This blog post originally was conceived in regards to a single facebook rant I wrote about Political Science specifically, and academia in general, but I had been writing about this subject in so many disparate places that I figured I could collect the various posts and writings here, along with some links and editing so the reader may find agreement and bemusement in this piece, but I also consider this may make a few professional scholars upset. I would apologize in advance if criticism wasn’t your job, and for some of you, standing in the middle of the highway dressed as a pylon is more educational and relevant. So, I will begin with a straight up copy and paste from my wall with some addendum notes if needed, then throw some other stuff in here and there for a longer, more coherent read, one which may or may not lead the reader to the library, or perhaps promptly to prison to burn that motherfucker down. I write this not so much to convince people of my points, though I do put a minimum amount of effort in supporting my ideas, the main purpose of this essay is so other anarchists in the academy know similar feelings are felt here and elsewhere. So without further ado, let’s recapitulate a few of my recent facebook postings and look at them together, see if more connections and examples can be drawn, and so on.
On July 8, 2018, the online magazine Aeon published an article titled, “Is it moral to respect the wishes of the dead over those of the living,” written by Barry La, an associate professor of philosophy at Vassar College, New York. When Aeon posted it to facebook, they selected a paragraph more or less from the article itself to accompany it. This is facebook’s version of the epigram. It was this short little passage that would set the foundation to make some seemingly reaching connections, but those who would only see such connections as “reaching,” would be those who listen enthusiastically to professors and academics, as somehow the privileged elite are somehow immune to bullshit. In fact, some of the richest and elitist subscribe to such unbelievable snake-oil as Gwenyth Paltrow’s Goop, or for the less rich, but still fully prostrate before the “old ways,” we find the hero-forever-oppressed dingleberry of dingleberries: Jordan Peterson. But I digress.
Aeon’s epigram for that article, the thesis for the article basically, read “The current state of wealth inequality together with the ongoing practice of honouring the wishes of the dead could result in a future economy that will reflect the preferences of a past aristocracy, rather than the majority of those living. On the ethics of wills. Archive pick: http://ow.ly/gnRh30kPJO6”
This is not a profound or novel observation, however what I did take from this is something else I’ve hit on in other places on this blog. When I shared the article (and it is a decent read, rarely am I disappointed with the output from Aeon magazine) my epigram wrote thus: “What is “the social contract” and our “voluntary servitude” to Hobbes’ Leviathan but fulfillment of the wishes of the dead long past? Sovereignty has always been about serving the dead. The state is the original zombie, a dead apparatus feeding on the flesh of the living. And the modern state is ubiquitous, amorphous, and insidious in its capacity, as Foucault would say, “to let live or make die.”
This notion of the state serving the dead was touched upon by a little piece of poetry/prose/something titled, “Against Solutions” (mentioned above and again here for its significance and necessity) and is a useful segue to the rant on political science and its underlying thought in this subsequent (edited) blog post:
A Foundation of Bullshit
The only thing you need to do when it comes to engaging a political scientist is demand an intellectually satisfying justification for the state.
No one ever has. Any political scientist worth a handshake will agree. And any honest one is going to tell you they’re just doing their job, which basically studies a completely abstract concept with no basis for existence; how it operates, how it can be utilized, and how it can be maintained “peacefully.” They can do that with nuance and predictability and simple heuristics, sort of. But that’s because the state is ever totalizing power (see Bauman’s Liquid Modernity, don’t be a cum stained assless chap about it. Read the book.) The state is what Stirner would call a spook. It is not real. It is not tangible. It does not exist. It merely consists of paperwork and punishment. We reify the state every moment of every day. Like God, the abstraction becomes real through some zealous and often inane justifications for God (he works in mysterious ways), but mainly through terror and obedience. Acts of terror, including sacrifices and murder, and acts of demanded sheepish prostration are both signs of faith. All of these intersecting practices, where punishment meets community, are built on the assumption that God exists. All the rituals and dogmas, murders and rape, are tools to control. [The state is dead. It has no sentience. It’s a poorly constructed algorithm – I’ll talk more about this later when I talk about language.]
