Category Archives: Philosophical Notions

Does power corrupt?

oedipalopus:

imagephilosophy-of-praxis replied to your post: Revolutionaries have the potential to…

I’m not entirely comfortable with the power corrupting paradigm, but the former is certainly true.

I couldn’t come up with a better idea for “corruption” but one of containment/control? Not too sure, but I agree with you with the usage here, my mistake.

I was, coincidentally, thinking about the “power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely” truism earlier. I came to the conclusion (albeit after two minutes of musing rather than deep philosophical exercise) that what’s happening is more of a:

Power (economic/social/political influence) accumulated creates the desire to be preserved (that such power be maintained). The more power accumulated then the more dispossessed of power. The more you dispossess of power (through accumulation) then the more power (power can only exist through its exercise or crystalisation?) that is needed to preserve the accumulated power (through dispossessing others of power their desire to preserve power is breached).

Which I’m still not entirely comfortable with. The whole power usage itself feels a little abstract, but less abstract than “corruption” in the context. Also need to get around to reading Foucault on biopower.

It isn’t a very catchy slogan either.

logicallypositive asked: I’ve seen you say on a number of occasions somethign to the extent of “There is no such thing as self ownership” and was wondering if you could elaborate on what you meant by that.

phoenixsingerpdx:

philosophy-of-praxis:

The concept, or more importantly the nomenclature and thus the cognitive implications, is inherently a pandering to capitalist ideology.  Of course you cannot own your self because that means you are nothing more than a property which you happen to be in possession of.  You are your self.  The metabolic function that produces your physical action upon the world, along with your consciousness which is created by the electro-chemical stimulus in your brain, and if you wish to take it to such a level then whatever notion of a ‘soul’ you wish to ascribe to (which I find attractively romantic though I’m disinclined from the contemporary ideas of such) is inherently and fundamentally a connected function.  A whole and complete entity.  They are not separate.  You are not separate from your body to be able to take possession of your self.  Your self simply is, it does not inhabit your body nor is it external to your body.  It’s a part of your body.  You are represented to me as your physical being and your consciousness is intrinsically a part of that even if it’s not something I can tangibly interact with on a separate level.

What’s more is if you own yourself then you can sell yourself which seems a little like normalising a form of indentured slavery.  Even if someone wishes to sell their self in this form it is not possible.  You can sell your labour, which is your physical interaction with the world, but you cannot sell your “soul” or the cognitive functions and the metabolic processes that create your thought patterns.  You cannot control your impulses and put them up for auction.  Your body is not separated from your mind; selling your “self” cannot be done because you cannot be packaged into a complete form and completely deny your autonomy in favour of the will of others.  Slavery relies upon coercion, violence, fear and threat yet the slaver does not own or rather possess the slave in any true sense.  They do not possess the totality, they control only the physical interaction with the world not the cognitive nor emotional functions of the human being.

>This is all deeply eloquent and a well thought answer to the question posed to you. I’m not disputing anything you say but merely wish to add on. You mentioned the ability to sell yourself if you were property and I would like to continue that narrative with this: if you are property, that means others can take possession of you and often against your will. While this does happen in the real world, it is the notion that you are property to be traded and sold which allows such acts to be justified. If you are not property, no one can appropriate your physical self. This means no one has the right to violently and coercively deny you of the physical autonomy of your being.

I think there’s another important point to be made on this matter which comes down to internalising objectification and alienation of capitalism.  If you view yourself in terms of self-ownership then you separate your consciousness from your physicality.  You become no longer the subject, an agent of action and decision but rather wilfully, in so much as any learned behaviour is wilful, accept yourself as an object.  You self-alienate and create a discord within your experience of living.  Of course this is part of the aim of capitalism and other forms of oppression: to deny the totality of a person’s existence; to atomise them from wider society; to alienate their physicality from their consciousness.  It makes people easier to control and turns them into resources to be used without consideration for the needs of a person in completeness.  Which is all the more reason to resist internalising that with the conception of being and to not accept this idea of “self-ownership.”

Just an expansion I’d been musing over since my original response to the ask, Phoenix’ response helped me realise it’d been nagging me.

I’ve seen you say on a number of occasions somethign to the extent of “There is no such thing as self ownership” and was wondering if you could elaborate on what you meant by that.

The concept, or more importantly the nomenclature and thus the cognitive implications, is inherently a pandering to capitalist ideology.  Of course you cannot own your self because that means you are nothing more than a property which you happen to be in possession of.  You are your self.  The metabolic function that produces your physical action upon the world, along with your consciousness which is created by the electro-chemical stimulus in your brain, and if you wish to take it to such a level then whatever notion of a ‘soul’ you wish to ascribe to (which I find attractively romantic though I’m disinclined from the contemporary ideas of such) is inherently and fundamentally a connected function.  A whole and complete entity.  They are not separate.  You are not separate from your body to be able to take possession of your self.  Your self simply is, it does not inhabit your body nor is it external to your body.  It’s a part of your body.  You are represented to me as your physical being and your consciousness is intrinsically a part of that even if it’s not something I can tangibly interact with on a separate level.

What’s more is if you own yourself then you can sell yourself which seems a little like normalising a form of indentured slavery.  Even if someone wishes to sell their self in this form it is not possible.  You can sell your labour, which is your physical interaction with the world, but you cannot sell your “soul” or the cognitive functions and the metabolic processes that create your thought patterns.  You cannot control your impulses and put them up for auction.  Your body is not separated from your mind; selling your “self” cannot be done because you cannot be packaged into a complete form and completely deny your autonomy in favour of the will of others.  Slavery relies upon coercion, violence, fear and threat yet the slaver does not own or rather possess the slave in any true sense.  They do not possess the totality, they control only the physical interaction with the world not the cognitive nor emotional functions of the human being.

Subsequent discussion led to:

phoenixsingerpdx:

>This is all deeply eloquent and a well thought answer to the question posed to you. I’m not disputing anything you say but merely wish to add on. You mentioned the ability to sell yourself if you were property and I would like to continue that narrative with this: if you are property, that means others can take possession of you and often against your will. While this does happen in the real world, it is the notion that you are property to be traded and sold which allows such acts to be justified. If you are not property, no one can appropriate your physical self. This means no one has the right to violently and coercively deny you of the physical autonomy of your being.

I think there’s another important point to be made on this matter which comes down to internalising objectification and alienation of capitalism.  If you view yourself in terms of self-ownership then you separate your consciousness from your physicality.  You become no longer the subject, an agent of action and decision but rather wilfully, in so much as any learned behaviour is wilful, accept yourself as an object.  You self-alienate and create a discord within your experience of living.  Of course this is part of the aim of capitalism and other forms of oppression: to deny the totality of a person’s existence; to atomise them from wider society; to alienate their physicality from their consciousness.  It makes people easier to control and turns them into resources to be used without consideration for the needs of a person in completeness.  Which is all the more reason to resist internalising that with the conception of being and to not accept this idea of “self-ownership.”

Just an expansion I’d been musing over since my original response to the ask, Phoenix’ response helped me realise it’d been nagging me.

I sort of want that other post to be rebloggable in case people want to argue it or contribute.

 disobey asked:

Excuse me, I read your response to a reblog of one of my posts, but I’m not sure that I understood what you meant. Would you mind expanding on your point for me? I also expanded on mine on my blog with a further reblog of the one you posted.

Hegemony comes from the Greek word hegemon, which literally means chief.  People relate hegemony to meaning leadership but the nature through which capitalist hegemony exists, that leadership transfers also into dominance.  We currently live in a system where capitalist ideals and social interactions are the socialised, ingrained norm.  The bourgeois class, by holding the reigns of power, have structured the world in such a way where their values and expectations are forced upon the masses.  Yet the system created is self-propagating.  Educational systems, religious institutions, media sources, cultural events, shops etc train people from the day they’re born as to the correct way to interact within a capitalist society.  Parents teach their children not to steal and by that merit instil the value of property rights.

This normative social functioning is so completely dominant that people find other forms of social interaction to be completely alien.  Liberal ideology and values are assumed to be the middle point, the neutral value.  Take, for example, newspapers which are expected to be neutral and unbiased.  When they report on police misconduct the considered bias is whether or not the police were at fault in the misconduct, or whether the police were acting within their remit.  They are still instilling bourgeois values: the police are still presumed to exist.  Yet surely a valid question they could be asking to represent all aspects of potential views, which will very rarely be seen in the mainstream media, is whether or not the police are a necessary institution.  They could very easily question whether or not police were first created as a form of social control to enforce capitalist hierarchal structures: they don’t, because they recreate bourgeois ideals, because they’re a part of the bourgeois hegemony.

