possibilities

(2007) by david graeber (243 pg pdf linked to image)

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notes/quotes:

intro

7

calling collection possibilities because the word encompasses much of what inspired me to become an anthro.. ie: most of what we assume to be immutable has been, in other times/places, arranged quite differently.. possibilities are in almost every way greater that we ordinarily imagine..

black science of people/whales law

collection is not attempt to create single grand theory of anything/everything.. instead.. an attempt to put some of the pluralism i espouse in the later essays into practice

none of us completely understand each other.. (yet) rarely gets in way of our living/loving together.. it’s only when we start imagining that the world is somehow generated by the descriptions we make of it that incommensurability becomes a well nigh existential dilemma.. of course the world is not really generated by the descriptions we make of it..

8

this book is meant to assemble a series of diff and sometimes even incommensurable perspective on a very real world.. they are unified above all by a commitment to the idea that that world could possibly look very diff that it does.. but just as much perhaps by the belief that ultimately the very combo of anger, curiosity, intellectual play and creative pleasure that goes into crafting any worthwhile piece of critical social theory also itself partakes of something of the powers that could transform that world into something better.. what unites them, then is a utopian ideal..

utopia ness

9

on his connections w bourdieu and convo/paper/ch-1 on manners.. that bourdieu would call the ‘habitus’ of possessive individsualims.. those deeply internalized habitus fo thinking/feeling about world tha tdevelop when people who become accustomed.. eve nw/o relaizing it.. to viewing everytin pimrarily as actual/potnetial commerciao property..

habit\us..

10

also a reflection on the very nature of hierarchy.. other 3 in ch as well.. (yet) they had radically diff incubation periods..

11

essay on fetishism originally written to be part of last ch of theory of value.. but had to be cut for space..

theory of value

12

what binds essay in part 2 together: all ultimately reflection on nature of authority

if most people have a problem w anarchism (that is those who actually have a clear idea what anarchism is) it’s not because they don’t think it is an appealing vision, but because they have been taught to assume that such a society would not be possible.. i was never taught this.. i grew up in a house full of books/ideas and even more, in an environ full of awareness of human possibilities.. i was never taught to see anarchism as a pipe dream.. among my parents and their friends.. it was always seen as at least a viable political philosophy..

only way 8b can leap.. if org’d/infra’d around something 8b of us already crave.. ie: maté basic needs via cure ios city.. imagine if we

anarch\ism et al

13

i had occasionally made minor efforts to get involved in anarchist politics, but almost invariably ended up disappointed, finding the scene to be dominated largely by squabbling egomaniacs.. each of whom seemed to behave like a sectarian party of one.. w almost no feeling of community..

tragedy of the non commonpart\ial ness is killing us..

set (part 2) ends w previously unpublished essay called ‘oppression’.. that takes argument about nature of authority even further.. arguing that traditional anthro concept to fucltural relativism is really matter of being relativistic about everything except structures of authority..

14

part 3 – direct action, direct democracy and social theory

direct action an ethnography.. david on direct action.. direct action

on being asked to check on black masks breaking windows in seattle.. ie: contemp anarchism.. discovered that in those yrs i was not paying attention.. the movement i had alway swished existed had actually come into being.. not long after i was getting involved in nyc branch of direct action network.. (worked w dan for 2 yrs)

needs to be all of us or it won’t work

at time.. fashion was to dismiss the movement.. (yet).. experience of working in consensus based groups sparked a kind of intellectual crisis..

15

the intellectual shock was result of 2 near simultaneous realizations.. 1\ consensus process was really an extremely formal , self conscious versions of very form of decision making i had witnessed on a day to day basis in madagascar.. it had to be formal and self conscious of course.. because everything was being reinvented.. patched together from bits and pieces learned from quaker and native americans.. read in books or simply invited by trial/error.. *none of it came at all naturally to us.. none of us very good at it.. at least at first.. but it was obvious that if we were going to invent a dm process that would actually work for a community in which no one had the power to force anyone else to do anything.. it was going to have to look like something like the techniques employed by communities that had been living that way for 1000s yres..

