Anarchism as a Critique of Representation

Cohn, Jesse S. 2006. Anarchism and the Crisis of Representation: Hermeneutics, Aesthetics, Politics. Cranbury: Associated University Press.

Ch. 3. "Anarchism as a Critique of Representation", pp. 55-78.
Perhaps, then, anarchists succeeded in organizing because their opposition to representation was incomplete and inconsistent. Indeed, postsructuralist critics such as May, Newman, and Koch have found "classical" anarchist theory (save, in some instances, for the marginal works of Max Stirner) to be shot through with residues of metaphysics, foundationalist Western thought - a thoroughgoing essentialism. As Todd May writes in his Political Philosophy of Poststructuralist Anarchism, "almost all anarchists rely on a unitary concept of human essence" to argue for the abolition of the State: "the human essence is good; therefore, there is no need for the exercise of power." (Cohn 2006: 56)
Both instances fall in line with Milstein's utopian overview of anarchism: in the first instance (incompleteness and inconsistency) with the continual change and transformation of anarchism itself, and in the second a belief that man is naturally (essentially) good.
"Each individual," Bakunin continues, "inherits at birth, in different degrees, not ideas and innate sentiments, as the idealists claim, but only the capacity to feel, to will, to think, and to speak" - a set of "rudimentary faculties without any content." These empty "faculties" must be filled in with a "content" that comes from generations of cultural development, the creation of a "common consciousness" that is "the intellectual and moral patrimony of a nation, a class, and a society." Since each real individual is always "the product of society," all that is "natural" - in other words, inevitable or inescapable - is the "influence that society naturally exercises over him." Thus, since they do not exist ready-made in the human soul, "mutual aid and solidarity" must be "developed" through concrete experience in society. In short, Bakunin is not a naturalist, founding his hopes on the assumption that human behavior is driven by unvarying natural drives and instincts, but a constructivist: for him, anarchy is not a "state of nature," but something that must be collectively willed, struggled for, built, achieved, produced - in a word, constructed. (Cohn 2006: 56-57)
I think the Cohn ascribes constructivism to Bakunin too readily - the argument relies on the concept of faculty which is something of a precursor to the concept of instinct. When dealing with 19th century psychology it's not wise to conflate interpretations with modern notions without going into the history of the concepts themselves. That is, "faculties" should be more carefully studies before deriving a conclusion that hinges on this single word.
Once again, Kropotkin is delivering an imperative, not merely enunciating a description, when he says that human beings mut be united in solidarity, that community must be constructed, that relationships of reciprocity must be established. Solidarity, community, and ethical relationships are not already there, components of a human essence merely awaiting expression. Nor are they, by the same token, nonexistent, so that they must be created ex nihilo. Rather, if they can be said to exist already at all, they already exist as possibilities implicit in the biological and social matrix of nature and humanity. Nature alone is not the sufficient condition for their realization; culture (customs, institutions, relationships) is necessary. (Cohn 2006: 59)
Makes a whole lot of sense and I tend to agree.
It is within the framework of this modified realist understanding, which recognizes the "unavoidable subjective necessity to project grammar into the world," as Goodman puts it, that we must read Landauer's apparent antirealism when he paraphrases Mauthner in declaring that "your world is the grammar of your language." The object world is not immediately present to the subject, but is mediated through signs that are collectively constructed by subjects: in this sense, "it is my own self-created world into which I loo, in which I work." (Cohn 2006: 61)
Yup, social constructionism, almost sounds like the human Umwelt.
What Marx condemns as idealist is precisely the anarchists' refusal to reduce all question to one "ultimate determining" question, a "last instance": in his notes on Statism and Anarchy he complains that Bakunin "understands absolutely nothing about social revolution. ... For him its economic requisites do not exist. Since all hithero existing economic formations, developer or undeveloped, have included the enslavement of the working person (whether in the form of a wage worker, the peasant, etc.), he thinks that a radical revolution is possible under all these formations. ..." (Cohn 2006: 64-65)
Thus Marx himself was the first to blame the anarchists in not understanding economy, a rampant accusation even today.
life, then, is something that resists any fixed, definitive, absolute schematization. "Reality," writes Proudhon, "is inherently complex; the simple never leaves the realm of the ideal, never arrives at the concrete in its own particular uniqueness and in the uniqueness of each ecosystem." A critical-realist fallibilism, for which errors and surprises are essential to knowledge, grounds anarchism: true "science," writes Bakunin, "when it has reached the limits of its knowledge ... will say in all honesty: 'I do not know.'" (Cohn 2006: 66)
Noble sentiments.