This creates preconceptions of the normal functioning of society that become expected, treated almost as innate to what it is to be human.  For example the claim that humans are naturally greedy, denying the nature of humans as a product of their society because the person promoting this idea of what it is to be human cannot comprehend that a person has had an upbringing or socialisation other than that which they themselves experienced.

So this idea of voluntaryism, that all of society can exist through the function of voluntary interactions and therefore people can coexist as being socialist or capitalist, functionally doesn’t work.  From the outset it would require that any interaction is, for example … voluntary.  But they’re not.  When you go to the shop to buy something you can make the choice between X brand and Y brand but you cannot choose to not have to pay for it.  When you’re born into a family you do not choose the way they raise you.  Yet the upbringing you have normalises you into those social processes.  If people collect into groupings (so you have a community of socialists and separate to that a community of capitalists) you don’t have a situation where each person can voluntarily change between which society they live in, because there is no true neutrality to human nature.  The socialist societies will propagate socialists, the capitalist societies will propagate capitalists.  When people are a part of a grouping they’re trained to understand, trust and incorporate that grouping into an integral aspect of their identity from the very instant they’re born.

There’s also no way to go from a capitalist hegemonic system to one that isn’t without working to create a counter-hegemony and finding a sufficient power base to re-socialise people’s expectations.  Anarchism without adjectives or without hyphens or whatever which simply cannot do that.  Firstly because it doesn’t find anything wrong with capitalism as long as it doesn’t have the state hierarchy behind it (because, ja know, bosses and owners aren’t hierarchal at all?  Labour is suddenly no longer alienated?), secondly because it’s fear of creating a dominant system (for a marxist that would be the dictatorship of the proletariat) means there’s absolutely no way to distribute or otherwise promote that counter-hegemony on such a level where it can be consumed en masse.

That’s without getting into arguments about the impossibility of the capitalist system to survive without it constantly fighting to maintain dominance.

We should introduce the word force as a demonstrative of political power, wherein political force can be expressed through violence but is much deeper and far reaching than that. Where violence is understood as a language of the actualised political discourse and not a morally charged, prescriptive term but a description of the action taken.

thefuror:

If some guy grabs me and tries to drag me into his car… and I punch him in the face, it was not a violent reaction.

Yes it was.  It was a physical expression of force.  That is violence.  Your fist met his face.  That is violence.  It’s violence I’d encourage you towards repeating at any similar opportunity, but it’s still violence.

Self-defense is what it claims to be, the “Department of Defense” is not.

I think it’s extremely important to make a distinction. Simply calling it “violence” diminishes the fact that it was a necessary action.

No it doesn’t.  Violence does not fall under a moral imperative, it’s not a prescriptive term but a description of an act.

Violence isn’t just “violence” in any situation.

Yes it is.  Now lets have a burden of proof party: I’m saying that punching someone is violence, you’re saying sometimes it is.  What is the substantive definition of violence that contradicts what I’m saying but proves what you are?

It seems to me the distinction you’re lacking isn’t the dichotomy of whether or not something is violent but whether or not it’s an act of aggression.  Whether an act is offensive or defensive.  That doesn’t change the fundamental nature of the act, it changes the moral inflection you choose to apply to it.

Acting like all violence is the same is exactly the sort of thing people complain about when they say that pacifists should recognize self-defense as a necessary thing.

Well no, not all violence is exactly the same.  But even as you phrase it, it is still all violence.

If someone goes through something extremely traumatic and has to employ forceful self-defense methods, referring to both their actions, and the attackers actions, as “violent” puts the actions on equal playing fields when they clearly are not.

No it doesn’t.  It describes the actions.  Your own experience of political discourse and media hegemony is what’s leading you to apply a negative descriptor to the term violence, I posit that it’s a morally neutral term.  Burden of proof party.

thefuror:

Self defense IS fundamentally different from any other form of violence.

any OTHER form, so it is still violence?

That should be exceedingly clear. If I do something purely as an act of self defense there shouldn’t be consequences for that action – there should be consequences for whatever violent action forced me to defend myself.

Ok.  So what constitutes violence?  Is violence ONLY when someone walks up to you and punches you in the face?  Physical contact violence?  Or could some of these situations also constitute violence:

  • A factory loses a limb due to long work hours and poor health and safety conditions.
  • A family in India starves because Monsanto business practises create debt slavery and the farmer can no longer afford to feed his family.
  • Workers in China work in such poor conditions suicide nets are installed to stop them from jumping to their deaths.
  • Employees lose their pensions.  They become wage slaves that can never leave their jobs and have to work long hours, causing mental health problems, high levels of stress which lead to physical health issues (such as stomach ulcers, kidney/gall stones and other stress related illnesses).
  • Workers go on strike to improve their working conditions: better health and safety, shorter days, better pay, holidays, pensions.  Scabs undercut their picket, defeating the strike and prolonging the above conditions, preventing real improvements that make the work life less physically and emotionally damaging.  All the crimes of the bosses are supported and enforced by the act of scabbing.

They cause very real, physical harm to the lives of the people who experience these conditions (and these do all happen).  Are these not violence?  Or does it not count because the manager sits behind his desk and causes these things to happen, is it only violence when he walks up to you and punches you in the face?

If these can be considered violence, at what point is the response to this considered self-defence?

I’m not sure what your definition of self defense is, but it’s very much not self defense if it goes beyond the scope of what is necessary for self preservation. Self defense does not apply to wars unless your country is directly under attack and is doing what is directly necessary to keep as many of the attacked people safe as possible. It does not apply once you are safe or able to get away.

I think you’re making a few problematic statements based on misconceptions here:

  1. That violence only occurs on an individual level and not between groups.
  2. That terms of self defence aren’t, won’t or can’t be used in the rhetorical sense.
  3. That based upon these two presumptions self defence cannot be misdirected.

For example that the US went to war in Afghanistan was a self defensive action, so say.  Yet it was not the Afghan citizen that transgressed against the US, nor (strictly speaking) was it a centralised state government.  But it was still “self defence”.

Self defense is distinctly different from violence

No it’s not.

and needs to be designated as such.

No it doesn’t.

True acts of self defense do not come with worldwide negative results, that’s preposterous.

Oh no, true?  What is true?  This could take a while …

Also can we clarify as to whether or not violence must be between living entities, or if property can be subjected to violence?

interruptions:

“The State is a mystical, nonhuman entity that exists only in the agreed minds of humans. By this I mean to say, you cannot touch the State, you cannot hear the State speak, the State is not an object that you can point to and say, “Look. There’s the State.” People believe in the State therefore people act on behalf of those beliefs and the actions of those people become the actions of the State.”

thinksquad

lol wut is state?

See we have a word for this format of existence already, it’s called a social construct.  All social organisations are socially constructed entities: they have no meaning or purpose outside of those which society chooses to apply to them.  But the bullshit of this comment is that it’s also completely wrong about what the state is and how it functions.

We can define state institutions and organisations very easily.  I can point at parliament, at police stations, public schools, NHS hospitals and say “look, there’s the state!”

I can be arrested, healed, taught by the state.  I can shake the hand of an MP and I am touching a person who functions as a part of the state, in doing so I am touching the state.  I can climb on the lions at the base of Nelson’s Column (well indeed I have), a symbol erected to glorify and commemorate the “glorious” history of British imperialism, and I am climbing on an aspect of and a representative of the state which propagates an anglo-centric historical hegemony.  Which is created by and thus a part of (you guessed it) the state.

When a doctor tells me that the state will pay for this or that treatment, I am listening to a part of the state speak (or when the doctor says I’ll have to pay for it myself that’s a big fuck you from the state, but still speaking to the state).  When a police officer says he’s going to arrest me, or a judge says he’s sentencing me to 5 years: what is their voice on behalf of?

It doesn’t exist only in the agreed minds of people, it exists for the people who don’t agree with it as well because they’re still expected to abide by the rules.  It isn’t mystical, it’s tangible. When a baton hits you over the head on a protest, when you learn how to do multiplication at school: these things aren’t mysteries unto the world they’re a very real and physical action of existence.

Can we please try to kick it up a gear when we talk about what the state is?  If you never get around to deconstructing “the state”, if you think that contemporary bourgeois states represent the only way in which “the state” can exist and don’t understand states as a much less contiguous concept you may as well lie on your back and piss in your own mouth.