*huge red flag – if need to prep/train.. if need any form of m\a\p

**not legit work – toward setting/keeping people free

ie: decision making is unmooring us law; public consensus always oppresses someone

2nd shock.. 2\ one reason i found it so difficult was my intellectual training had inculcated in my habits of though and argument far more similar to the idiotic sectarian squabbling of marxist sects than to anything consistent w these new (for us) forms of democracy

part 3 – piece together dimensions of the problem.. i began wondering what would actually be consonant w genuine democracy? was democracy even the right word to be using?.. what was role of revolutionary intellectuals.. i’ve wrestled w question like these at least to some degree in almost everything i’ve written since; from frags of anatchist anthro to direct action..

fragments of an anarchist anthropology; direct action an ethnography; debt (book); theory of value; et al

part 1 – thoughts on origins of current predicament

ch 1 – manners, deference & private property: or, elements for a general theory of hierarchy

19

this is an essay about the nature of hierarchy.. in it i want to delve into hierarchy’s most elementary forms: way people avert eyes or stand at attention, topics they avoid in formal convo, wha tit means to treat another as somehow abstract/sacred/transcendent, set apart from the endless entanglements and sheer physical messiness of ordinary physical existence, and why something like that always seems to happen when some people claim to be inherently superior to others.. so we can begin to think about which of the qualities we ordinarily lump together in a world like ‘hierarchy’ are really inevitable features of human social life.. and which might prove dispensable

oh.. so many irrelevant s/red flags

hier archy ness

this is also an essay about the origins of capitalism

capitalism

20

*basic standards of how one was expected to eat, drink sleep, excrete, make love, shifted almost completely (16th cent church authorities began campaigns to eradicate immoral elements of public life.. ).. brought ‘reformation of manners’ in its wake..

*wondering if we should have them/any at all? i’m thinking we need to let go of any form of m\a\p.. any supposed to’s

it strikes me that the logic of joking and avoidance actually provides a very useful means to begin to create both a rudimentary theory of manners .. and of hierarchy

what also came.. ideologies of absolute private property and increasing commercialization of every day life

21

something was clearly going on here.. if nothing else.. in using terms like ‘joking relation’ anthros were not simply inflicting euro american categories, raw, on the people they study.. if you look at early history of anthro it was full of such moments of recognition and confusion.. and resultant desperate efforts to make sense of what seemed utterly alien ways of defining material and social reality.. the theoretical vocab of the day was full of peculiar sounding terms like ‘joking partners’ or ‘relations of avoidance’.. or outright borrowing from non european languages: shamanism, mana, totem, and taboo.. next step was to discover that what seemed most alien was not actually all that alien.. that something like joking/avoiding exist in middle class households in europe, that military units ww1 ended up practicing forms of totemism (mascots/symbols)

in a way.. that first moment of estrangement and second moment of back translation (ie: army units actin like aboriginals) constitute between them.. the very essence of anthro.. a discipline that after all .. rests on assumption that if it is possible to say anything true of human beings or human societies in general, then on has to start w the most apparently anomalous cases.. it is a little disturbing then to observe that in recent yrs anthro has largely stopped generating its own technical vocab at all. but has taken to importing buzzwords from continental theory: biopower, governmentality, the body, or some new tech term borrowed from heidegger or deleuze.. one wonders about the implications for the long term viability of the discipline

shoot.. the longterm viability of alive humans.. what we need is to org in a way that allows for idiosyncratic jargon et al

in this essay then i wish to return to what i take to be the grand tradition.. most of all.. i want to show that tradition has an almost infinite capacity to generate new political perspectives.. perspective s that are, at their best, radical in the sense of delving to the very roots of forms of power/domination.. hence the emphasis on hierarchy..

tradition/hierarchy of whales is killing is.. even when we think we are generating our own tech vocab.. we aren’t.. we have not yet let go enough to see/hear/be that

i frame the issues in the way i do not just because i think it will help solve a longstanding intellectual problem about the origins of capitalism..

taleb center of problem law

i also believe a theory of manners opens the possibility of understanding how forms of social domination come to be experienced in the most intimate possible ways – in physical habits, instincts of desire or revulsion – that often seem essential to our very sense of being in the world.. so much so that even our instinct for rebellion often appear to reinforce them..