The state operates in a much similar manner, with political scientists, even if they are critical of the state and maybe even read some Emma Goldman (Haven’t met one yet), they, nevertheless, mostly all start from Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan. If the tactics of the church seem like the tactics of state, they are. Rarely is Hobbes, or the entire field of political philosophy that he played a great role in creating, critiqued with any passion or indignance – at least from within the field of political science. Only recently have people started to, at the lower levels of university (educated fools), begun to include, in what I’ve so far seen as their lazy pedagogy, evidence from other fields of study (like my beloved anthropology) that Hobbes’ State of nature, where it is kill or be killed, and life is “nasty, brutish, and short,” never existed. Neither does any kind of social contract where we implicitly give up rights (as if rights are an actual thing) to a Leviathan figure. This hypothetical is routinely given as a sufficient justification for the existence of the state. A paternal figure of quite literally mythological proportions limits individual action for the common good. It is a justification completely fabricated based on what some bootlicker thought. It has no basis in reality. Thomas Hobbes wrote his magnum opus after two huge armies battled it out. It doesn’t even make basic logical sense to arrive at the conclusion he did; he arrived at that conclusion because he wanted to.
Bootlickers will always lick boots, they’ll even write whole books that justify the activity. It is little wonder that Hobbesian justification for the state went unchallenged for so long. Knowledge is power, power is knowledge, as Foucault explained. And Marx, with Gramsci following closely thereafter would explain ideological hegemony. Taken together, it boils down to something simple. Occam’s razor is a useful tool, but professors won’t have jobs if the simple shit they’re teaching you isn’t separated from the pupil by centuries and further distanced from the reader through the unnecessarily dense, loquacious, obfuscatory nature of so much of the “classical” political science writings. Of course, William Godwin, sometimes called the father of classical anarchism, wrote a book, On Political Justice, wherein he laid the theoretical and moral foundations for the abolition of the state. It’s not a hard read. It’s actually pretty easy to get through, especially if you have a professor willing to go into the details with you. At an undergrad level, I bet the basic acknowledgment of Godwin’s existence, let alone understanding or finding value in his writing is tellingly sparse.
Like I said, political scientists make great pylons, but they’d make terrible anarchists – they’d be the first to put you to the wall or shove you in the gulag. They don’t know anything but statism. They’re living in the political version of Plato’s cave. It took years before a critique of Hobbes became acceptable and then normalized. It took so long because of the structure of the university and its reflection on, and its shaping of, powerful society. (For further discussion on anarchism in the university, see Resisting the Alt-Right: The Power of Definitions, Anarchy and the University, you can tell I wrote it really high on drugs. How high am I right now?)
I’ve been shit talking specialization in universities since I was 15 or 16 years old. My critique now is a bit more sophisticated than it was at 16, probably because I do better drugs, but essentially my critique says the same thing: that specialization creates power imbalances and stupid people. I was 16. Why were “adults” enthusiastically reinforcing power structures through specialization? Specialization creates a Tower of Babel situation. And I wasn’t alone thinking this then, I’m not alone in thinking it now. Amazing things happen when people stop caring about fame and recognition, and instead focus on the cultivation of knowledge through innovation, sharing, and cooperation
(cue the throng of people who have been told the opposite is the basis of our modern, progressive, technological society, and that is why capitalism is “natural” and the best economic system ever developed – i.e. every professor and their pupils who either intentionally or unintentionally misread Adam Smith, or all the people who tout the “free-market” and then cite Smith as a major proponent thereof. He wasn’t. End of story. Nobody, from the professors on down the hierarchy of commodified knowledge to the lowly pupil, has the time or the incentive – usually money – to read Wealth of Nations in full. Analogous to so many other works we ostensibly study, we rely on interpretations, or interpretations of interpretations. Always interpreted through a biased lens and then “taught” through that lens or another lens. Using the dead to justify the realities of life. Not only can social sciences never be objective, if they claim objectivity it simply further discredits the field of study – this is especially the case for the fields that are the aim of my detestation, and of this writing – economics and political science.)