Smash the bourgeois state, but without becoming a hermit you can never get rid of “the state” because any subsequent formation of social interaction that is able to provide services for people in itself becomes a state of it’s own.

(via la-vie-est-politiques)

So, the issue with this last bit is primarily semantic (which isn’t to say it’s not a real issue). People who talk about building a stateless society/smashing the state usually have a conception of the state as necessarily hierarchical. When they say they want to get rid of the state, they’re merely saying that their political ideal is a non-hierarchical society. The definition you provide – “any subsequent formation of social interaction that is able to provide services for people in itself becomes a state of it’s own” – strikes me as over-broad.

Ok.

Under it, things like soup kitchens and grocery co-ops are states.

Well, if the sovereign body provides them, then yes.

Perhaps it could be argued that a view of the state as necessarily hierarchical represents a failure to deconstruct the bourgeois capitalist vision of the state,

It should be.

but “you may as well lie on your back and piss in your own mouth” isn’t that argument.

Because I’m not here to teach people the fundamental distinction between bourgeois and proletarian if they already buy into class struggle rhetoric.  If they recreate class struggle rhetoric they should show a basic comprehension of what it is that they’re repeating, as opposed to just repeating it because it sounds cool.

The State is a mystical, nonhuman entity that exists only in the agreed minds of humans. By this I mean to say, you cannot touch the State, you cannot hear the State speak, the State is not an object that you can point to and say, “Look. There’s the State.” People believe in the State therefore people act on behalf of those beliefs and the actions of those people become the actions of the State.

thinksquad

lol wut is state?

See we have a word for this format of existence already, it’s called a social construct.  All social organisations are socially constructed entities: they have no meaning or purpose outside of those which society chooses to apply to them.  But the bullshit of this comment is that it’s also completely wrong about what the state is and how it functions.

We can define state institutions and organisations very easily.  I can point at parliament, at police stations, public schools, NHS hospitals and say “look, there’s the state!”

I can be arrested, healed, taught by the state.  I can shake the hand of an MP and I am touching a person who functions as a part of the state, in doing so I am touching the state.  I can climb on the lions at the base of Nelson’s Column (well indeed I have), a symbol erected to glorify and commemorate the “glorious” history of British imperialism, and I am climbing on an aspect of and a representative of the state which propagates an anglo-centric historical hegemony.  Which is created by and thus a part of (you guessed it) the state.

When a doctor tells me that the state will pay for this or that treatment, I am listening to a part of the state speak (or when the doctor says I’ll have to pay for it myself that’s a big fuck you from the state, but still speaking to the state).  When a police officer says he’s going to arrest me, or a judge says he’s sentencing me to 5 years: what is their voice on behalf of?

It doesn’t exist only in the agreed minds of people, it exists for the people who don’t agree with it as well because they’re still expected to abide by the rules.  It isn’t mystical, it’s tangible. When a baton hits you over the head on a protest, when you learn how to do multiplication at school: these things aren’t mysteries unto the world they’re a very real and physical action of existence.

Can we please try to kick it up a gear when we talk about what the state is?  If you never get around to deconstructing “the state”, if you think that contemporary bourgeois states represent the only way in which “the state” can exist and don’t understand states as a much less contiguous concept you may as well lie on your back and piss in your own mouth.

Smash the bourgeois state, but without becoming a hermit you can never get rid of “the state” because any subsequent formation of social interaction that is able to provide services for people in itself becomes a state of it’s own.

how does the body fit into ideas of private property (in a marxist sense)?and, as a bonus, is a conviction of conspiracy to murder just a conviction of though crime?

This is the same anon that asked this question and outside of my permanent capacity for procrastination towards doing things I should so I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to answer it.  The second part is already answered in the link.  As the basis for my answer I’m reading Estranged Labour, one of Marx’s 1844 Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts available on the Marxists.org website which I’ve provided the link to.

So the question as I’ll be answering it essentially boils down to: how do we see the body in terms of it’s relations to private property?

The important thing to recognise in this is exactly what private property is.  In the Marxist sense of using the term, private property is not simply something you own but instead something used as a tool of exploitation.

So there is a distinction between things you simply own (for example you may own a car, which would be your personal property) versus something you own but use for the exploitation of people.  A capitalist owns a factory.  People apply their labour in the factory to create products the capitalist sells for profit, and gives some of those profits to the workers.  The capitalist’s ownership of the factory is what enables him to use the labour of the workers for his own benefit, which makes it private property.

This could be further deconstructed so for example I have a TV, that is my personal property.  If my friends want to watch it I could charge them to do so (if I’m a seriously selfish person) at which point it becomes private property, because I’m using it to exploit others.  Their money represents, at some point in the line, their labour which I am benefitting from for no reason other than the fact that I have something they want and I won’t give it to them for free.

So then how do we relate to private property, property which is used to exploit us?  Because the workers do not possess the means of production, the profit from their labour is not theirs.  Our labour is the physical action from our body.  So the action of our body creates labour, and labour is applied to the means of production, which is the private property owned by capitalists.

The action of this alienates you from your labour.  You work in the factory to make a product, the business owner sells the product for their own profit and gives some of that to the worker for their labour as a wage.  The wage does not reflect the amount of labour applied to making the product.  The wage comes from a variety of factors: the value placed on the use and exchange value of the product, but more importantly the capitalist will take as much profit from the product as they can whilst still retaining the workers labour.

In this way the labour is objectified.  It is no longer an application of the body as a part of the self, a way of realising your work into the world, but instead this realisation is lost.  You become alienated from the product of your labour because it’s purpose is for someone else’s profit.  The product of the labour is an alien object.  However the worker is bound into creating such alien objects, for the profit and enjoyment of another, because they become enslaved to the wage system.  Without the stipend given by the owner, the worker cannot survive.  The worker may change jobs but they cannot escape the system of alienated labour. (Well, short of becoming bourgeois themselves, but in doing so they become the exploiters rather than the exploited.)

Without this becoming a full blown essay I’m not sure how much more I can write on the subject.  I really would recommend reading the manuscript I’ve linked to which goes into much more depth on the subject.

It has been suggested to me that there may be a third meaning in your question.  The first potential interpretation I took to mean whether or not a person can sell their body in a metaphorical sense which I answered previously.  The second I took to be regarding the way in which the body interacts with private property, the way that the application of the body through labour produces alienated products.  The third potential meaning is on perhaps on some levels less personal and on some levels more personal sense.  So relating to the medical field.

Firstly the idea of selling parts of your body (sperm/egg, blood or organ donation, selling hair to wig makers) which I don’t know if Marx ever wrote anything on.  I don’t think it’d be viewed as anything specifically different.  Your body is part of the self, selling it or aspects of it creates an alien object just as the product of labour but it isn’t private property in the sense that you can use it to exploit people.  It isn’t the property of someone else, the state, the collective.  It’s not even really the property of yourself, it is you.  If that makes sense?

The other twist is, as reinventionoftheprintingpress, pointed out some big medical companies have patents on aspects of the human DNA which has been used exploit the nature of medical research for the benefit of the company with the patent (for example see this link).  I don’t really think I need to spend much time explaining that this is an abhorrent practise.  Such information, knowledge or research should be a part of the commons.  Not least because of how disgusting it is to prevent medical advancement for profit, but because the idea of owning a part of everyone’s very genetic make up is completely bizarre.

Or was the question meant in some other way that I’m not realising?

rykemasters:

la-vie-est-politiques:

rykemasters:

akagoldfish:

la-vie-est-politiques:

TW for rape. (I don’t even know why it got into this discussion)

anticapitalist:

ftm-communist:

The point of the picture is not to argue with the description of modern power relations that social contract theory allows us to make (if the whole point of social contract theory is to describe the workings of power within political systems arising essentially from social contract theory, then it’d have a hard time failing). I’m not sure how you could derive from the picture anything that was descriptive, aside from the fact that it could imply that a social contract is something one ever signs anyway, which is mostly beside the point, unless it suddenly becomes obvious that the OP’s entire argument hinges on the social contract being a conventional, physical contract.

The entire point of the picture is to disagree with the legitimacy of a system founded on the idea of a social contract in which lack of disagreement constitutes agreement. Of course lack of agreement alone won’t magically dissolve a power structure wherein legitimacy is assumed from lack of disagreement. But that only means that analyzing modern power structures in light of social contract theory is fundamentally correct, which is pretty much unrelated insofar as the point of the picture is that the OP finds it undesirable.