we have to let go of defense (habits, revulsion) and listen deeper

i do not claim to have found a clear way out of this dilemma; but in order to do so, it is at least helpful to be able to state clearly what the dilemma is..

ie: gabor on addiction/trauma/needs

let’s org around those two basic elements/essences of human being ness ie: 2 conversations.. as infra

imagine if we

22

joking not as humor.. but as playful aggression.. people expected to make fun of.. harass.. one another.. relations of extreme.. compulsory disrespect/informality.. relations of avoidance on other hand.. marked by extreme respect/formality that one party is enjoined never to speak/gaze upon the other.. (joking & avoidance) opposed modes of behavior

23

joking mutual exchange.. avoidance hierarchical.. w one party clearly inferior.. w all kinds of rules/prohibitions and shame for being inferior and/or breaking rules.. joking partners shameless for things that would mostly likely cause embarrassment in other circumstances

avoidance doesn’t use names.. abstract.. joking focuses on particulars.. idios.. quirks.. (something that will become important later on when i turn to problem of hierarchy)

28

2 defns of property: 1\ own it 2\ makes something what it is (ie: fire/hot)

exclusion.. groups set apart.. this is precisely the logic of avoidance

30

hierarchy is merely to say items are ranked in some way.. the notion the term most immediately brings to mind is hat might be called a ‘linear hierarchy’.. one can immediately know which is higher/lower ie: slugs to humans to seraphim et al.. one criterion of ranking.. ie: how much soul

31

social hierarchy.. very diff implicit model.. often referred to as hierarchies of inclusion.. since each level encompasses those below.. ie: lions are a kind of cat, cat a kind of mammal.. et al.. hire levels as they are more encompassing/abstract/generality..

dumont theory (always ranked on basis of greater generality/inclusiveness).. great deal of confusion.. go back to structural analysis of caste system in india..

caste

32

framing (from top and seeing self as superior) seems to be intentional effort to sidestep what almost anyone else would think is single most important feature of any cast system: that form perspective of those on bottom, we are dealing w a system not of inclusion, but of exclusion.. actually, not even just from perspective of those on bottom.. probably best to describe all such linear hierarchies as exclusive .. logic would then be much the same as avoidance.. since higher groups set apart..

any social hierarchy will tend to combine elements of both (inclusion/exclusion).. ie: outsiders are included in my political persona.. but makes me higher more exclusive sort of person.. leading to ideology of social class..

marsh label law et al

on behaviors/standards.. setting off against those whose interaction s were assumed to lack such refinement

jensen civilization law et al

35

one of the virtues of the view of hierarchy i’ve been trying to develop is that no such sharp line need be drawn..

constant line law et al

36

the 2nd subversive element of joking.. which i think is also by far the more profound.. in carnival.. not only was hierarchy temporarily suspended/reversed, but the whole world was reconstructed as land of cockaigne.. as the saying went.. a domain in which there was nothing but bodies happily partaking of the world and of each other..

in utopia of rules: p 261 – footnote 152\ the key diff here is no doubt that medieval carnivals were, in fact org’d largely bottom up, much unlike roman circuses..

bakhtin implies that the grotesque, tha tjoking and laughter, was a sort of universal solvent of hierarchy: that be rep ing a wolrd of joking bodies and nothing more, the very fiber was stripped out of the structures of official culture so that even its loftiest pinnacles inevitably came crashing to the earth.. if one rejects the principle of avoidance altogether.. if nothing is set apart or sacred, hierarchy cannot exist.. in a joking world.. there are only bodies.. and only possible diff is that some are bigger/stronger.. implications of ie: moral standing of high/mighty need hardly be mentioned

37

gen of avoid – so far human as collection of continuous substance/world or as abstract properties apart from world..

at this point i can return to norbert elias’ argument about the ‘civilizing process’ and peter burke’s notion of the reform of popular culture

elias’ observations based on comparing primers used to instruct children 12-19th cent.. what he discovers is a continual ‘advance in thresholds of embarrassment and shame’.. over time.. and increasing demand to suppress any public acknowledgement of bodily function, aggressiveness, decay.. anything embarrassing/shameful.. where avoidance became generalized.. ie: blowing nose in tablecloth in front of superiors shameful.. then became same to equals.. then to inferiors.. then even if no one was there