The challenges the university faces today under austerity programs, neo-liberalism, crony capitalism or whatever words you want to use (since the university is built to create useful idiots who can define fascism like nobody else but can’t use excel, or vice versa), that word or combination of words is increasing the commodification of knowledge. This is why anarchists care at all.
Knowledge is power and when a university becomes a business, everyone suffers except the capitalist. This may hold especially true for physical science and the sort that deal with tangible, accurately measurable things. Political science, as discussed deals with the zombie state.
(What’s the equation for entropy? I have no fucking idea, but it probably applies closely to states as well. The rule certainly does, the only variance is method and formula. As Mumia Abu-Jamal said, “Today’s Empires are Tomorrow’s Ashes.”)
Political science is for dweebs who think the state is neutral, static, an apparatus disconnected from “society”…as if people are algorithms and governments are calculable. If this is the case then the state is an object held together by subjects, thus one could remove the stupid and useless details like, oh I don’t know, freedom and acceptance of others, and simply study the state as “moving parts in the death machine.” And while this may have been applicable reasoning in Tsarist Russia or the France of 1760, we cannot apply this reasoning to the modern state.
Again, however, as many people have observed, many back in ’68 after les eventements in Paris and the disintegration of the “movement,” which can be narrowly and broadly defined, but here, I posit that resistance to state power was not only met with force, but other insidious tactics were used like FBI infiltration into the Black Panther Party, spreading of rumours, jealousy, drugs. These tactics of surveillance and repression were novel and challenging, both for praxis and theory. I posit that in today’s world where there is no Bastille to storm, no single center of power, no winter palace that is a strategic and informed place for violent resistance to state power, we need a Liquid conception of Anarchism (the details for this will be hashed out with more care elsewhere).
Post-panopticism, postmodern surveillance, and the need for Liquid Anarchy
The state has evolved before we even have the capacity to perceive the reasons we fail to be able to describe this “liquidity,” and part of that reason is the university and its specialized jargon, its cliquey bourgeois academics and scientists, and the inaccessibility of knowledge to vast amounts of people who, unharmed by the trauma of being Pavlov’s proverbial dog in the academy, are unfazed by proper (sorry, colloquial) language use, which academics, partial to reductionism, centrism, and essentialism (the trifecta of Identity Politics – more on this later), wittingly or not, ascribe to a person’s intelligence. The more “lower class” like a person sounds, the dumber they are. Languages, like states and traditions, belong to the dead and dying. We follow arbitrary rules because that’s the law, and it takes effort to change or remove laws. Language is the same.
Trying to engage in a dialogue with a medical doctor as a construction worker is difficult, unless the topic is construction, but then the conversation may be difficult to follow for the doctor. They speak different languages, or in linguistic terms are adapted to using different ‘registers’ in their occupations. For practical reasons, languages adapt and modify (e.g. Pidgins).
In regards to intelligence, for many, once pressed, will say intelligence is relative and slippery; hard to define. But when no one is pressing them, academics know that even with all the systemic inequalities, it is the privileged and educated that possess intelligence. Because intelligence can also amount to agency. For all its liberal lip service, the modern university is still a major propagator of the myth of meritocracy. I mean, all the people who made it into Columbia must deserve it, right? It must be because they’re smarter, right? No. Columbia basically creates a lottery to select its 3000 or so new admissions each year out of the 30000 or so that apply. This lottery of life is everywhere, chance, fortune, wealth… you are nothing but the product of SOME of your choices, but those choices you feel so strong about were heavily influenced, guided or denied, by chance. Anyone who denies this is delusional, anyone who propagates the delusion is a tyrant. The myth of meritocracy reigns, in my experience, in university courses on economics. There is not a stronger counterargument that will prevail from within the field of economics. It doesn’t fit the paradigm. The myth of meritocracy fits the capitalist paradigm and the lie of the American Dream perfectly. In fact, you can’t lie as much as America does about its supposed dream without an equally unrealistic mythology everyone tells each other to sustain it. Remember, this is how states turn from abstractions to tangible operations that have the power to kill you. So the counterargument of the myth of meritocracy, just like the counterarguments to Hobbes came mostly from Anthropology. Sociology, in my view, is best suited to counter the myth of meritocracy.