Also my point was that while power relations exist wherever human societies exist, particular power structures don’t come along with existence itself, they vary according to place and time, and history in general, and so accurately describing a set of them has little bearing on someone who finds those power structures undesirable.

My comments regarding consent theory were directed purely at the point made by ftm-communist, not the original image.

Social contract theory and consent theory are separate.  They may have stemmed from the same place, but their existence is defined separately.  For example, social contract theorists are people such as Rousseau, Hobbes and Locke.  Of those, consent theory is attributed to Locke and doesn’t factor into the arguments of Rousseau nor Hobbes.  The conclusions and natures of the social contracts between each of the theorists vary greatly and are linked only in name.

They function as a social contract because if you want to participate in society, you have to participate in societies normalised way of doing things.  However when you consider that Hobbes argued your social contract compelled you to obey a monarch to keep you safe from other people (presuming that you cannot escape the social order), Rousseau’s argument was that by society becoming civilised and thus much more complicated, creating a situation of scarcity, you must engage in direct democracy to prevent one particular party becoming dominant.  Thereby creating a collective will that placed priority on no particular individuals.  Locke’s social contract argued for a form of representative democracy where, rather than a monarch holding absolute power, a legislative body is selected to deal only in finding a way for people to objectively ensure self-preservation.  What’s more is that Locke argued for the necessary capacity for the people to be able to rebel should that government prove illegitimate.

The point you’re making about the image is relevant only to Locke’s instance of the social contract because only Locke put forward consent theory.  Social contract theory is bigger, broader and not so homogenous.  And I’m not saying you’re wrong in saying that explicit consent should be necessary for legitimate political power to be exercised, I’m saying the people with guns won’t care.  With all that said I am somewhat curious as to how many contemporary political commentators still claim that the state is legitimised through social contract theory.

rykemasters:

akagoldfish:

la-vie-est-politiques:

TW for rape. (I don’t even know why it got into this discussion)

anticapitalist:

ftm-communist:

While I see how it can be considered offensive and inappropriate to compare being born in a political system one disagrees with to being raped, which is a completely different and much more traumatic matter, I’m not sure how that actually invalidates the idea that accepting tacit consent is a double-standard in that it would be inappropriate in virtually any other circumstance. It is insensitive to compare it to rape, of all things, but that’s not the main point and it doesn’t mean the OP necessarily eats babies every meal.

Tacit consent is a really good theory not because it legitimises the state of power but because that’s how reality works.

Reality doesn’t come bundled with any theory of social contract. Political systems do, and when it comes down to it, they legitimize themselves according to them. What you seem to be saying is that merely not expressing agreement does not physically prevent anything from happening, which is completely obvious and doesn’t necessarily have any ethical implications. The question is, is it justified to enforce the power of a political system over people who do not explicitly agree (or explicitly disagree, for that matter) with it? Of course power will very likely be enforced in practice over people who don’t express agreement, especially if the political system in question considers tacit consent to, well, exist, because that’s what political systems do. The mention of fascism isn’t particularly relevant: Would a pacifistic population unwilling to fight fascism with force justify the rule of fascism? It would enable it, but that’s not the subject at hand, especially considering that fascism isn’t concerned with the consent of the governed for the most part.

Politics is the study of the power relationships.  It can be prescriptive of how they should work, or descriptive of how they do work.  If you want to have an argument about legitimacy, have an argument about legitimacy.  If you want to have an argument about the reality of power and consent theory as an analysis of that, then do so.  My complaints about the post as you reblogged it were two fold (discounting the rape analogy): 1 – the picture is asinine and means nothing because it fundamentally doesn’t understand social contract theory.  2 – the attempt to then go and refute consent theory by ftm-communist completely misunderstood the value taken from using consent theory.

The value of consent theory is not in it’s capacity for legitimisation, I never claimed it was.  The value is in the way it is descriptive of power relations.  You cannot separate political discourse into an a priori fantasy land where those power relations suddenly no longer exist.  Is it right that people take non-explicit concurrence or disagreement with a political system to mean that people grant it tacit consent?  Who cares.  It happens.  It will always happen as long as there’s a ruling class with a monopoly on violence.  Complaining about that being the way it happens isn’t going to change that.

Reality doesn’t come bundled with any theory of social contract. Political systems do, and when it comes down to it, they legitimize themselves according to them.

Yeah but reality does come bundled with political systems which come bundled with social contracts.  So what’s your point?  Unless you were born before the enlightenment, in which case reality came bundled with a feudal lord and a spear.  So have fun with that.

TW for rape. (I don’t even know why it got into this discussion)

anticapitalist:

ftm-communist:

Tacit consent you say? Try telling that to girls being raped. It’s basically the same thing: “You didn’t say ‘no’ so I decided it meant ‘yes’.”

Brilliant commentary

Or would be if:

Social contract theory was of homogenised form. It’s not. There are a variety of different “social contracts” with different characteristics both in why they are supposedly necessary and also what type of governance they constitute and legitimise.  For example the Hobbesian social contract necessitates a sovereign in the form of a monarch out of a fear of our natural human nature, where as Rousseau’s social contract was posited as a way to resolve the problems society creates by over-complicating itself.

In the social contract of Hobbes, the sovereign is all powerful and unquestioned so that fear of the state keeps us obedient and we cooperate with each other to prevent repercussions from the state, and we need the state because otherwise we’d be in a permanent state of war against all.  Rousseau’s social contract necessitates direct democracy to prevent any individual from becoming too powerful and being able to manipulate or exploit others.  Notice how these are completely different?  A broad criticism cannot be made that misconstrues these varied theories based purely on a lexical nuance.  It’s asinine.

As for tacit consent; well what do you think is the point of the concept?  It isn’t that you exist in this system and therefore consent to it, it’s that if you aren’t kicking back against the system you’re consenting to it.  It doesn’t assume that you won’t or can’t question the system, but simply that if you choose not to do so you are granting it your consent.  The rape analogy, while completely offensive, is also utterly redundant because you’re born into a political system but you aren’t born being raped.  Seriously how the fuck is that appropriate?

What’s more is that we attribute tacit consent to Locke who also said:

whenever the Legislators endeavor to take away, and destroy the Property of the People, or to reduce them to Slavery under Arbitrary Power, they put themselves into a state of War with the People, who are thereupon absolved from any farther Obedience,

or to put it another way: if the government is working against the people, the people get free reign to fuck shit up.

Now I’m not the greatest fan of the enlightenment philosophers.  I have before now complained about them, and in the future I will complain about them.  But if you are going to complain about them, know what it is that you’re complaining about rather than misconstruing their philosophies based on half knowing what they were saying.

Tacit consent is a really good theory not because it legitimises the state of power but because that’s how reality works.  It can be a statement by the ruling class to justify their power but is even more so a rallying cry for radicals.  Because if everyone is sat about complaining but not doing anything, here’s the kicker, nothing will change.  Apathy and inaction IS consent just as pacifism gives carte blanche to fascism.  If you don’t stand up and change the world -> the world isn’t going to change -> you are granting consent to the status quo.  Don’t like it?  Do something, but don’t complain about people explaining this aspect of reality to you.

There are plenty of criticisms we can make of theories of social contract and consent.  They were written at the dawn of the capitalist systems emerging and yes, they are ideas of the ruling class but at the same time they weren’t purely trying to legitimise what existed but also trying to explore and rationalise how it should exist.  They predate understandings of class struggle, or media control and ideological hegemony.  That doesn’t mean they were all bad though, one of my favourite quotes is Thomas Jefferson saying we should have open revolts every twenty years or so just to keep the ruling class shit scared. (well, not exactly that, but it is a nice one to bring out in the wrong company).

w/r/t the post of mine that you reblogged: I’m not into the non-aggression principle either, soo…

Ok, so what structures/mores/ethos/creeds/morals/philosophical conceptualisations are there, or should be, that establishes a minimum standard of living/potential for self-determination/code for functional conduct within society for person-to-person, person-to-business and person-to-state interactions?

For the healthy function of society within the current situation of living in the statist situation that we do, human rights are necessary because they establish a morally defined balance of power between the citizenry and the state, in the situation where the citizens have surrendered sovereignty to the state and allowed the state to hold a monopoly on violence.