38

burke same movement.. to improve manners of those below: most of all by eliminating all traces of the carnivalesque from popular life.. ie: actors, ballads, butt fights, cards dancing, folktales, magic, masks, puppets, witchcraft, .. ‘a reformation of manners’.. shutting down ale houses to outlawing ie: may poles, christmas revels..

the role of the middle classes, i think, is crucial.. those most thoroughly caught up in the commercial life of the times.. those most dominated by relations of private property.. everyone defined by logic of abstract/exclusive properties..

one thing ethnographic evidence makes clear is that when relationships are defined primarily around exchange they have a strong tendency to also be marked by rules of avoidance.. ie: families locked in cycles of marriage payments.. where rules of avoidance do exist and have been broken.. some sort of formal exchange required to set things straight.. punishment or compensation.. all varied kinds of transaction .. anthros refer to as ‘gift econ’.. become so important.. could be said to be main institution setting terms of social life..

marsh exchange law .. giving ness.. et al

40

exchange of property was one of main ways in which relations between people worked themselves out.. much of the commonplace drama of daily life seems to have turned largely on who had been given/owed/accepted what.. actual process of exchange mean people were constantly establishing such temp equivs.. regimes of private property, commercial exchange, & class of people whose lives so org’d around it that internalize logic of exclusion as way of defining persons

marsh label law

41

on fences, hedges.. make clear owner’s right to exclude others.. enclosure against all the world.. suggestion of the logic of avoidance.. private property widely accepted..

enclosure et al

42

earlier hierarchical view assumed people’s ids were defined by place in society.. now.. who one was based on what one had.. rather than other way around.. ultimately left w view of world via econ – id via possessions.. and intercourse via exchange via rational calc.. it is the view of human society which has formed backbone of most subsequent social theory.. either developed on its basis or in reaction to it.. almost analogous to how person is imagined in avoidance

43

ed and fate of youth

how does one go about explaining changes on this level.. in people’s most spontaneous visceral reaction to the world around them?.. one thing to say there is a logical connection between manners and regimes of property.. quite another to understand how such changes actually took place.. obvious place to look is in the ed of children

supposed to’s of school/work

in mid ages, just about everyone who did know how to read had learned their letters at least partly from ‘courtesy books’.. books which were produced in remarkable numbers.. first in latin meant for ed of clergy/nobility.. by 14th cent.. catering to increasing demand for literacy among less noble.. ranging from cutting one’s nails to advice on choosing a wife.. also.. strong tendency to mix how to eat w how to wait a table. significant because when young people were learning manners.. almost always one which they were also expected to be in domestic service ..expected to leave home at early age to do apprenticeships.. work yr before wages.. until 25-30.. wage labor in other words, was basically a life cycle phenom

45

in mid ages and early modern period.. age most common way of talking about authority..

46

result.. large part of work force, men in 30-40s found selves living in a sort of suspended social adolescence..

all this happened so gradually though that the underlying assumptions people had about the meaning of wage labor need never have been seriously called into question.. traditionally.. wage labor had been no more a permanent state than was adolescence.. it was in fact.. the means by which adolescence was overcome..

earn a living mess

47

in eyes of employers.. laboring classes not so much undisciplined.. as rambunctious adolescents who needed to be disciplined/reformed thru carefully supervised labor..

supposed to’s of school/work et al

47

on attempts to suppress all the great obstacle to the subordination of thomas: ‘youth: holidays, when young people were released from masters’ supervision; theatres, to which they flocked to be corrupted; alehouses, which threw them into disorder; gaming, pernicious/destructive of youth; maypoles, which encouraged ‘the rout’ in their insolency towards the ancient/honourable and taught young people impudency and rebellion; dancing for where shall young mean and maidens meet; sabbath breaking; annual rites of misrule when youth temp inverted social order’

48

concerns about youth were already becoming hard to distinguish from those concerning class.. any young person unruly put as servant to elders.. in other words.. puritans did not see any distinction between projects of social reform directed at the lower classes and the process of educating the youth.. solution in either case being the imposition of domestic discipline..