Just as anarchists must be, through the sharing one or more loose ideas, principally at odds with state power and what the state ACTUALLY IS. I believe the state needs to be redefined, and as such Anarchism, in light of a newly defined state also, and I’m so sorry to do this, but it’s not pedantic or unnecessary. Anarchism needs to be redefined, or at least I think it can be better defined in light of a modified definition/reality of the state. [I personally am working on, thinking about, sketching out, the application of Zygmunt Bauman’s Liquidity to Anarchism. As we find the state to be omnipresent, ubiquitous, and insidious, this Foucaultian understanding of power allows an anarchism much more akin to Max Stirner and his conception of an assortment of Unions of Egoists. More on this will come, but let’s make fun of academics some more…]
The state is not a hammer people can just use for anything, as I heard Judith Butler backhandedly describe it at some hoity-toity dinner party here in Vancouver. You would think she would know better but damn. The fact Judith Butler straight up claimed the state is NECESSARY to distribute resources is quite dumbfounding and ahistorical. In Rebecca Solnit’s book A Paradise Built in Hell, she gives four case studies where after a disaster, “non-hiearchical forms of social organization” (Anarchism, but if you say that word you are bad, context doesn’t matter anymore and words mean nothing) was well run, efficient, and, according to some experiential reports, the best part of the disaster. Until the state fucked everything up. The same type of account can be found from those that experienced hurricane Sandy – modern civilization gets a partial shut down, people organize despite the supposed necessary state authorities and then when the state does show up, they cause a mess. In the context of this piece and in my disregard and heavy criticism of academics one has to wonder why Solnit’s thesis isn’t based on the sabotage of the machinations of industrial capitalism. She doesn’t for obvious reasons. Liberal bourgoise feminism and activism are only ok with state violence aimed at Brown skin. People like Solnit and Naomi Klein are great for ideas and facts and figures but they, too, have a job to protect. They are the Resisters Inc.
Anarchism is the thing that is happening all the time. Anarchy works all the time, yet in the lower level undergraduate courses on social and political philosophy, anarchism is treated as quaint, or in the past, something that creates the topic question for an essay, “Is Anarchism a Viable Ideology” which I answered in the negation of answer. You can’t make me answer a leading question like that. Is capitalism a viable ideology?Political Scientists are the fucking Gomer Pile of intelligentsia.
Professors of political science are either cowards or sycophants.
They either know the fallacies of their “science” and the ruse it is, or they agree with it and assume the mantle of “social awareness.”
Either way, like all anarchists, Political charlat…. scientists. McCompromise with the existing order. They just adjust more agreeably. The anarchist may or may not, I can only speak for myself (We’re not Marxists, ya know?) suffer from sometimes paralyzing cognitive dissonance; moral, ethical, political, social, and medical doubts, everyday. Anarchists, as the feminist movement elucidated, see the personal as political. For anarchists the compromise can be life or death, prison or “freedom.” Nothing is taken at face value.
Any dingbat that spews bullshit about politics for hours on end and builds all their arguments off a provably false assumption, is selling you something (other than the commodity of knowledge we are already implicated in), or worse, they actually believe some eclectic mix of philosophy that still does not address the foundational problem with political science.
If Political science, and more particularly (the university is limited too), any one who cares to study politics needs to first start at the beginning. Give a sound reason for the justification of the state, and don’t do it through some bootlicking coward and opportunist like Hobbes. Actually do it. (It has not ever been done, not ever.)
Until then, Political science is the science of power, but power with masks. Masks like “general welfare” and “social insurance.” Just enough “socialism” that both socialists and sycophants don’t start doing the logical, well informed thing of killing cops and roasting their bones on an open fire. The gun control problem in America resolved if all the people who enforced the law took one to the temple.
The people who take political sciences are just like economists. The lesions of ideology that make visible the education systems social biases. If a person just wants to have every day myth drilled into them as fact, and subsequently parrot myth. That person probably still thinks the icecaps aren’t melting.
And both economics and political science summon up some kind of social contract justification for being a shit person and butt rubbing their dingleberries on other people and then blaming human nature arguments and invoking the non aggression principle.