Anarchism has borne the charge of transcendentalism for a long time. This charge has recently been resuscitated by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, who, like many left Marxists, take positions that are rather close to anarchism - i.e., advocating bottom-up popular movements organizing outside of parliamentary politics and antagonism to the State as such - while declaring, "we are not anarchsits": "you are just a bunch of anarchists, the new Plato on the block will finally yell at us. That is not true. We would be anarchists if we were not to speak ... from the standpoint of a materiality constituted in the networks of productive cooperation. ... No, we are not anarchists but communists who have seen how much repression and destruction of humanity have been wrought by liberal and socialist big governments." (Cohn 2006: 67)
It is beginning to feel as if after the Soviet Union fell there has been a movement towards anarchist ideas even in marxists and other political ideologies, merely on the grounds that these "others" have come to recognize the negative effects of big governments.
In another perennially popular interpretation, anarchism is centered around the belief that human beings are naturally endowed with a social instinct that is repressed by present-day society. it is this essentialism that more knowing post-structuralist types find naïve: as Michael Walzer explains, if Michel Foucault seems at times to approach a kind of anarchism in his politics, he "does not believe, as earlier anarchists did, that the free human subject is ... naturally good, warmly sociable, kind and loving"; rather, "men and women are always social creations, the products of codes and disciplines." Anarchism, so it would seem, entails belief in a transcendent human essence - as the notion that we are socially constructed supposedly does not. (Cohn 2006: 67)
"naïve" means "natural" in latin. Foucault does seem vaguely anarchistic at times. TBH I haven't met this kind of essentialism Cohn is talking about in my readings yet. Also, the bit about codes and disciplines sounds very much like something Lotman said (that selves are constituted by an interplay of a selection of social codes, or something to taht effect).
...anarchist theory falsely externalizes power in order that it may see itself as external to power, outside its corrupting influence. In reality, Newman argues, power comes from human subejcts. If, as Foucault remarks, there is no escape from power, this is because it is not an object with a location. Classical anarchism, Newman contends, is crippled by its inability to recognize this, trapped in a mistaken notion that society constitutes a standpoint that transcends power. (Cohn 2006: 67)
Again, I see it differently. Berdyaev's statement that anarchism is about liberation from extrenal power captures the essence of the argument: anarchists do not externalize power but claim their right to participate in power, to deny the external/vertical variety and create possibilities for horizontal power relations. That is, to invest the subjects with more internal power.
For Bakunin, as for Newman, power is the natural product of society. Nor does Bakunin wish to abolish power as such - an impossible project; rather, like Newman, he wishes to abolish "domination." Bakunin's account of the way that "social power" is produced and operates, however, is substantially more concrete than that given by Newman. In Newman's writings, as in Deleuze's, abstract concepts are reified into quasi-tangible entitites and treated in pseudo-physical terms: "power relations" can "flow" or "become congealed" or "crystallized," and so on. To describe social relationships in this way is to beg the question: is this not a way of falsely applying physical language to an inappropriate domain - indeed, is this not a form of naturalist mystification? Bakunin, more sensibly, explains "social power," the mutual play of influence between individuals in a society, as the product of individuals' natural need for "the approval and esteem of at least some portion of society": "The power of collective sentiment or public spirit is even now a very serious matter. ..." (Cohn 2006: 70)
Bakunin's conception of social power is favorable, as it is clothes in familiar notions. It even seems that Ruesch's Semiotic Appraoches to Human Relations might be unified with this kinf of conception of social power.
Rather than assuming that power originates solely in the State, and that society is a pure realm of freedom, Bakunin sees the social as marked by contradictory tendencies toward freedom and oppression; moreover, since he sees subjectivity as socially produced, these contradictions are played out within each individual subject: "social tyranny ... permeates every facet of life, so that each individual is, often unknowingly, in a sort of conspiracy against himself. It follows from this fact that to revolt against this influence that society naturally exercises over him, he must at leat to some extent revolt against himself." (Cohn 2006: 72)
Curiously, this describes well the situation in 1984, although the facet that I am interested is nonverbal and the conspiracy that Winston implicates himself is thoughtcrime.
The relation between the self and its determinations is not static or unidirectional, but dialectical; moreover, these determinations include both the material and the symbolic economies that are the products of its own activity, so that the self is produced both by physical, bodily disciplines and by "dominant ideas." (Cohn 2006: 76)
Neat. #self

Mills, C. Wright 2000 [1959]. The Sociological Imagination. With a new Afterword by Todd Gitlin. Oxford (etc.): Oxford University Press.