domesticate ness

english villagers seem to have had a particular aversion to being preached at.. gardiner: ‘then do the multitude goeth straight out of church and home to drink’

gabor on addiction/trauma/needscope\ing ness

49

may day celebrations (english equiv of continental carnival – for lower class almost a symbol of independence) became focus of contention

51

in 1648 group of dissidents and young servants from plymouth abandoned households to joi local indians .. 60 ft may pole to celebrate newfound independence.. elders immediately sent out a military expedition to have pole ripped down and ringleaders arrested

52

dumont argues one can’t speak of exclusion in a hierarchical system.. the term only makes sense where one is dealing w a society based on principles of individualism.. which he believed was doom to people.. ideologies of human equality are thus really side effects of individualism.. insightful.. i would hardly propose these arguments simply be thrown away.. still the political implications are.. profoundly unsettling..

54

one of the dangers of muddled terms is that they make ‘hierarchy’ as an inevitable feature of social life.. to a certain degree, of course, ti is.. but.. the moment one begins to intro more than one criteria.. the whole thing falls apart..

a million diff modes of discrimination is.. to all practical intense/purposes, identical to no mode of discrimination at all

maybe.. prior to now.. but now.. we can have/hear.. discrimination as equity.. by going to infinity rather than a million et al

63 (57)

ch 2 – very idea of consumption et al

this essay is not a critique of consumerism.. or the evils of mass consumption.. i want to ask instead.. why is it we talk about ‘consumption’ or ‘consumer practices’ at all.. what it says about our assumptions about property, desire, and social relations that we continue to use it (terms/phrases).. i want to suggest ..might not be best way to think about such phenom and we might do well to come up w better ones

to do so means taking on whole intellectual industry that has developed over last few decades around the study of consumption.

insofar as we even thought about consumer demand.. it was largely written off as an artificial creation.. results of manip techs by advertisers/marketers meant to unload products that nobody really needed.. began to realized, the story continues, this view was not only mistaken but profoundly elitist and puritanical.. *real working people find most of their life’s pleasures in consumption

this is whalespeak

64(58)

they create their own meanings out of products they chose to surround selves.. id’s are largely based on cars/clothes/music/videos.. in denouncing consumption, we are denouncing what gives meaning to lives of very people we claim we wish to liberate

unless we liberate all of us .. in sync.. w a detox embed (ie: a means to undo our hierarchical listening).. then we’d all realize that ‘meaning’ ness was just whalespeak

on consumption being ‘what people do when not working for pay’.. ie: boy band.. as consumption because they didn’t manufacture the guitars..

65(59)

perhaps real question should be: why does the fact that manufactured goods are involved in an activity automatically come to define its very nature.. it seems ot me this theoretical choice.. the assumption that the main thing people do when they are not working is ‘consume’ things – carries w/in it a tacit cosmology, a theory of human desire/fulfillment whose implications we would do well to think about.. this is what i want to investigate in the rest of his paper..

begin by looking at history of the word

hard to take this in now.. maybe because re re reading hardt and negri as well.. so jumped ahead.. i do like this:

416

Like any ideological formula, however, this one is extraordinarily unstable, riddled with contradictions— as the initial difficulties of the US police in suppressing the globalization movement so vividly attest. It seems to me it is best seen as a way of managing a situation of extreme alienation and insecurity that itself can only be maintained by systematic coercion. Faced with anything that remotely resembles creative, non-alienated experience, it tends to look as ridiculous as a deodorant commercial during a time of national disaster. But then, I am an anarchist. The anarchist problem remains how
to bring that sort of experience, and the imaginative power that lies behind it, into the daily lives of those outside the small, autonomous bubbles we anarchists have already created. This is a continual problem, but there seems to me every reason to believe that, were it possible, the power of the police
cosmology, and with it, the power of the police themselves, would simply melt away.

i do believe that.. and so.. maybe that’s what all the re re re reading about war/police/violence and how to deal with it.. is seeming to irrelevant.. ie: if we just create an alt that legit makes them so..

imagine if we.. for (blank)’s sake

66(60)

(back to consume) from destroy to opp of production.. produce at work consume at home.. to goods that aren’t necessities.. but desires