I will be the first to argue that human rights are a social construct and don’t tangibly exist as something you can touch and feel.  However considering that governments can be held legally accountable for denying human rights; people fight, kill and die for human rights; and societies function using human rights they very much do exist whether or not you’re willing to believe in them.  Their reality comes from their realisation in the functioning of societies, not in whether or not you want to dispute their validity. (Which I’m perfectly happy to see as disputable, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.)

But, other than childish whining, what purpose does it serve to walk around demanding that they don’t exist if you aren’t going to posit something functional that works in it’s place?

Do you genuinely think a realisation of correct political conduct through egoism and selfishness will ensure a decent standard of living and a conflict free society?  Or is it just a legitimisation of your own subjective experience of privilege within society; coupled with sticking your fingers in your ears and shutting your eyes until it all goes away?  Because arguing that your point of view is right because it’s your experience, rather than arguing towards any attempt at a broader validity exists towards your position, is just really shitty philosophy.

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akagoldfish:

littlescarletbegonia:

I can see how it could misguide one to govern in a bellicose and amoral way, if mistakenly interpreted, but, hey, it was not meant to be a guidance manual for rulers. It’s merely a treatise of political science and philosophy. It completely reflects reality and one can even apply it to modern politics. I now understand that the use of the word “machiavellian” is utterly wrong most of the time.

If this sounded like a 10th grader’s review on it, it’s because I actually AM a stupid 10th grader, so yeah, sorry for taking your time, but I was excited, because it was pretty cool and everyone should read it, even for pleasure, like I did 😉

Something to keep in mind about The Prince.

Recent scholarship suggests it was written as farce, basically the 16th century equivalent of version of a Stephen Colbert monologue. Even if that theory isn’t true, the Prince Machiavelli was writing to had exiled him, so Machiavelli had no interest in telling the Prince anything but what he wanted to hear.

Machiavelli really gets bump rap, and he had a lot to do with Europe moving away from absolutely monarchies and towards republicanism and constitutionalism.

I’ve never liked pushing the notion of The Prince as satire, I also think the idea that he was just saying what wanted to be heard is somewhat problematic and misunderstands what I see as Machiavelli’s motivations and influences in writing. I do agree that he gets a bum rap though.

Seeing The Prince as satire is largely irrelevant because that’s not how it has been used.  In this instance (and arguably all instances), while there’s value in interpreting what the author meant by a statement, the greatest value of the work is expressed in how it’s functionally interpreted and how people functionally use the work.  The reality of the piece comes from how it’s realised, not necessarily how it was intended.

For me the most important aspect of Machiavelli’s works comes from their foundation of perhaps not an ethical nihilism but certainly an understanding of politics as an expression of power.  People may interpret Machiavelli’s work as indicating that politicians should be aggressive, scheming, bellicose as littlescarletbegonia puts it.  However, in his phrasing in Discourses, Machiavelli places priority on creating the most productivity.  That is the reason he expresses for a justification for the republic, not out of an ethical notion of equality nor natural rights. In this sense I have to disagree with the OP in saying it’s misguided to see Machiavelli as amoral: amorality is one of his strongest features.

It seems to me concurrent that this is why Machiavelli wrote The Prince for d’Medici.  His prioritisation of function, productivity and unity led him to believing that at that particular moment in time the best thing to do would be to strengthen d’Medici’s power and in doing so bring prosperity.  I don’t think Machiavelli is so easily simplified into this notion of writing satire nor writing to win favour but from his very evident sense of civic duty.  Gramsci states, I think quite eloquently and succinctly, what I largely see to be the source for the distinction between Discourses and The Prince:

He [Machiavelli] was unable to detach himself from the republic, but he understood that only an absolute monarchy could resolve the problems of the time. 

He is able to separate between personal, ethical quandaries versus a functional approach to achieving necessary ends.  The quote which has been floating around of his the last couple of days, “politics have no relation to morals” (if anyone has a source for where that quote comes from I’d appreciate it), is perhaps something people don’t like to agree with but is absolutely true.  Politics is about power: who has it, who wants it and how that power will be used.  What does it matter how morally superior a person considers themselves to be if they’re not in a position to put that morality into substantive action?  Take, for example, veganism: what does it matter if one person or a small group refuse to eat animal products, when that in itself has no substantive effect on the use of animals?  All the good intention and moral superiority will not alone be able to have a substantive effect nor cause any real change.

That, to me, is the meta-lesson of Machiavelli’s writings.  The specifics (whether or not to use mercenaries versus having a standing army, and a plethora of other pieces of knowledge) are really very secondary to the wisdom it encourages.  That is to say what Machiavelli is really teaching us isn’t neither satire, an appeasement, nor an imperative as to how you should organise a republic or princedom.  What he teaches us is how to understand fully the mechanics of politics.  Rhetoric used to outwardly justify an action, in all instances rather than simply the most outwardly obvious, is an obfuscation of the reality that there is a conflict of power relations at play.

Congratulations to littlescarletbegonia on reading what is possibly one of the drier political philosophy texts that I’ve head the pleasure of reading 🙂

I just finished reading Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Prince.

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atomicsocialist:

la-vie-est-politiques:

atomicsocialist:

Regarding Libya, I’ve noticed much of the radical left is somewhat hesitant to support the revolution taking place. I completely understand their viewpoint, it comes mostly from cynicism regarding what is in store for the people of Libya after Gadaffi is gone and what role NATO may play in the…

Can we please define a “western government” and “western democracy”?  Are we talking single member plurality, separation of powers as in the US?  Are we talking a linked powers parliament single member plurality as in the UK?  Are we talking about a mixed proportional system as in Germany?  Are we talking about a proportional system using districts such as in Sweden?  Are we talking about reintroducing a monarchy such as they have in Sweden, the UK, Spain, Norway or are we talking about maintaining a republic such as in Germany, France, Italy, the US?

Unicameral such as in Finland, Iceland, Denmark or bicameral such as in the Canada and Australia?  A constitution to promote direct democracy and referendums such as in Switzerland and the US on a state level, or where constitutions are largely ignored such as in the UK?  Do we mean a federal system such as in Belgium, devolved power such as in the UK or a purely unitarian state such as Italy?

I don’t really know what a western government, nor what a western democracy, looks like.

You’re overthinking it. The details are of course going to be decided by Libyan people alone when they have a constitutional referendum however a Western Democracy to me has a separation of church and state, a legislature elected by the people, whether it be unicameral or bicameral, constitutional or common law rights upheld by the judicial system, trials by jury and either a parliamentary system or a democratic republic. Those are the primary points to me though I could go into lengthly detail over what I would like Libya’s government to look like.

The point is though, that the western democratic system, whether it be based on British, French, German or American democracy will be better for the Libyan people than the reign of Gadaffi and we should be happy that at the very least the Libyan people have a true shot at democracy and gaining many of the liberties that people fought for in the Western world. And whether or not you supported NATO intervention, if you dislike Gadaffi’s regime, this is a time for cautious celebration

But it’s really not over-thinking the situation.  It’s really problematic to use the term “western” in such a homogenised fashion.  Almost as problematic as using American as synonymous with the United States (because there are 33 countries being lumped in that may beg to differ).  An example of this problematic lexical ambiguity is quite neatly highlighted when you say “either a parliamentary system or a democratic republic” where the two are not mutually exclusive and I suspect you mean a constitutional monarchy.

There’s also a sort of underlying current beneath all of this, terming it as a western democracy, implying that non-western states are potentially incapable of or incompatible with having the same structures in place.  For example, despite being in the middle of a constitutional crises, Morocco isn’t too dissimilar from the UK in how it organises it’s politics.  There’s no reason as to why many Latin American countries are excluded from your definition of “western democracy”, except for the fact that they’re considered a part of the global south rather than global north, and thus not “western”.  You use the phrase “western style capitalist state” but why do we view that as the inevitable direction that Libya will take (and what of western style socialist states such as Scandinavia?).

The point I’m making is to be aware of the terminology that you use and the way you use it.  Don’t slip into regurgitating media portrayals of the situation that lead to an anglocentric perspective of the way global politics works.  Don’t just regurgitate the ideas of the bourgeois hegemony that reek of condescension towards other nationalities.  Don’t relegate the Libyan civil war to be decided before even a couple of days have passed and Gaddafi hasn’t truly gone, don’t relegate the future of the Libyan state to be decided by the temporary involvement of NATO and the current perception of the TNC when the constitution isn’t even written let along settled upon.