Ch. 10. "On Politics", pp. 177-194.
Three overriding political ideals seem to me inherent in the traditions of social science, and certainly involved in its intellectual promise. The first of these is simply the value of truth, of fact. The very enterprise of social science, as it determines fact, takes on political meaning. In a world of widely communicated nonsense, any statement of fact is of political and moral significance. All social scientists, by the fact of their existence, are involved in the struggle between enlightenment and obscurantism. In such a world as ours, to practice social science is, first of all, to practice the politics of truth. (Miller 2000: 178)
Along with this [the value of the role of reason in human affairs] goes a third value - human freedom, in all the ambiguities of its meaning. Both freedom and reason, I have already argued, are central to the civilization of the Western world; both are readily proclaimed as ideals. (Miller 2000: 179)
Yes, embrace the ambiguity.
The second, and now the most unusual one, is to become an advisor to the king. The buraeucratic uses which I have described are a current embodiment of this. The individual social scientist tends to become involved in those many trends of modern society that make the individual a part of a functionally rational bureaucracy, and to sink into his specialized slot in such a way as not to be explicitly concerned with the structure of post-modern society. (Miller 2000: 180)
Very much the expression I was looking for to talk about the anarchist ideal of work, e.g. the NOT the "specialized slot" or "predestined category or post".
The third way in which the social scientist may attempt to realize the value of reason and its role in human affairs is also well known, and sometimes even practiced. It is to remain independent, to do one's own work, to select one's own problems, but to direct this work at kings as well as to 'publics.' Such a conception prompts us to imagine social science as a sort of public intelligence apparatus, concerned with public issues ans private troubles and with the structural trends of our time underlying them both - and to imagine individual social scientists as rational members of a self-controlled association, which we call the social sciences. (Miller 2000: 181)
Now this idea I like very much.
What must be called the Christian defauly of the clergy is as much part of this sorry moral condition as is the capture of the scientists by nationalist Science-Machines. The journalistic lie, become routine, is part of it too; and os is much of the pretentious triviality that passes for social science. (Miller 2000: 183-184)
Apply cold water to burned area.
The social scientist usually lives in circumstances of middling class and status and power. By his activities in these milieux, he is often in no better position than the ordinary individual to solve structural problems, for their solution can never be merely intellectual or merely private. Their proper statement cannot be confined to the milieux open to the will of social scientists; neither can their solutions, which means, of course, that they are problems of social and political nand economic power. But the social scientist is not only an 'ordinary man.' It is his very task intellectually to transcent the milieux in which he happens to live, and this he does when he considers the economic order of nineteenth-century England or the status hierarchy of twentieth-century America, the military institutions of Imperial Rome, or the political structure of the Soviet Union. (Miller 2000: 184)
So he names social, political and economic power - very much in line with Bourdieu's theory of habitus - and coaxes the social scientist to accumulate "cultural capital"; that is, in this specific case, "high culture" (that which transcends the contemporary milieux).
Alongside skill and value, we ought to put sensibility, which includes them both, and more besides: it includes a sort of therapy in the ancient sense of clarifying one's knowledge of self. It includes the cultivation of all those skills of controversy with oneself that we call thinking, and which, when engaged in with others, we call debate. An educator must begin with what interests the individual most deeply, even if it seems altogether trivial and cheap. He must proceed in such a way and with such materials as to enable the student to gain increasingly rational insight into these concerns, and into others he will acquire in the process of his education. And the educator must try to develop men and women tho can and who will by themselves continue what he has begun: the end product of any liberating education is simply the self-educating, self-cultivating man and woman; in short, the free and rational individual. (Miller 2000: 186-187)
Aww shiet, he went there (epimeleia heautou). Also, beginning with that which interests one the most is very insightful, modern neuroscience has proven this to be the most effective way to learn anything (personal interest bears stronger neural connections).
Whether or not they are aware of them, men in mass society are gripper by personal troubles which they are not able to turn into social issues. They do not understand the interplay of these personal troubles of their milieux with problems of social structure. The knowledgeable man in a genuine public, on the other hand, is able to do just that. he understands that what he thinks and feels to be personal troubles are very often also problems shared by others, and more importantly, not capable of solution by any one individual but only by modification of the structure of the groups in which he lives and sometimes the structure of the entire society. Men in masses have troubles, but they are not usually aware of their true meaning and source; men in publics confront issues, and they usually come to be aware of their public terms. (Miller 2000: 187)
This is very true. Just today I heard some "man in a mass of society" one or two balconies above proclaim amongst other suchlike things that he has suffered more than most and knows "life" more than the whole dorm combined. It may be true that that person's situation at the moment is tough, but complaining about it accomplishes nothing aside from him venting his frustration. On the other hand I am reminded of well-travelled Roy Strider who possesses an incredible ability to turn a minor skrimish with a pesticide tractor driver into a public matter and strives to build a true community of his local village and rural neighborhood.
It is the political task of the social scientist - as of any liberal educator - continually to translate personal troubles into public issues, and public issues into the terms of their human meaning for a variety of individuals. It is his task to display in his work - and, as an educator, in his life as well - this kind of sociological imagination. And it is his purpose to cultivate such habits of mind among the men and women who are publicly exposed to him. To secure these ends is to secure reason and individuality, and to make these the predominant values of a democratic society. (Miller 2000: 187-188)
So that's what the title of this book might mean! The "make the personal the political" suggestion is what this book is known for, and especially for inspiring feminist scholars.
What is usually termed 'propaganda,' especially of a nationalist sort, consists not only of opinions on a variety of topics and issues. It is the promulgation, as Paul Kecskemeti once noted, of official definitions of reality. (Miller 2000: 191)
Of course referring to Totalitarian Communications as a Means of Control.
What we represent - although this is not always apparent - is man become aware of mankind. It is on the level of human awareness that virtually all solutions to the great problems must now lie. (Miller 2000: 193)
A beautiful sentiment.
Any social scientist who is aware of what he is about must confront the major moral dilemma I have implied in this chapter - the difference between what men are interested in and what is to men's interest. (Miller 2000: 193)

