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celebratedrecluse wrote (edited )

It's a very revealing point to make. I think the major takeaway is that while Chomskyists might conceive of their "justified hierarchies" as more flexible than that of the AnCaps, who fetishize property, cryptocapital, markets, and do so with very little understanding of the fundamental power structures inherent to each...Chomskyian ideology actually has the same problem, just more distributed across a variety of hierarchies. This, as I will explore in this short essay below, actually makes it more resilient.

However, a little introspection might lead your average Chomskyian anarchist to realize that "community", "medicine", "education", are all just as immanent with power relationships as the state and capital themselves. While some sort of collective forms of healing, learning, and social networking are essential to people's survival and well being, it is the crystallization of these feature of life itself into static forms that is the battle anarchists are, or should be, fighting.

I actually have some faith that some of these people will eventually move to a different kind of political and philosophical thinking, because the Chomskyian security blanket is a construction of artifice, really a safety blanket that protects one from the vast and overwhelming implications of a more authentically anarchist worldview. At its best, it is a transitional phase, which is well suited because Chomsky's best writings are aimed at Americans who are trying to understand the development of the American empire.

Understanding anarchism as a process with no fixed end goal, as others including /u/TequilaWolf have eloquently described, is the way we are going to be able to resist the indoctrinated temptation of fetishizing the hierarchies that are all around us. Personally, I really like the term from HK, Be like water. We need fluidity, movement, freedom-- not ice, solidified into our own vision of a "perfect" world.This is why we aren't fucking tanks, we know that vanguards are a shitty idea that might sound nice and tidy on paper, but for exactly that reason overlook and totally fuck up the complicated realities they are implemented in, ultimately resulting quickly in a permanent dictatorship of hypercapitalist "transitional socialism".

So why the fuck would we want to recreate that worldview ubiquitously throughout society? For instance, affirming physicians as a respected profession, or professors, or "community leaders", union "delegates", because hey if they went through the process that we said was the best/perfect way to gain that authority, they should get to keep it, right?

Frankly, the Chomskyian vision, if it gained the strength to implemented (it won't, because of the internal contradictions within Chomskyian ideology toward it actually acting against power [just look at his thoughts on Antifa, no way are these guys attacking the state if they won't even stand by those who are defending their community against fascists marching in the streets lol] and moreover the existing power structures [state, capital]), would result in even worse and more intractable totalitarianism than the tankie projects, for the resulting power structures would be well-versed in defending themselves against anarchist critique. The strongest element of such a hypothetical regime would be its propaganda arm, which in an era of global communication becomes more and more important.

So why would anyone want to work on the project of implementing this? Even in totally absurd case that it were to succeed, you basically just become the Steve Smith of the revolution, creating a new fucking hellscape of the same everyday forms of hierarchy that are killing people now-- doctors and hospitals causing lack of accessibility to healthcare, teachers alienating their students, neighborhoods failing their neighbors. So why???

Because they're scared of the future, and operating from a mindset of social scarcity. The truth is, there's good reason to be fearful of what comes. But holding on to the inertial ideologies that have brought us to this point are what are going to render us impotent to change course.

Chomskianism must be a phase. There are no justified hierarchies, because that's a fucking oxymoron. In our real-world anarchist toolbox, there's only consent, respect, and whatever incomplete freedom we can eke out for each other on an ongoing basis. How we piece that shit together into a free society, remains unclear to everyone who is honest. But fetishizing existing power structures is a recipe for staying put right where you are.

Nobody is coming to save you. Not even your ideology. You're going to have to leave it behind, or stay behind with it.


drunkfrenchman wrote

I don't think Chomsky would say that doctors and professors need to have special authority.


celebratedrecluse wrote (edited )

The problem is, it's impossible to find him talking directly on the subject. He's only referred to what defines "legitimate authority" a couple of times, and always in the context of a hypothetical narrative about a parent stopping their child from running into traffic.

The issue here is that, while this sounds reasonable to most people, it's exactly the same kind of narrative that authoritarian tyrants have used in a variety of contexts. Using this analogy is fraught, for it plays into a variety of politics due to its vagueness.

Chomsky has, to be fair, definitely spoken out against intellectual communities for systemic issues. However, he also has repeatedly defended the need for public intellectuals in interviews. So it is unclear what role he envisions for the professional classes in his political worldview, that would be any materially different than now, where they enjoy disproportionate power and wealth compared to vast sectors of the population-- particularly if you aren't looking just within one wealthy country.

The problem immanent with this type of politics is that anarchist syndicalism is that it is an ideology which validates workers' self organization. However, physicians and other highly paid professionals are workers-- they are also, however, managers, and this is why they are in the middle class. Being middle class isn't just about a basic level of income, which in many cases is actually falling apart; it's about a position within the economy, where you are managing people below you (students, entry level/min wage workers, children, patients) and keeping out people who are excluded altogether (the houseless, people who sell drugs or steal due to lack of "regular" income, the people who Marx would have called "lumpenproletariat").