My criticism of economics is structured almost precisely the same, but the obviously false assumption in economics, that people are self-interested and rational, is quite often openly debated in a first year economics class as soon as anyone thinks about that statement they’ll see it is false. The field of economics has reached a level of piety on par with political science, and while these false assumptions my be entirely fabricated, built of bullshit to support more bullshit, what is pious must be accepted. So while the foundational assumptions may be “misguided,” apparently everything else should be accepted, as if on faith. Both economics and political science are secular religions spawned from the Enlightenment. God is Dead and we have turned him into an accountant!
My facetious question for economists follows the reasoning of philosopher Emil Cioran. Though he does not say it explicitly, he maintains that a person does not kill themself in moments of despair or misery but in “moments of unendurable lucidity.” I would for the purpose of this argument equate lucidity with rationality. He also condemns people as weak-willed and cowardly if they grow accustomed to suffering instead of killing themself. So one must ask the economist, if a person is inherently self-interested and rational, why are there so many people walking around. Surely it’s not rational or self-interested to work, pay bills, eat McDonald’s and then die. I suppose the old adage is true here, that if you want twelve different answers you ask twelve different economists. For my exploration of a sociology of suicide check out: Suicide as Agency: A fight against Time, a Temporal solution
Maybe the more pointed question is why are so many economists not killing themselves out of an egoistic altruism of sorts? That is, indeed, very curious. However, I feel like picking on political science and economics is a bit of a…
What’s Latin for dead horse?
The Crushing Weight of Liberalism
So, as has been shown there is a critique of the academy and anarchism. Let me introduce you to a critique of a self-proclaimed anarchist in the academy, to preserve anonymity I will not mention them by name, but I will give some context and then copy and paste my rant about it.
It’s a short story because it is ridiculous. A few days ago or so, there was a protest in London, where a “baby-trump” balloon was “permitted.” The anarchist in question here, they are a professor, they have some clout. They could argue against being permitted to do anything in the first place. But, instead this professor directed his ire at the protesters. And no, not for their passive non-violence that nobody cares about. He got upset at “Childism,” as if a “baby-trump” balloon denigrates children. I called him petulant and puerile, and a weak-ass liberal. Here is a more detailed response, which will also touch on other things relevant to our discussion:
_______________ finally blocked me. Don’t let me end up like that dude. Academia has destroyed that man’s anarchist spirit and he doesn’t even realize it. Hyper politically correct and obsessed with identity politics and “equality.” Going down the same road as countless before him, from writing a paper called “fuck neoliberalism” to getting offended for all the innocent babies out there who apparently are denigrated when that baby-trump balloon flies above London in this egregious display of #childism… one more way for us to monitor our speech and thoughts. One more leftoid tactic to elevate themselves from the rest of the world – to make bland and unoffensive everyday language.
Let’s criticize the so-called childism at the protest in London (never mind the fact that babies aren’t children) instead of the plethora of other issues the left keeps perpetrating on itself with its ineffective whining. Critique non-violence and balloons and banners as theatre, spectacle allowed by the state to keep up the show as if our voice matters? No, let’s critique a baby-trump balloon for Othering children, and let’s get righteously indignant about it.
Will somebody please think of the children?! (Sarcasm dripping)
Shit like the above is exactly why it’s called the Ivory Tower, because nobody except those in it give a shit about “childism”… not in this case anyway, especially since it’s not a case of childism.
Criticism and debate is a major part of academia; arguing about things is useful and necessary, just as conflict is necessary, for growth. And endless critique of critique of critique is wonderful. But with all that pedantry we run the risk of over-analyzing and making mountains out of mole-hills. We risk becoming out of touch with the things that “matter” and begin to lose ourselves in abstraction and begin to speak a different language. This ultimately is a destructive process for the anarchist, especially the social anarchist.