68

plato.. desire as what is lacking.. deleuze/guattari/sponoza/nietzschi.. deny desire should be found in any sense of lack at all.. rather something that flows .. energy knitting everything together (foucault)

70

at this point i think we have the elements fora a prelim synthesis.. insofar as it is useful to distinguish ‘desire’ from needs, urges, intentions.. then it is because desire 1\ is always rooted in imagination 2\ tends to direct toward social 3\ social entails a desire for recognition.. a fraught process w dangers of destroying relation

71

on lack os satisfaction.. driving consumption.. allowing endless expansion of production..

almaas holes law et al.. gabor on addiction/trauma/needs

73

on entire civilization being a form of clinical depression

jensen civilization law.. krishnamurti measure law.. hari present in society law

79

bringing in private property and dominion and sovereignty over an object into consumer ness..

83

one thing i think we can certainly assert. insofar as social life is and always has been mainly about the mutual construction of human beings, the ideology of consumption has been endlessly effective in helping us forget this.. most of all it does so by suggestions: 1\ human desire not relations between people but between individuals and phantasms 2\ primary relation w others is endless struggle to establish sovereignty by destroying world 3\ so then.. any genuine relation is problematic ( the other ness) 4\ society can be seen as either producing or destroying to make way fro more.. .. which sidelines most things real people actually do..

even though anthros et al challenge this view.. terms like consumption end sup completely undercutting efforts and reproducing the very tacit ideological logic we would wish to call into question

91

3 – turning modes of production inside out: or why capitalism is a transformation of slavery – short version

notes on this ch here: capitalism – transform of slavery (read for m of care – feb 19)

119

4 – fetishism as social creativity: or fetishes are gods in the process of construction

120(114)

i tried to do something along these lines (not from mauss but from american pragmatism) myself in towards an anthro theory of value..

theory of value

what is role of creativity, imagination in radical social change.. has to be key question.. but not clear what answer supposed to be..

ie: cure ios city.. imagine if we ness

122

on why it was that someone who receives a gift feels obligation to return one.. to .. in this essay i would like to suggest another.. which opens up a slightly diff set of question.. to begin w the problem of fetishism.. a much debated term.. mauss felt term best left abandoned..

123

on overriding theme being materiality: how material objects are transformed by becoming objects of desire/value.. interesting to me.. is according to pietz.. fetish is born in field of endless improv.. of pure social creativity..

what i will propose is this: we are used to fetishism as illusion.. creating things then treating them as if had power over us because we don’t understand how we did (created) it/them.. we worship that which we ourselves have made.. ie: contract, agreements, forming new associations..

it was only teh europieans’ obsession w issues of value/materiality and their almost complete lack of interest in social relations as things valuable in themselves, that made it possible for them to miss this.. not to say they were unfetishized.. but this is precisely what’s most interesting bout them..

127 (121)

the same dynamic recurs when europeans talk about african modes of govt.. 1st insist the basis of african social life was essentially chaotic, that it was utterly lacking in systematic public order; they would usually end up by admitting that laws were, in fact, quite systematically obeyed.. according to some, almost miraculously so.. the reason they concluded.. boiled down to the most primitive of instincts: fear of death or the terrible punishments fetishes were thought to bring down on those who violated their (somewhat arbitrary) principles.. that govt was an institution primarily concerned w threatening potential miscreants w violence, was a longstanding assumption in western political theory.. that it existed primarily to protect property was a theme in the process of emerging at this time.. the fetish was said to operate by invisible, supernatural means, and hence to fall under the sphere of religion and not govt.. but these observers were also overwhelmingly christians.. who at that time insisted their religion was morally superior to all others.. and particularly to african religions.. on the very grounds that their god threaten wrong doers w the systematic application of torture for all eternity, and other people’s gods did not.. insofar as africans were heathens, they had to be fundamentally mistaken about what was important in the world.. on other hand.. this was where common understandings ie: fetishes were medium of trust/trade.. otherwise trade would have been impossible..

128 (122)

fetishes and social contracts

136 (130)

the materiality of power

144 (138)

necessary illusions?

so what then is a fetish? a god under process of construction.. no consensus.. just what i would suggest

149 (143)

dilemma is illusory.. if fetishism at root is our tendency to see our own actions/creations as having power over us.. how can we treat it as an intellectual mistake? this is simply true.. they do have power over us.. slaves of our own creations.. so how able to create new things in first place?

