jump to navigation

Theorizing the State with Dale Carrico September 21, 2012

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism.

The argument continues.

Are you saying that because arrests in which governments engage are sometimes violent, that this renders everything that government does violent or renders government essentially or exhaustively violent, even in those endless details and enterprises in which it obviously is not?

I’m saying arrest – like kidnapping, which it is – is always coercive and thus violent. As Robert Cover famously wrote, people walk into prison because they know they’ll be dragged or beaten into prison otherwise. I’ve experienced this personally; cops do drag you if you refuse to walk. They beat you down if do anything to present them from manhandling you. Pretending that arrest can be nonviolent only confuses the analysis of violence. It’s like saying self-defense is nonviolent. While this makes sense rhetorically in the context of nonviolence as an enshrined and inviolable principle, I don’t see how punching somebody in the face or putting bullets through their lungs can possibly count as nonviolent. That framework immediately becomes incoherent. I prefer recognizing self-defense a sanctioned form of violence.

To be honest, Summer, I am not entirely sure you are even proceeding in good faith here.

I feel the same way about you. Why not just accept that you support certain kinds of violence – counterviolence, for example – and move on? What’s the big deal? Plenty of statists and anarchists alike do this.

Can you really pretend not to know where I am likely to stand on such questions in cases where actual police brutality is taking place or where corporate plutocrats are looting common resources or exploiting everyday folks? I mean, doesn’t it matter to you that I rail against such abuses all the time?

Why do you assume we agree on what constitutes “actual police brutality”? I make no such assumption. Various statists think I should be locked and tortured. Many of those that don’t would were I not white-privileged and apparently innocuous. The conflict between anarchism and statism, while occasionally more style than substance, isn’t a joke.

That is to say, I surely disapprove many or even most of the abuses you do — as anybody who actually reads this blog with any honesty or intelligence at all would already know — but I do not use these abuses as rationalizations for infantile fantasies of how awesome lawlessness would be.

I’d say we speak almost in different languages, so it’s far from clear how much we agree about the specifics. If your dreams of nonviolent governance align with my aspirations at all, you’d recognize actually existing states – and the United States in particular – as completely unlike the ideal. That you see violence as incidental rather than fundamental to the U.S. nation-state today suggests we’re not even in the same library, much less on the same page. A democratic state that only employed violence against violence wouldn’t look anything like Obama’s America.



1. Dale Carrico - September 21, 2012

I have repeatedly said that police power can be coercive, I have repeatedly denied that the state is essentially or exhaustively violent in consequence, and am insisting that to say otherwise is to radically misconstrue the state in ways that tend to yield anti-democratic politics even among folks committed to democracy in the abstract. That’s my position, with which you do and are perfectly free to disagree. Repeatedly I have spoken of the need to be vigilant about structural susceptibilities to violence and corruption, I have asserted the need to resist actual state exploitation, corruption, and violence, and I have said violence is incidental even so — but notice that the susceptibility, actuality, and incidentality in each of these formulations admits of real violences and insists on their interrogation. What you say I ignore, or disavow, or shunt aside I in fact repeatedly highlight. I even pointed out that democratic politics does and should include the facilitation of contestation over what counts as violence, since perspectives on this question differ, something you seem to suggest wouldn’t ever occur to me — “Why do you assume we agree on what constitutes ‘actual police brutality’? I make no such assumption.” — why would anybody who actually read what I wrote assume I so assume? Since you are forever attesting to the violence of things like buildings having walls and assertions of the contingent preferability in matters of prediction and control of candidate descriptions warranted by consensus science I am far from assuming we mean the same thing about such matters. But when it comes to legible social justice politics you know as well as I do what side I’m on, even if you want to pretend that saying such sides exist means I’m eeeeeeeevil in that bullshit way you have of having your radicalism cake and eating it too. Maybe you really do think I am proceeding in bad faith my best efforts to the contrary notwithstanding, as very often you seem to me to be, and if so maybe this is just a waste of time and we should just agree to disagree.

2. Summerspeaker - September 21, 2012

And I’ve repeatedly said that police power is always already coercive. That’s an important analytical distinction. If these arguments have any value besides entertainment, they show in detail where and how we disagree. That can be useful for the endless rhetorical battles between anarchists and statists as well as in the project of formulating ways to coexist as peacefully as possible when we inhabit the same space. (The Occupy movement would be one example.) I doubt we’re uniformly on the same side when it comes to legible social justice politics – a concept we surely define differently – though we may be in many cases. I certainly prefer your politics over most of the popular alternatives.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: