographical frontier. The adjacent intellectual frontier of anarchism provided for people the hope that there was somewhere to go where there were no rulers.
These spaces, the Temporary Autonomous Zones are always possible on a societal scale when infrastructures start breaking down… But eventually, Captain Humongous from Mad Max shows up and you start wishing that someone had laid down some ground rules and a contingency plan.
Already, the mere mention of the possibility of Universal Basic Income is enough to make more than a few anarchists throw off their criticism of the state and come salivating to the front of the eternal bread line. How can you blame them? Their model is becoming antiquated (not that I find UBI tenable - I remain a sorrowful skeptic).