150 (144)

if so.. real question is how one gets from this perfectly innocuous level to the kid of complete insanity where the best reason one can come up w to regret the death of millions is because of its effects on the economy..

152 (146)

what does all this teach us about grand theoretical issues raised at beginning? if nothing else.. that if one takes seriously the idea of social creativity, one will probably have to abandon some of the dreams of *certainty that have so enchanted both the partisans of holistic and individualistic models.. no doubt.. processes of social creativity are to some degree unchartable.. this is probably all for the best.. **there are certain things that ought not to be tabulated.. making it the centerpiece of a social theory, regardless, seems like it would be an increasingly important gesture at a time when the heirs of pietz’s merchants have managed to impose their strange, materialist theology on not just africans but almost everyone.. ***to the extent that human life itself can be seen as having no value except as a means to produce fetishized commodities

*taleb antifragile law.. carhart-harris entropy law.. et al

**perhaps most/all..

we need to let go of any form of m\a\p

***norton productivity law et al..

161 (155)

part 2 – provisional autonomous zone: dilemmas of authority in rural madagascar

163 (157)

5 – provisional autonomous zone: or, the ghost state in madagascar

167 (161)

i never managed to get such statistical info for the time i was actually there.. this fact is important. i think it reveals something quite profound, actually about what sort of place i was actually in

like.. more alive.. (stats/measuring as killers.. as whale makers)

while i was living in arivonimamo and working in betafo, i spent a lot of time thinking about the politicl aspects of conductin research..

yeah (at least the way i’m reading it).. ie: research ness

168 (162)

was there a govt in ariv? of course.. but it was either uninterested/incapable of carrying our many of state’s most elementary functions..

169 (163)

most malagasy i think would have agreed that the ability to apply force .. was essentially what made a state what it was.. this made it all the more striking that in most of the malagasy countryside.. the state had become almost completely unwilling to do so.. ie: police never show up unless someone had been murdered.. et al

170 (164)

most significant thing about violence around ariv was that there was very little of it..

lost people

173 (167)

broad generalization.. .confronted w someone bent on imposing unwanted authority.. atypical malagasy response will be to agree heartily w whatever demands.. and then as soon as they are gone try to go on living one’s life as if the incident never happened.. in madagascar.. often strong distaste for open confrontation in daily life in general.. preferred approach .. do whatever to make annoying outsider happy until he goes away.. then deny it happened

178 (172)

temp autonomous zones (taz).. cracks/fissures in which self org’d communities can emerge.. flicker and then pass away.. if nothing else.. they provide constant testimony to fact that alts are still conceivable.. that human possibilities are never fixed.. also provisional auto zones.. not so temp..

179 (173)

why were they able to do so .. sustain governing selves.. art of coming to decisions by consensus was something everyone simply learned as part of growing up.. it was so much a part of everyday common sense that it was difficult at first.. for an outsider to even notice it.. ie: if action might have neg consequence on others..

decision making is unmooring us law.. et al

181 (175)

it seems to me that in so far as western social science has a tendency to downplay the importance of coercion, it is partly because of a hidden embarrassment; we find it shameful to admit the degree to which our own daily lives are framed by the fear of physical force (just talked about how malagasy weren’t ashamed of fear).. schools anyway.. are ultimately apart of this apparatus of violence.. part of the infra of violence.. designed primarily to train functionaries; secondarily, technicians.. relations of command.. the assumption was always that some people would be giving order, others were there to obey.. in other words, not only was this system designed to produce the competences required to maintain an infra of violence, it was premised on social relations completely unlike those current in other aspects of daily life, ones that could only be maintained by a constant threat of physical harm..