Even high school teachers, not remunerated well in countries like the US for example, are quite literally managers of little workshops, where the product is the ideological shape of the student, along with test results and other intellectual documents. Through mandatory reporting laws, truancy laws, and other systems, the teachers are embedded as informants and police agents, with this especially obvious in the more militarized schools which are aimed to contain the children of the less wealthy.

While this is not inherent to teaching, learning, healing, or even childrearing, the idea of "justified authority" always relies on this idea of metaphorically posturing people, adults or not, as children who need to be restrained physically from running into the street. Which, I'll add that children generally do not need to be physically restrained ever, not unless there is some unusual emergency situation, and afterward it would be good consent practice to check in with the child and explain your actions, ensuring there isn't miscommunication or tension in the relationship.

Empowering the workers whose job it is to evaluate, categorize, and manage the lives of people who do not have their special run society? But their only experience is in these systems of domination, all their actions will be couched in that.

Freedom doesn't follow directly from this, not without destroying the special status of those workers first, and having a cultural process of shifting the way people think about the associated activities in a more egalitarian way. But that doesn't leave room for degrees, job titles, or salaries. It would be a fundamental transformation of social relationships, class structure, and such a hand-waving easy answer as Chomsky's doesn't even come close to the nuance or explicit discussion we would need for that.

In fact, I think it veers dangerously close to reactionary whirlpools, from which a radical politics might not ever be really salvaged. The only way to find freedom from this fate is to actually discuss people, including children, in their actual contexts rather than ridiculous metaphors.


drunkfrenchman wrote

I think Chomsky has expressed his support for Libertarian schools. Saying it was part of the backbone of the revolution in Spain.

In Understanding Power, in the section titled "Anti-Intellectualism", he repeatedly comes out against the elevation of academics as something superior

These are funny words, actually. I mean, the way it's used, being an "intellectual" has virtually nothing to do with working with your mind: those are two different things. My suspicion is that plenty of people in the crafts, auto mechanics and so on, probably do as much or more intellectual work as plenty of people in universities. There are big areas in academia where what's called "scholarly" work is just clerical work, and I don't think clerical work's more challenging mentally than fixing an automobile engine-in fact, I think the opposite: I can do clerical work, I can never figure out how to fix an automobile engine.

He adds that his knowledge about politics is more about being privileged than being an "intellectual"

That's right-but you see, that's a reflection of privilege, not a reflection of intellectual life. The fact is that if you're at a university, you're very privileged. For one thing, contrary to what a lot of people say, you don't have to work all that hard.

If Chomsky wants to push education, "intellectualism" and such, he is clearly concerned by who wields this power and knowledge.

If by "intellectual" you mean people who are a special class who are in the business of imposing thoughts, and framing ideas for people in power, and telling everyone what they should believe, and so on, well, yeah, that's different. Those people are called "intellectuals"-but they're really more a kind of secular priesthood, whose task is to uphold the doctrinal truths of the society. And the population should be anti-- intellectual in that respect, I think that's a healthy reaction.

Finally, I agree with all the points that you made, but I don't think Chomsky defends that.


celebratedrecluse wrote

The thing is, Chomsky is always talking about the history, which makes him a very useful introduction to anarchist ideas and the context in which we should be considering them. A lot of the things he talks about, are basically not addressed in contemporary discourse outside of him and very few other of these "public intellectuals".

However the major issue I'm raising is that he rarely takes things into a present-day context. It's easy to venerate these old guys from the anarchist canon, it's much more difficult to say, this is an anarchist project in my own area which I am invested in, and this is how I am contributing to the interrogation of my own privilege besides merely talking about it.

But that's the thing, right? He is that professional academic, and due to that socially prescribed role there's stuff he won't or can't really talk about. It always has to be alienated through the lens of history or something else that can be studied, it can never really be too close to the here and now for him. Which is why as an anarchist you can always appreciate the role he plays in the radicalization process, and what I think is his compelling (albeit a bit dry) writing about a variety of subjects, but likewise recognize that this is someone who is pretty much stuck in their own form of daily-life conservatism and isn't going to have much useful insight about how anarchism is going to work outside of this academic context.

In his best moments, like some of the statements here, he acknowledges this. But it's important to recognize that he can't move past that roadblock either.


drunkfrenchman wrote

Oh, yes, in that case I entirely agree.

I think I missed how one could see his views as rather lacking probably because I learned about Chomsky after already being an anarchist so I just took his work for what it is. I agree that there does seem to be quite a bit of left wingers (or even liberals?) who see Chomsky as a perfectly enlightened man who holds all the solutions.