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The State Is Violence September 18, 2012

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism.

My response to Dale with regards to the state and violence follows:

Violence haunts even the most seemingly peaceful state institutions. Try this: Go into any government office and violate social or spatial propriety. Sing loudly, hold an impromptu dance party, brandish a sign, spray paint a wall, smoke a joint, take off your clothes, or what have you. Wait for the cops to show up, then disobey their orders. Feel violence upon your body.

The omnipresent threat of state violence disciplines my actions minute by minute. For some – perhaps even many/most – state power takes a more productive role, generating and proliferating the ideologies that justify obedience and elide the brutality of its enforcement. But not all of us have been so successfully conditioned. A sizable minority of the United States population, at the absolute least, behaves primarily out of terror. Even being generous, the contemporary U.S. state functions as bloody tyranny of the majority. Considering that most eligible folks don’t vote, that’s surely too rosy a picture.

Unless you somehow propose to change the basic dynamic of obedience or torture, I don’t see how democratization will turn the state nonviolent (though it could make it less violent). If you support arresting anyone – ever – you don’t believe in strict nonviolence. (That’s not necessarily a bad thing. While appreciate strict nonviolence as an ideal, I don’t advocate or practice it. But remember, supporting arrests and not riots doesn’t make you peaceful, it just means you support legal rather than autonomous violence. I favor the latter.)

Democracy by itself means little to me. I wouldn’t care if a majority of the folks Taos support my friend’s incarceration there. Queers especially have every reason to fear the kind of democracy that lets people vote violence upon our bodies. Democracy is when the bashers outnumber you and your crew. (Riots, of course, also potentially suffer from this problem.)



1. shagggz - September 18, 2012

It’s not even a tyranny of the majority. Most issues of actual substance go against the majority’s wishes and interests.

2. Summerspeaker - September 20, 2012

Based on Dale’s insistence on the possibility of nonviolent statism, I think progressives may be the group most uncomfortable with the coercion inherent in the law. Less sentimental liberal political theorists freely recognize the violence at the heart of the state, often celebrating how it supposedly prevents much greater violence.

shagggz - September 20, 2012

I don’t think progressives are uncomfortable with coercion inherent in the law per se, rather when that coercion becomes decoupled from the will of the people. An unenforceable law is no law, by simple definition. How is there to be enforcement without coercion? I don’t think (most) progressives see asking really nicely as a viable alternative.

Summerspeaker - September 21, 2012

So what’s going on with Dale, then? Is ey a special case?

shagggz - September 21, 2012

I don’t know what’s going on with Dale. He seems to be someone with a baffling misconception of how society works.

3. Dale Carrico - September 20, 2012

You act like it takes an act of extraordinary imagination to conceive nonviolent governance, when of course nonviolent governance is in fact ubiquitous and violent government, especially where government is most equitable and accountable, is *incidental* though obviously also real.

My point is not to deny the specific violences of states but to argue that violence does not exhaustively characterize states.

A corollary: contrary portrayals by anarchists are actually paranoid and function to rationalize anti-democratization.

My point is to deny that violence is either essential or definitive of state.

A corollary: contrary portrayals by anarchists render the productivity of power and the possibility of civitas invisible to the risk of their possibility.

You will forgive me if I demur from your therapeutic diagnosis that deep fears must account for the difference of my views from your nonsensical fantasy that lawlessness would be teh awesome.

shagggz - September 20, 2012

Violence is indeed both essential and definitive of state. Where is nonviolent governance ubiquitous? Can you name even one instance of state-level governance where this is the case?

Dale Carrico - September 21, 2012

Those social workers with clipboards are all really gun totin’ thugs! Elections? Bloodbaths! No doubt you will next insist taxes are theft. One instance? Anarchism has obviously made you paranoid. Actual violence is INCIDENTAL in even comparatively democratic governance. This is not to deny that citizens should remain vigilant about vulnerabilities to exploitation, corruption, militarism inhering as a permanent possibility in policing functions, nor to deny that resistance should focus on abuses and exhibitions of violence. But this doesn’t alter the fact that no state — even the most tyrannical — could or does maintain order only with violence, and hence the definition of the state essentially through violence distorts our understanding. Democratization of the state consists entirely of mobilizing governance to overcome the violence inhering in the ineradicable plurality of stakeholders to the present, creating nonviolent alternatives for the adjudication of disputes, maintaining a legible scene of informed nonduressed consent to the terms of everyday commerce through the provision of substantial general welfare, accountable administration of common and public goods to circumvent their private parochial structural expropriation and abuse. To disdain all this the better to pretend that Health and Human Services is a fascist torture squad is not particularly clear-thinking or useful as far as I can see, But then “shagggz” your a transhumanoid robot cultist are you not? One won’t go far expecting too much sense from techno-immortalists and nano-cornucopiasts.

Summerspeaker - September 21, 2012

Violence indeed walks behind social workers; as a group they call the cops to enforce their decision or provide protection regularly. (Here is but one example. This doesn’t, of course, mean that social workers are t3h 3vi1 and never do anything positive in the community. But they wield coercive power as part of their official duties.) Violence enables both taxation and bourgeois property. I’m not sure what you mean by “actual violence.” To the extent beating, rape, and killing are incidental to state functioning, it’s because terror works to condition behavior. The productive side of state power plays an invaluable role as well, but the two aspects go hand in hand. At every turn, the state rewards obedience and punishes rebellion. If ideology alone permitted the state to exist, I doubt it would bother police forces and prisons.

shagggz - September 21, 2012

I’m not an anarchist, nor do I consider taxation theft. The fact that most elections and social worker visits don’t end up in bloodbaths does not disprove the fundamental reality that people living under state governance obey its laws because if they do not, they will ultimately be subject to coercion. That implicit threat that maintains obedience is the fundamental essence of what a state is and does.

Summerspeaker - September 21, 2012

Government structures that allow folks to opt out without getting arrested and imprisoned become potentially compatible with anarchism. Are you familiar with what anarchists actually advocate and practice? Apart from the post-left folks – with whom I sympathize but don’t necessarily agree – anarchists form organizations and associations all over the place.

Again, just because people comply with state power doesn’t mean they do so freely. The threat of violence shapes my behavior by the minute; I doubt I’m alone in this. Without the vast networks of state and private coercion that current operate, humans would act quite differently.

George Orwell wrote the following: “Those who ‘abjure’ violence can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf.” While exaggerated and imprecise, this quotation sheds much insight about the dynamics of life under the state.

Dale Carrico - September 21, 2012

Post-left usually amounts to usual right. “The threat of violence shapes my behavior by the minute” …as any paranoid will agree. What you attribute to “life under the state” I attribute to life in plurality, which is why the democratization of the state seems to me so indispensable.

Summerspeaker - September 21, 2012

As I said, we have different dreams. Seems we agree about strict nonviolence, though. It’s a nice idea in theory but impractical a present.

4. Dale Carrico - September 21, 2012

Actually, we don’t agree. But I give up on arguing with you about it. Good luck to you, and I do mean that.

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