Just as Egyptian revolutionaries continue to fight for true workers control, battling against the military junta.  In the words of Zhou Enlai, it’s “too soon to tell.”

Better Red than Dead: Libya: The Advantage of Western Democracy

liberationfrequency:

  1. la-vie-est-politiques said: Bourgeois. Bourgeois. Bourgeois.

– Dogmatic Marxist who wants to force everyone to live by his ideology and economic model. Good luck with that, I’m sure socialisms next attempts at creating a workers paradise won’t kill anyone that doesn’t agree with them.

Yeah, ok.

Where’s the critique of the nature of freedom, you use the word without connecting it to what it could, should or does mean.

Where’s the critique of the nature of the state, you use the word without connecting it to what it could, should or does mean.

Where’s the understanding of the nature of how societies interconnect and interrelate, how the ideological and cultural hegemonies function.

These concepts of voluntaryism presume the world to live in a stasis where power hangs itself in an imaginary equilibrium that simply does not and can not exist.  These concepts of economic freedoms delve into individualism without realising that no man is an island.

You think capitalist societies driven by the free market will cater for the disabled, who cannot work without support because of their disabilities, and therefore have no money to command the market?  You think they’ll cater for the elderly who are too old and infirm to work and may not have had jobs well paying enough to save up?  You think there’ll be no hegemonic control, or more the point you think that fuel and transport will be so accessible, that people can just up sticks and say “wayup, I’m bored of this now, time to go to the collectivist community because they’ll support me!”?

If you think I’m really that dogmatic a marxist you’re confused.  If you think I want to force everybody to accept my interpretation of politics you’re also wrong.  I’m more than happy to interact and work with anarchists (hell I’ve argued for it) and I’m one of the least sectarian people you’ll meet.  What I will not put up with are people who promote bourgeois concepts and bourgeois arguments under the guise of being a goal for liberation.

Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

Karl Marx (via stay-human)

I reblogged this before but then removed it because it needed a commentary that I didn’t have time to provide.

The point of the quote is that religion exists in a situation of dialectic. Religion in this context is the organisational structure more than the specifics of a particular faith, and the interpretations of religious texts very much depends on the material and social conditions of those who read and express it.

At different times it has served different purposes; the Catholic church exists as an entrenched power structure used to oppress. This is especially clear when you look at how it functioned during the feudal period where it reinforced existing power structures and was used to impress values upon and take money from peasants. As material conditions transitioned from one epoch to the next, from feudalism to basic capitalism, we see protestantism placing a different interpretation and focus on the way the texts are read in such a way as to reinforce values that created and propagated values suitable for a capitalist society.

The point is that you cannot extract someone’s understanding of religion and the way they interpret their texts without considering the time they live in and the social position they hold. Religion can be both a liberating power and oppressing power. People turn to religion to explain the world in which they live, to explain their position within societies power structures yet at the same time the institutionalisation of religion can be a way to reinforce them as much as a call for change.

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akagoldfish:

spacebaw:

akagoldfish:

spacebaw:

No nation has the right to exist.

Rights are things given by nations anyway, so applying rights to nations is laughable.

image

Rights aran’t “given”, that’s why they’re called “rights”

Yes, but I was referring to the concept of rights within a social contract, no matter how incorrect that is.

I think my point needs to be put in context.

Fair enough, though I didn’t find that clear in context. And even within a social contract, natural rights still exist.

My bad on cutting out all the proceeding text though. I thought I was doing it as a link so people could go see the full thread, but tumblr screwed me again.

Both of you are wrong, in different ways.  Rights don’t exist, and therefore Israel is just as legitimate as any individual in claiming they have a right to something.

akagoldfish: Rights aren’t “given”, but they don’t just exist.  They’re demanded and taken.  They’re an expression of power secured in balance.  As long as the government sufficiently fears their own people or international pressure, rights are respected.  As long as the individuals sufficiently fear their government, rights are respected (if you take a Hobbesian view of human nature).  They exist only in so much as they’re demanded and fought for.

The idea of natural rights and legal rights as being separate is a false dichotomy.  Natural rights are uncodified social mores that people are normalised into expecting to have respected, legal rights are codified social mores that people are normalised into expecting to have respected.  Neither of which exist intrinsically and both of which are predicated on the assumption that in the instances where they’re broken an expression of force will be demonstrated to reclaim them.  The only thing that separates them is a bit of paper to expressly state what one entails, both purely exist through social contract and the threat or reality of force.

spacebaw: rights for the individual therefore exist for the group or nation in exactly the same way.  Israel has the right to exist in so much that it claims it does and is willing and able to fight to prove as much.  Israel isn’t a nation though, it’s a nation-state.  Individuals rights are demanded of other individuals and of the state, the rights of a nation-state are therefore demanded of other nation-states and of organisations of nation-states (such as the U.N.).  The rationalisation and effective function is the same but it’s simply the scale that differs.

Throwing this one out there a little more: nations, like rights, don’t intrinsically exist but are social constructs. The argument for Israel existing as a jewish state (that is to say to define the Israeli nationality on ethnic/religious lines) is akin to any other movement which defines nationality on stringent ethnic or religious lines and is racist and illegitimate for exactly the same reasons those other movements are.  That is where Israel’s legitimacy fails, not in some rabbit hole arguing about whether or not states can have rights.

unpopular opinion

Fire, Mayhem and Looting

So I suppose it’s about time I took the time to collect my thoughts on the UK riots that have been spreading like wildfire since the weekend.  There have been a lot of people perfectly happy to decry rioters as mindless and I’ve said snippets towards that, but it’s about time I collected my thoughts and said something in completeness.

The first thing I will say is that a riot is an amoral event.  Which is to say I do not judge the riot (taking the riot as a complete whole) as being something which is morally good or justified, nor do I judge the riot as being something morally bad which should be condemned.  This is because a riot is an organic event that has been created from society and is carried out by an amalgamation of disparate groups and individuals.  It has no governing body, it has no direction or intent as a whole.  It’s something which is simply happening, you cannot judge the entire event as one thing and you cannot judge every single person present within the riot by the actions that have happened within the riot as a whole.  It is not the same, for example, as a military force whose actions can be judged based on the intentions of the government commanding them along with the effect they have because they act as a coordinated unit.

Which is why if someone says “you must condemn the rioters!” I say no.  I condemn burning homes, cars, mugging and physical attacks on people who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Absolutely those actions are not acceptable, especially the triple murder in Birmingham and the shooting in London.  Within a riot situation, because there isn’t and over-arching organisation that constructs and guides the events, those events are not definitive of all the rioters.  So you cannot use them to blanket condemn everyone who has taken to the streets.  Acts of class cannibalism are still wrong, they’re still misguided and inappropriate.

As for looting, I don’t think it’s particularly smart to cripple small local business but again there’s no one present to govern or guide tactics.  But big businesses such as tesco, carphone warehouse and so on being looted and burnt?  The Sony depot being burnt?  Well … riots aren’t the best way to attack capitalism but I’m not overly upset when such events do happen.

The real crime of the riots isn’t the individual actions that have happened in them, but the society that has created the potential for them all to happen.  To understand what this means we have to realise that deprivation and privilege do not exist on a linear scale, instead they exist relative to the society and relative to the individual.  The most recurring theme I’ve encountered is that people comprehend society solely from their own perspective; that their experiences represent what it is to be hard done by in the UK, while the media presents images to them of people who are better off (celebrities) and people who are worse off (such as people who are starving in Africa) are externalised as not being a part of the same system.  If this own person’s hard done by experiences haven’t led them to want to riot, why would anyone else?

But the problem is the media in the UK doesn’t go into real depth so that middle England can really comprehend what life is like living on the breadline, when everyone around you is also in the same position.  Entire communities that have had the EMA (so a chance at a college education) taken away, even if they do manage to get that there’s certainly no chance they could afford university.  There’s no jobs in the area and not enough money to move to a different area where they may be more jobs.  Youth centres and social centres that give people things to do which don’t cost are being taken away.  At the same time they’re still living in a society where it’s full of adverts telling people they have to buy this, that or the other to make their lives complete.  Full of articles about celebrities who have the world at their feet.  People are moving into their area, gentrifying it, pushing up the price of houses and rent and commodities so that the little they had is now worth even less.  They won’t be able to live there when they move out.  Facing police stop and searches on a daily basis for the crime of being a person of colour.  Their own existence is invalidated and ignored because they don’t have the money or privilege to fit the accepted form of a successful person.

