I am embarrassed; I don’t know how to explain my weakness and my lack of courage, I tell him that all I know how to do is write. He becomes thoughtful, taking in my explanation. He tells me to write with a critical attitude. “Be a hair in the flour,” he explains. He is speaking of the rice flour used to prepare ritual cakes for the appeasement of authority. Communities offer ceremonial cakes to the spirits to keep them from taxing and troubling their human subjects; so, too, such appeasement is understood as the stuff of obedience to the state. A hair in the flour is a disturbance of the everyday subservience and routine. A hair in the flour ruins the legitimacy of power.Anna Tsing, “Friction” (via maketotaldeconstruct)
You are quite right – I am not moved by any ‘love’ of this sort, and for two reasons: I have never in my life ‘loved’ any people or collective – neither the German people, nor the French, nor the American, nor the working class or anything of that sort. I indeed love ‘only’ my friends and the only kind of love I know of and believe in is the love of persons. Secondly, this ‘love of the Jews’ would appear to me, since I am myself Jewish, as something rather suspect. I cannot love myself or anything which I know is part and parcel of my own person. To clarify this, let me tell you of a conversation I had in Israel with a prominent political personality who was defending the – in my opinion disastrous – non-separation of religion and state in Israel. What [she] said – I am not sure of the exact words any more – ran something like this: ‘You will understand that, as a socialist, I, of course, do not believe in God; I believe in the Jewish people.’ I found this a shocking statement and, being too shocked, I did not reply at the time. But I could have answered: the greatness of this people was once that it believed in God, and believed in Him in such a way that its trust and love towards Him was greater than its fear. And now this people believes only in itself? What good can come out of that? Well, in this sense I do not ‘love’ the Jews, nor do I ‘believe’ in them; I merely belong to them as a matter of course, beyond dispute or argument.Hannah Arendt responding to Gershom Shalom’s assertion that she did not love the Jewish people
I read Arendt’s Eichman in Jerusalem last week and watched the documentary Hannah Arendt today, which was basically about the controversy over that book.
Anyways, I have been thinking a lot about how ((Modernity/Neoliberalism/Capitalism/The Machine/Civilization)) empties out or redefines thought, destroying the ability of thinking or personal reflective judgement. We are not left to our own devices but rather these devices become network and subsumed into a singular matrix of control which recalibrates these devices, our faculties of though.
This recalibration has the effect that our thoughts are no longer reflective, no longer ethical, not longer political, no longer concerning how we should live but instead concerned only with a narrow attention on making so called responsible decisions about how to get what one wants or needs according to a strict calculating rationality. With our thoughts no longer governed through a practice of engaged dialogue with the self, the possibility of making personal moral and ethical judgements is gone, precisely the crime that Arendt commits Eichmann of. Responsibility becomes merely feduciary, as if thought was contracted on the part of a body with needs.
Political practice thus becomes a question of how we can unshackle thought from this form of rationality, how we can undomesticate and decolonize the thoughts of ourselves and others and open that wild space of discussion and politics that comes from when individuals regain the capacity to make moral and ethical judgements.
Law ≠ the State
Law ≠ Reason
So, one potential version of an anarchist theory of the law does not reject law as such but instead rejects the singular notion of law which equates law with either the state, the sovereign or the rationally derived “rules of the game” necessary for capital to function.
This rejection of Law in the Singular embraces critical debate and discussion, the collective task of endless constructing and deconstructing normative legal orderings.
I feel like some anarchists will be super not down as they might be opposed to all possible normative orders, but this strikes me as absurd because it seems normative orders are pretty much inescapable. (Normative orders seem to me to literally are what allow us to communicate across boundaries of difference and transcend our own particularity, without the ability to establish some sort of norm, communication and sociality, the commune, would be impossible)
Instead, I think it is useful to differentiate between orders that claim to be situated somehow outside the possibility of interfering or changing them (for example, the law of the state or the abstract principles of “reason”) and more provisional normative orders that don’t seek to establish themselves through coercion, but instead through processes of seduction.
Of course, there are still some thorny issues here:
a) attention to seduction will immediately bring up the non-coercive aspects of otherwise coercive normative orders (private property guaranteed by a normative order that functions not only using force but also through the allure of commodities etc.)
b) whether this whole idea is really just a form of crypto-liberalism that valorizes public discussion and debate over politics and ethics. and, if it is, whether this is necessarily bad (i.e. does liberalism necessarily lead to its worst manifestations?)
c) Kindof the opposite issue: what to do with the “anti-social” urges that reject any normative orders in favor of the individual, leading to no ability to imagine a space of politics or ethics where collective discussions about conceptions of social order can occur. Although, I am pretty inlined to leave the knee-jerk “anarchists” who just hate being told what to do without some better conception out of my theorizing.
I feel that we not only can, but must, dismantle the master’s house with the master’s tools. For it would be a folly to think that we can somehow discover some utopian “outside” to the operations of power, some set of tools that aren’t being actively used to construct an oppressive order. Instead, we must seize what is at hand and, using our critical faculty, examine these tools and think of ways to make them our own. This does not mean we fall back on oppressive structures or make use of them, I fully agree with Audre Lorde that if we do this we will only reproduce them. Instead, we must think of what the world we want to build is and think carefully about how to go about building it using the crooked timber that we know is at hand.
As centripetal forces endlessly seek to foreclose all possibilities of resistance, ossifying relations of power and assimilating everything and everyone into a singular order, internal ambivalences and ambiguities appear and in these cracks and spaces of incoherence room is found for practices of resistance in which new social movements blossom.
"For Gene Rosaschi(1937-2004)
of Yerington, Nevada,
my eighth grade Geography teacher
at Community School, Tehran, Iran
He taught me
that remembering how others live,
knowing the proper names they give
to places, people and things,
and being observant about how we live
are basic skills for any life well lived.”
"In this sense the system literally feeds into itself, picking up the stray disturbed subjects it produces and integrating their maladies into its circuits of production. Thepharmakon of neoliberal capitalism is true to its definition as a cure and a poison, vacillating between the production and medicalization of pathology and its profitable treatment, all while preserving a labor force that is exhausted and psychically overtaxed by consumption and precarious forms of labor. This results in a further deferral of the system’s own collapse, by literally deferring the collapse of the bodies of subjects that are overexerted by the system itself.”