I think that anarchism is an ethic against being separated from our ability to act.

Submitted by Pop in CritiqueThis (edited )

I think that anarchism is an ethic against being separated from our ability to act; it is rather an ethic of direct action.

In simple political terms, this means avoiding political mediation - i.e. rather than relying on politicians and state structures outside of your immediate spaces to resolve your problems, you do it yourselves with those you have affinity with. It is a DIY ethic, and a do-it-ourselves ethic. That is autonomous power.
It’s also prefigurative, because it is the immediate task of growing in your own individual capacity and your capacity with others, against the world of transcendent mediation. This is in distinction from Marxists, who wish to set their vanguard (often just meaning themselves) up as the transcendent mediator of the political world that then is able to impose their image of the appropriate social world.

Together with avoiding poiticians as transcendent mediators, avoiding having institutions, or abstractions (and more) do the same all make up part of the anarchist ethic. The ideal being that ones actions are all determined immanently and do not come from outside of one.

Consider this quote from John Protevi (someone who is not an anarchist, but who is saying something here that can be understood with our ideas in mind):
“Here, we need the distinction between pouvoir and puissance. We will have to exaggerate differences for clarity and need to remember that everyday French usage does not draw such clear distinctions. Nonetheless, we can say that pouvoir is transcendent power: it comes from above. It is hylomorphic, imposing form on the chaotic or passive material of the mob. In its most extreme manifestation, it is fascistic: it is expressed not simply as the desire to rule but more insidiously as the longing for the strong leader to rescue us from the chaos into which our bodies politic have descended. Puissance, on the other hand, is immanent self-organization. It is the power of direct democracy, of people working together to generate the structures of their social life. The difference between pouvoir and puissance allows us to nuance the notion of joyous and sad affect with the notions of active and passive power. Consider the paradigm case of fascist joy. The Nazis at the Nuremberg rallies were filled with joyous affect, but this joy of being swept up into an emergent body politic was passive. The Nazis were stratified; their joy was triggered by the presence of a transcendent figure manipulating symbols - flags and faces - and by the imposition of a rhythm or a forced entrainment - marches and salutes and songs. Upon leaving the rally, they had no autonomous power (puissance) to make mutually empowering connections. In fact, they could only feel sad at being isolated, removed from the thrilling presence of the leader. They had become members of a society of the spectacle, to use Guy Debord's term: their relations with others were mediated by the third term of the spectacle the others had attended (the in-group) or had not attended (the out-group) (Debord, 2000).”

A consequence of this commitment to unmediated relationships is a rejection of all hierarchical structures of society (like the state, like racism, like gender, like class) and so also implies a need for the destruction of those things that create up those structures (the main culprit here being capitalism, probably).

I’m interested to know where people disagree with this and where they might expand on it. There's more to this, but I will leave it here.


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selver wrote (edited )

Yes I'd agree with that. It's a pretty common sentiment in post-situationist anarchism. Don't really have much to add.


Pop wrote

Well then I'm wondering what it is about this formulation that makes it not the first thing many people say when they are introducing the ideas.


selver wrote (edited )

I think that people more influenced by the older more traditionally leftist anarchism put much less emphasis on those ideas, if any. If you're referring to people on the internet, it might be because they skipped modern anarchist theory and went right back to the bread book. Since at least '68 mediation, alienation, etc. have been major focuses for anarchism. People completely divorced from irl anarchism can come up with unusual ideas about what anarchism is.

Like, anarchists who came up a little before the current internet gen would likely have read crimethinc very early on, who definitely stress the kinds of ideas you're talking about.


BigGeorge wrote

We might have to link to this on other sites for it to get critiqued.


Pop wrote

I don't mind if anybody does that - I probably won't.


ziq wrote (edited )

I tried a couple of reddit clones, got yelled at and mass downvoted for 'promoting a competitor'. Deleted the threads. Lol.


ziq wrote

Completely agree. Wish I didn't so I could have more to say.