You may say that “oh they’re just organising riots on their blackberries and laptops so they can’t be that hard up” but that still doesn’t mean anything.  We’re hitting the second dip of the recession; many of these people may well have had jobs but lost them.  The community around them is being gutted.  Aside from this the economic downturn along with the structuring of society creates within it gang culture and a drug economy; perhaps the only source of income which may in itself be lucrative enough for them to afford mobiles and laptops but it’s still a life that has to be lived as a subculture where people are rejected and criminalised for finding a way to live in an area without jobs.

All of this builds into an anger and a rage.  It’s intuitive that every day of their life society rejects them and so they fight back at society.  They don’t have a philosophical political grounding in what it is that they’re angry at or why they’re striking out but that doesn’t invalidate or neutralise the experience.  The result is that the reaction isn’t directed at the true causal factors, it’s directed at the rest of society around them.  The chaos created by a riot gives rise to opportunistic behaviour, the adrenaline and crowd consciousness leads to attacks and genuine violence which isn’t acceptable.  But to get lost decrying that and ignoring the socio-economic factors is to get society stuck in a loop where it doesn’t fix the ills that caused the riot but instead propagates it and maintains the cycle.  If society doesn’t listen to the warning that the riot heralds, it is damned into repeating the problem and having more riots.  This one will burn out in time but without change we’ll have more in ten, twenty or thirty years.

And is a practical response to criminalise everyone who was involved, and each generation gut a community by imprisoning vast segments of it’s population?  Or will that instead increase racial and class antagonism?  Will bring in the military really solve anything or make this work?  Societies quick fixes to these problems are not ones that will create a lasting positive change.

Cameron has allowed the use of baton rounds (plastic bullets) and water-cannons on mainland soil.  He hasn’t specified stringent limits on this.  Whether or not you think these are justified in this instance, you can bet that they’ll be introduced more broadly into the policing of demonstrations.  They will be used broadly to suppress people’s human rights in addition to this specific event.  I have no doubt of that.

Finally something should be said about the danger of proto-fascist groups such as the BNP and EDL using these events to build racial antagonism.  It goes without saying that this would be absolutely wrong to allow to happen but it’s something I need to collect my thoughts on.

Sorry if that was a rant and a bit all over the place, I find it hard to keep up with what I’ve typed in these small boxes on tumblr.  Hopefully I made sense and didn’t go off on a tangent.

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LONDON — As political and social protests grip the Middle East, are growing in Europe and a riot exploded in north London this weekend, here’s a sad truth, expressed by a Londoner when asked by a television reporter: Is rioting the correct way to express your discontent?

“Yes,” said the young man. “You wouldn’t be talking to me now if we didn’t riot, would you?”

Read full article here. (No really, read it.  It’s short but pretty good and really interesting.)

And when it comes down to it, that’s the truth of the situation.  Riots in an of themselves don’t achieve anything, but they highlight the unrest and they bring to the front the contradictions within society.  They’re a statement to the ruling classes and the media that people are willing to and able to fight back, that there’s a lot of power present.  No, in a riot it’s not guided and it’s not directed.  It isn’t in itself a revolutionary action.  But the act of riot highlights that there is this ostracised and disaffected group, the purpose of being a revolutionary (of any kind be you anarchist or marxist) is to find a way to bring that group into the workers movement, to be able to build and direct that passion and anger from being purely destructive into something creative.

This is why you don’t attack the rioters, because they share your class consciousness and despite not having a philosophical basis for their action they’re still striking back at the same beast.  The problem is with the government and the capitalist society that creates the separation and the contradictions that lead to this situation in the first place.

To revolutionaries that I follow who berate the rioters for their actions, you think the media reporting of this is any different than it is in other countries that have riots?  You see that’s the point: here we have an American mainstream news article that reports on riots, it talks about how the riot is the only way for people to have their voices heard; it talks about the issue of poverty; it talks about police/resident relations being poor; it talks of long term underlying socio-economic problems.  Will our media and has our media been reporting this in the same fashion?  Do you think if a riot happened in the US tomorrow MSNBC would be taking the same line, or would they follow suit and ostracise the rioters as street gangs/anarchists/kids out to smash stuff?  (Hint, it’s the second option).  Every time you reblog a picture of a riot in another country the media and a large chunk of the population there will be making the same complaints about that instance as I’ve seen some of you make about the situation in London.

These are the contradictions of a capitalist media, of self-censorship and of ideological hegemony.  This highlights the way that the media reports on issues one way for their home state and another way for other states, the way that capitalism protects itself by separating and dividing societies into not supporting and uniting.  You have to buck that trend, you have to look past the facade and at the deeper issues behind it, you have to show a consistent support based on class consciousness and not be sucked into the arrogance and elitism that capitalism uses to de-tooth and declaw those who could oppose it.

The sad truth behind London riot

wander-unlost answered your question: wander-unlost reblogged your photo:…

I agree with you I was just surprised noone had reported anything! I’m interested to see how it’s covered considering now the issues you said

Listening in on my housemate watching the BBC news coverage, the anchor went with the old gem “and of course outside groups could’ve come in and hijacked the protest …”

This line is a particular favourite of mine.  It gets thrown around so much.

During the student demonstrations, especially Millbank, the accusation was thrown out that “violence” was instigated by anarchist groups that had come in to subvert the protest.  Which firstly presumes that students can’t be anarchist and anarchists can’t be students, and secondly it functions as a hook to say “ok, so the actual protest may have validity and freedom of speech is important, but now we’re going to isolate and demonise the people who use direct action. They’re not part of the protest movement, so lets ignore the purpose of the protest to talk about that for a week.”

A similar thing happened in Stokes Croft (which is a very small area right next to Bristol’s city centre) where people complained about people present at the riots as not being people who live in Stokes Croft and not really knowing what the community is like, blah blah blah.  While a hell of a lot of people have to go through Stokes Croft to get to the centre, it’s in the middle of a bubbling variety of communities and acts as a focal hub for much of the broader area.

But again the tactic by the press is to isolate and demonise.  The danger of this tactic is that this makes it easier for the government and police to “legitimise” stronger tactics, stricter laws, to defend against this specific “threat” (whereas in reality riots are an conflation of general will.  A few angry people can’t spontaneously start a riot within a peaceful protest without there being a firmer basis for it) however these tactics are invariably used to broaden the oppression, it becomes easier to attack and delegitimise peaceful protests and protests on other matters.  This style of media reporting plays into the encroachment of clamping down on civil rights across the spectrum (sort of like how when the US increased their budget for counter-terrorism, a significant portion of that was spent on riot control gear).

wander-unlost reblogged your photo: bartering-lines: The police shoot a man in a…

Googled it after Laurie Penny tweeted it, couldn’t find anything! How can the press be ignoring this?

The press won’t be ignoring it entirely, but because they have to cover their asses they’ll be slow to pick up so that they can cross-hatch a story together with some reliable information that gets repeated to them.  This is partly because they like to know that what they’re reporting is the genuine truth, partly because they don’t have journos who don’t mind being in the middle of a hail of bottles positioned exactly where a riot is going to happen, as it happens, and partly because if they just report it as people on the streets tell it to them and the police take offence as one of the ways in which it’s being reported the state will make their lives miserable for a while with accusations of biased reporting.

With that said they won’t give it nearly as much air time as events like this could do with, and they won’t look at it with nearly as much depth as they should.  Mainstream media likes to find a very direct and easily presented narrative for this sort of occurrence and ignores the deeper socio-economic issues of an area that contribute towards events such as riots.

To me the whole picture would be looking at things such as general unrest at the government and the form of policing within a community, disenfranchisement from the establishment, unemployment rates and poverty levels, shifting social milieu present in an area, issues such as racism and so on and so forth that can bring a wider community to the point of a riot being triggered by a particular event.  What the press want to be able to report is, in this instance it seems like, just a bunch of gangs that instigated it.  Similarly the way the Stokes Croft riots in Bristol, along with rioting on student demonstrations, was reported is that it gets laid at the feet of anarchist groups who smash stuff because … well that’s all anarchists do, according to the press.

This process is an important part of the way the media works in tandem with the government and capitalist state.  It enables specific groups to be demonised which most importantly separates events from being a community action of a general will.  People in other areas, instead of seeing the events as a rallying call for action, will rather rally to ostracise the so-say perpetrators.  Sneering at them being created as the underclass of society, something to be feared or hated instead of other people who have intricate situations and a plethora of motivating factors behind such events as riots.