Everything and everyone is problematic in some way, what this hyper focus on oppressions like childism, racism, and whatever else may offend does is it creates a multitude of opportunities to never move beyond a word in a situation, or a balloon at a protest. If you want to find something that will raise the ire of the marginalized and Othered it’s not hard, offensive shit is everywhere. This post will offend somebody. Being offended by racist jokes is the new alleviation of white guilt. It doesn’t do anything but make oneself appear moral and part of the in-group. These traps should not trap anarchists. We should be able to understand context and history and ideology that leads to racist jokes without getting offended by them and calling them out every time. It’s exhausting and wasted energy. It’s simply performative outrage for what? Proof of allyship? Allied to what? Black people are not homogenous (more on this later), allyship is for states.
I’m not saying don’t call out racist bullshit, I’m saying pick your battles. The wall is hard and our heads are soft, bashing one’s head against the wall over hyper politically correct behaviour is a task for centrists and liberals, who seek uniformity and no conflict.
Academia is poison for the anarchist. It perpetuates liberal biases everywhere. And getting offended FOR others – to protect babies from the childism of a baby-trump balloon – is up there in the peaks of liberalism.
Returning to racism, just think about the colloquial, every day usage of that term in the layman’s world 30 years ago. It was dictionary definition. Now, we understand that racism is systemic and is not just prejudice but prejudice plus power. Ok, now tell someone who is white and living on a reserve that they aren’t experiencing racism when they get beat up based on the colour of their skin. In fact, double down and tell them that simply by being white they are racist as they benefit from settler-colonialism and white supremacy. Furthermore, now get mad at them and call them stupid because they don’t agree. How can they disagree with your $60,000 education?
This is what a liberal identity politics does. It essentializes people and creates assumed histories and biographies of an individual based on superficial characteristics. And we are all mired in this toxic thought. We reinforce state power based on racism through liberal identity politics. What does this have to do with ______ and Academia?
Instead of a balloon conveying a message that is fairly universal in its understanding – all sorts of cultures and people know what is meant when you call someone a baby – we get a problematic balloon that others and strips agency from children. It’s not that children are not othered or that they are not stripped of agency. They are. But the same lens that sees a problem in this balloon sees it as automatically problematic when a white man voices an opinion on the black community. Context is everything. There is nothing inherently wrong with either of the above, unless we look for them. Adults and children are connected. Black and white people are connected. This is kind of a bad analogy and it’s slipping away from me, the relationship between adults and kids and white and black people are not at all the same. But that’s my point. Essentialism creates false assumptions and from those assumptions we build.
I’m just writing this as I go on my phone and I can’t go back and read it until I post it so this probably isn’t making much sense.
Basically my arguments can be summed up in that _______ has been swallowed up by academia, seemingly in toto. Creating issues where there aren’t any, does a disservice to the issue. Childism is a thing and we’ve all experienced it, but using the baby-trump balloon to call it out is some weak-ass liberal shit for two reasons 1) it’s not childism as babies aren’t children, but also, 2) it is an analysis only a few will come to, understand, or care about. Seeing childism in a baby-trump balloon is so out of touch with reality that I can find no other word for it but liberal. There are other reasons, but they don’t matter because even arguing about it is stupid.
My main point and request is this: don’t ever let me get so divorced from the world I become upset at stupid shit like this. I’m ok with the irony of being upset at his being upset. Critique is a tool all anarchists should wield well, but we should not wield those tools in support of the state, or to bolster reductionist and essentialist perspectives.
We should continue to fight, against ourselves, against the state, against society, racism, homophobia and all of the usual bullshit. We need to destroy the institutions that confine our minds and bodies, and this cannot be done through discourses of identity and rights, jargon befitting a philosophy class isn’t gonna change (or not) the world. It will be human beings taking action, and every single one of those beings is problematic. The actions they take, more so. Critique is necessary. Pedantic petulance is for those with the time and space.
I have no answers, as stated, I may even be said to be against them, but I do know that protests at this point in time deserve exhaustive critiques, very little of which has anything to do with balloons purportedly Othering children.
Next thing _______ will be doing is denouncing all violence as problematic and alienating. In the comfortable world of academia it is enough to get mad at balloons, there’s no jobs for professors if all the protests actually start becoming effective.
“No one is going to give you the education you need to overthrow them.” – Assata Shakur