Scott, J. P. 1948. Dominance and the Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis. Physiological Zoology 21(1): 31-39.

One of the chief advances of comparative sociology and social psychology in recent years was the discovery that other animals besides the insects and man were possessed of complex and intricate social organizations. This discovery began with the work of Schjelderup-Ebbe (1922, 1935) on dominance in chickens. This, which is only one of the many types of social organization now known to exist in vertebrates, is essentially a type of social organization based on fighting behavior. Through the work of Allee and his associates it has since been found that in almost every case in which social fighting is present in vertebrate animals this behavior is organized into a similar system (Collias, 1944).
This system is a relatively simple one, based on learning. When two animals fight for the first time, one usually wins and the other loses; and, if this situation is repeated several times, one gets into the habit of winning and becomes dominant, while the other forms of habit of losing and becomes subordinate. The end-result is that the dominant animal threatens, and the subordinate one retreats, greatly reducing the amount of actual fighting. (Scott 1948: 31)
This is fairly known today, under the guise of "pecking order". Even at a party of late I happened to converse with a young lady who had caught some piece of information about human forms of biological domination from The Daily Show. It was something about the dominant girl in the group being the one after whose menstrual cycles the others' align. Fairly commonsensical, yet I'm beginning to doubt if domination is the right word, as this passage clearly indicates that actual fighting is necessary for dominance to accrue. To put it bluntly: can we really talk about human forms of domination without the actual fighting?
More recently it has been discovered that flocks of chickens which are well organized into a system of dominance get along much better than do similar flocks in which there is no such organization, presumably because the dominance organization has the effect of reducing the amount of fighting (Guhl and Allee, 1944). (Scott 1948: 31)
This seems to make sense among humans also, but only empirical evidence could validate the suggestion.
During this same period Dollard and other workers at the Yale Institute of Human Relations (1939) have strongly advanced the hypothesis that the chief cause of aggression in our society is frustration. This idea apparently originated in the psychoanalytical studies of Freud, and there appears to be a great deal of animal and human data which supports it. (Scott 1948: 31)
Now this is more useful. Firstly it makes sense in light of such data as the link between economic income (financial frustration) and domestic violence. It is useful in the sense that frustration is something that appears implicitly in the dystopian literature I'm studying.
"Frustration" is defined by the same authors as interference with the occurrence of an instigated goal-response at its proper time in the behavior sequence. In dealing with animals it is perhaps preferable to define "frustration" in terms of adjustment, so that frustration becomes interference or prevention of adjustment to any change, whether the change is internal or external. However, these definitions do not conflict. (Scott 1948: 32)
This jargon is foreign to me. I'm aware of frustration being caused by mishaps in behavior patterns, e.g. the case of incomplete sexual intercourse, yet for my purposes it doesn't seem to fit very well. Mainly because I'm dealing with "preventive" or "third-dimensional" power which avoids causing frustration.
As Carpenter has pointed out (1945), one of the best ways of analyzing social organization is to do so on the basis of relationships between the individual animals.
A preliminary survey of goat behavior indicates that the important relationships are much the same as they are among sheep. There are three general types of relationships: (a) between older and younger animals, (b) between one female and a number of males or one male and a number of females, and (c) between animals in the same agre group. There is one specific relationship - that between mother and offspring. (Scott 1948: 34)
Curiously, this model - intended for goats - can be viable for analyzing human relationships, specifically the static ones in literature.
In reading the earlier work on dominance, particularly the studies based on birds, it is easy to get an impression of a fixed and unchanging social order which may be properly called a "hierarchy." This concept was not borne out by early work on mammalian dominance (Uhrich, 1937), and the present study indicates that some mammals at least may show a variable system of dominance. (Scott 1948: 37)
Thus hierarchy is characterized by stability of dominance relationships.
Any comparison between the psychological and social reactions of human being and those of other animals must always be made cautiously, both with regard to genetic differences between the two species involved and particularly with regard to the fact that the development of speech in man makes for great differences in social organization. (Scott 1948: 38)