This sort of reporting is the cornerstone of creating the “stable” society in which we live: by holding a hegemony over the sort of information that is presented, the way it’s presented, how long it’s kept a public issue for and the way it’s used as a divisive tool.  It prevents people from questioning the nature of the capitalist bourgeois state, and means people don’t see themselves as all being a part of a broader struggle but are instead atomised and isolated in their own bubble of problems.

And that’s why the press by and large ignores such events.  Although you maybe weren’t asking for so much depth, and I should probably be writing this essay in the legitimacy of the exercise of political power …

gravewisdom:

livingispolitical said: If someone wishes to do something that would create a victim, societies response is that person must undergo rehabilitation (which I agree is better than prison), isn’t that person’s freedom being limited? ie can “total freedom” truly exist 4 all?

There is a difference between your ability to be free to kill and maim who ever you wish and your ability to live in a free society.  

Well then how do we define freedom?  How do we understand the concept of the free individual and it’s dialectal relationship within the free society?

The capacity to choose what one does is limited by one’s, ones upbringing, one’s social situation, one’s material conditions.  How can we claim to ever have this notion of total freedom realised when we have no base point to relate to, we cannot know the human in a state of vacuum from external influence to know what a truly free choice would be.  What’s more for someone to exist in this vacuum of external influence and be able to make completely free choices, they are then removed from an existence in which there are things to make choices over.

“Total freedom” does not exist.  It is better conceptualised as freedoms with finite limits, or liberties.

I’m not saying this to refute the notion that anarchy is an ideal state for the human being to find themselves in (as a Marxist my final destination is a state of anarchy, per se, but the route I see in the conundrum is different), but instead to find a more effective and beneficial structure in the way in which we philosophically approach the discussion of society.

liberationfrequency:

To any Marxists/Leninists following me, give me your opinions on National Bolshevism.

I’m not going to claim to know a great deal about it, but from what I do understand they seem thoroughly contradictory.

In general terms, what is the nationality they they’ll support and how is it defined?  Nationalism, while not exclusively so, often ends up being racially discriminatory.  The aim of communism is to see everyone liberated, not to maintain oppression based on arbitrary distinctions such as ethnicity or place of birth.  There’s a fine line between nationalist pride becoming xenophobia and racism.  Nationalism has been a powerful force in anti-colonialist struggles for liberation however an overpowering use of nationalist rhetoric often causes the lines of understanding becoming blurred once the colonial power is overthrown.  Which is inherently dangerous.  Not to mention that in a place such as Russia, what purpose does the nationalism serve?  They’re not oppressed by an external force to push back against, so the eye of nationalism then either becomes imperialism, or internal oppression of minorities.  Neither of which are productive.

In Marxist terms, the line is “workers of the world unite”, not “workers of x, y or z unite”.  The point is important on many levels.  The struggle of workers is connected globally, we are all oppressed by capitalism regardless of location or colour and therefore our struggles are the same, against the same beast.

You cannot see your struggle as being an instance of liberating yourselves from capitalism to then turn your backs on others who face the same oppression because that’s morally irresponsible.  It’s also not a functional attitude to the revolution because it’s important that it spreads.  Capitalism is an expansionist system and on a global level, if it still has hegemony it will not lightly suffer a workers state to exist.  Just as you see America rejecting trade with Cuba, it makes life as difficult as possible.  This leads to either failed states that have trouble supporting themselves and thriving, and it also causes capitalist processes to seep back in.  A communist state cannot functionally exist in isolation, just as much as it can’t morally exist in isolation.

The revolution must spread.  It must spread as struggles of liberation, not as a point of prestige or national imperialist pride.  It must be for all workers, not exclusive of people based on arbitrary divisions rather than class position.

National bolshevism just doesn’t make sense.  Not to mention Nazi symbolism is ignorant, offensive and … mad!

What do you feel about social democrats and social democracy? :) x

Sympathetic.  Up until recently I was a social democrat myself but the age old adage of “you’re only free as far as you’re willing to test the limits” very much applies.  A case of learning through action which then encouraged me to read further and take more seriously the deeper philosophical notions of Marxism.

I have respect for social democracies that have built free education systems, including higher education, free healthcare, decent welfare systems etc.  I think it’s important that until capitalism collapses we do what we can to protect the interests of the worker.  The end result we want though is the downfall of capitalism, the complete destruction of the class boundaries and a restructuring of society around ideals of true equality.  A social democracy can never achieve this because in the capitalist system politics runs on money.  From the point of view of historical materialism, no such substantial change in the structuring of society has come without being connected to immense struggle.  In a capitalist system the proletariat cannot, through a liberal democracy, take control of the means of production and begin to enact the changes that make social democracy anything other than a bandage to stem the bleeding but not heal the wound.

The bourgeoisie fund political campaigns, because it’s the big donations that make the difference not the little ones (especially as the populace becomes more estranged from politics and party membership drops).  This means they can effect what’s focussed on in a manifesto and even have an influence over who runs as MP.  Because parties are concerned about gaining and maintaining power more than the policies they adhere to.  They pay for lobbying to effect the laws.  They can give guarantees to ministers and politicians that they can have a well paid job upon leaving politics.

People with money can send their kids to better schools and have better networking connections.  They have access to better education that enables them to become better speakers with less effort while at the same time don’t have to worry about labouring to survive so they can devote more time to political activity.  Because they have the lobbying power they can also effect what is focussed on with teaching in schools, especially so with academies.  They construct what you’re taught to care about and how you’re taught to care about it.

They own the newspapers and the television and can control what it is that is provided to people in the news and on television, they can encourage biases and select what it is that the media should be focussing on, in what way and for how long.

Factor into this as well that on a sociological level the people who are most active within politics are traditionally white, middle class men.  Working classes and other groups are estranged from the political system because they don’t have the time/education/social acceptance for getting involved, which creates a self-perpetuating system where politics doesn’t work to those groups interests and continues to alienate them from the political process.  So encouraging people to participate within a political system that actively ignores and often works counteractive to their interests, because it’s set up in such a way that it’s designed not to care about them, is a losing battle.

What really needs to happen to end the alienation of labour and transition to the next level of human development is for the workers to take control of the means of production.  Democracy cannot and will not achieve this in so long as the bourgeoisie remain the ruling class, as long as they can make the police and army prevent this from happening (if the workers do not have the means to defend their action) and as long as they hold an uncontested cultural and ideological hegemony.

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thenonviolentcommunist:

livingispolitical replied to your post: “by making out that serving in the military is a desirable vocation” Who is to say what is a desirable vocation? You do understand that some people really love their jobs that most would not consider “desirable”?

Never underestimate the revolutionary potential of a class conscious military.

I just had a pretty interesting conversation with Jordan on Facebook about whether the military can be transformed. I have no interest in a violent revolution, and the only way I can see the military providing a true revolution is by those with the weapons laying them down and leaving the military… but what kind of revolution are you envisaging?

 

You don’t envisage a revolution.  You don’t say “the revolution will happen on these terms but not these ones” because you don’t know what conditions will trigger the revolution to happen.  You analyse the situation, you push for change to happen but to assume that your personal agency is superior to the will of the proletariat when change does happen is naive and arrogant.

But the state won’t just let a revolution happen.  The state oppresses demonstrations, it criminalises strike action and sends in police to beat up workers, it shoots mutineers in the armed forces.  You think at any point in time a change has happened to the social/class conditions without violence?  You think the bourgeois class will let their riches be taken away and redistributed when they can still pay for someone to crack your skull?  You think they’ll let the entire military put down their guns and walk away from the situation?

I don’t envisage the revolution as happening through one specific way or another, but you can guarantee you’ll have to be able and willing to defend it against counter-revolutionaries.

As an example we can look at the Paris Commune, a largely bloodless revolution where overnight the ruling classes fled Paris because their military was weakened, the people were in a state of unrest and they feared for their safety.  When class conscious regular troops were ordered to fire on the National Guard (equivocal to militia) they refused.  This revolution happened because of the threat of violence, even if there wasn’t the scale of fighting that you’d expect.  It collapsed a couple of months later because they didn’t militarise sufficiently and when the ruling classes had rebuilt their army, they crushed the commune.

To assume that you can control how the revolution will happen is a mistake, an even greater mistake is to assume you can find a way to make it bloodless, the bourgeois will decide that not the proletariat.

The Nonviolent Communist: livingispolitical replied to your post: “by making out that serving in…