Glasel, Daniel 1946. The Sentiments of American Soldiers Abroad Toward Europeans. American Journal of Sociology 51(5): 433-438.

Special Issue: Human Behavior in Military Society
A great many cultural differences existed before the war which would at any time have aroused ethnocentric distain in most Americans. The French sidewalk urinals (pissoirs), which someitmes hid their male occupants by nothing more than a 4-foot wal, offended American mores. The sight of a sophisticated-looking Englishwoman walking nonchalantly along the street with a cigarette hanging from her mouth shocked the many Americans whose standards on this particular point happened to be somewhat more pronounced. The absence of a color line in Europe - in particular, the American Negro soldier's freedom to associate with white civilian girls - stirred most southern whites and many northeners to extreme anger. (Glaser 1946: 434)
Pieces of trivia.
Rivalry between Americans and foreigners developed in every field in which the two groups sought identical objects: there was always, for example, a certain amount of rivalry with the local male population for women. Generally, the Americans, with their tobacco, candy, and money, held the advantage; moreover, the American practice of "petting" made the Americans less reserved in romantic overtures, even where no serious attachment existed. Other occasions of competition included even so minor a point as consumption of the limited supply of beverages in local establishments. Tha habit of categorizing all one's real or potential competitors by the convenient label of nationality converted every minor difficulty into nationalistically conceived rivalry or even serious conflict. (Glaser 1946: 435)
I didn't think petting was an American thing. The rivalry and conflict fits with the previously read association between frustration (over limited resources) and aggression.

Gosnell, Harold F. 1942. Symbols of National Solidarity. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 223: 157-161.

Symbols of national solidarity, whether verbal or nonverbal, are those representations consisting of sounds, marks, objects, or expressions which produce feelings of loyalty to the nation state. In the name of the sacred symbols the individual citizen may be called upon to sacrifice his time, his goods, his comforts, his life. The symbols, key words, phrases, tunes, or objects chosen to persuade men to buy war bonds, to give up peacetime enjoyments, to fight, or to send their sonds to fight, must have a powerful emotional appeal if they are to achieve the ends sought. (Gosnell 1942: 157)
A general description that may prove useful.
The isolationists ranged from the fifth columnists who deliberately sought to aid the Axis Powers to the defeatists who thought it was useless to resist, the escapists who sought other outlets for their concern about the war situation than fighting, and those who were victims of complacency. (Gosnell 1942: 158)
I bet these could be seen to some degree in any warring nation.


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