supposed to’s of school/work.. the death of us

182 (176)

everyone considered knowledge in itself valuable/pleasant.. everyone recognized that the skills one learned in school opened spheres of experience that would not otherwise by available .. to types of info and networks of communication that spanned the globe.. but these skills were also techniques of repression

structural violence.. gare enslavement law.. et al

by training people in certain methods of org and not others (how to keep lists/inventories, how to conduct a meeting).. the system ensured that no matter what their purposes .. any large scale network they put together capable of coordination anything.. whether it be an historical preservation society or a revolutionary party.. will almost inevitably end up operating somewhat like a coercive bureaucracy.. the tendency is for any system created by people trained in these competences.. no matter how revolutionary their intentions.. to end up looking at least a little like the french colonial regime.. they guaranteed everyone had at least some experience of the latter (alien, authoritarian, repressive) .. even if it was simply a matter of being forced to stand in uncomfortable lines as a child, jump at orders in gym class, and dutifully copy and memorize boring and apparently pointless lessons..

huge.. huge.. huge.. everywhere.. let go.. let’s try cure ios city.. for everyone

the experience of state like discipline became a way of constantly reminding oneself what was in contrast.. considered malagasy.. the habit of consensus decision making, for ie, the *reluctance to give orders to fellow adults.. the general suspicion of anything that smacked of confrontation or eve charismatic leadership

still like the above.. (still for everyone) just more hidden.. more well excepted

all of these words.. so unsettling.. but *this really guts me.. we have to let go of any form of people telling people what to do.. any form of m\a\p

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a final question

one wonders if there might not be 100s even 1000s of similar communities in other parts of world.. communities that have withdrawn from or drifted way from the effective control of national govts and become to all intents and purposes self governing.. but whose members are still performing the external form and tokens of obeisance in order to disguise the fact

aren’t we all.. that’s why a leap is so possible.. all of our souls crave to not be told what to do

it is in fact something of an irony that it is only when ‘anarchy’ in the sense of the breakdown of state power, results in chaos, violence and destruction.. as in case o fie: somalia 1990s.. or many parts of s and central africa today.. that non africans are likely to hear about it.. what i observe in madagascar suggests that for every such case, there might well e dozens, 100s that outsiders simply do not know about.. precisely because local people managed to make the transition peacefully.. ie: avoided confrontation.. made sure state reps never had to feel publicly humiliated.. but at same time made it as difficult as possible for them to govern.. and easy as possible to simply play along w the facade..

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of course the institutional structure did remain: schools, banks, hospitals.. they ensured that the ‘state form’ .. was always present: everyone had some idea what it was like to live inside institutions that were premised on coercion, even if for the most part these were ghostly shadows of real state institution, since the actual violence had been stripped away.. or perhaps one should be more precise here.. the violence was still there.. it had simply retreated.. still police, foreign exchange, allocation of resources via threat of violence to enforce property arrangements.. in a place like arivonimamo…. however.. one could only deal w its distant effects, and strange hollow institutions that largely served to remind local people of precisely how they were not supposed to ordinarily behave

socrates supposed to law et al

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6 – dancing w corpses reconsidered: an interpretation of famadihana (in arivonimamo, madagascar)

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this essay meant to address the question of why such radically diff perspective should exist w/in same community to begin with (how to deal w and transfer the dead et al)

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conclusions

remembering and forgetting (the dead) are equally matters of violence..

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as i’ve said, the contradictions of their position often seem to put such men in a position of wanting to deny the existence of such violence altogether.. for all that, in describing the moral unity of the community that ancestors create they are in effect speaking of the effects of that violence itself.. central contradiction which cause images of the dead in effect to split in two: 1\ benevolent elders who bring descendants together in moral community 2\ rapacious ghosts who carry descendants’ children off to join them in the tomb

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7 – love magic and political morality in central madagascar, 1875-1990

(on love medicines.. used for good/bad.. both violence.. as in.. coercing others to do what you want)

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to some degree.. their (women’s) sensitivity to their surroundings was itself an effect of their relative lack of social power: a large part of privilege, anywhere, is the luxury of bing able to remain oblivious to much of what goes on around one.. the most troubling questions it seems to me are 2 fold: 1\ how that greater perceptiveness and sensitivity to one’s social environ itself seems to contribute to someone’s ultimate subordination.. 2\ how this still seems to happen where someone’s moral reflections are one of the principal media fro social changes that in almost every other way dramatically anti authoritarian.. the trauma of colonial rule sparked a profound reassessment of the very nature of power/authority.. rural people’s relations genuinely changed.. all this ensured that when the power of colonial regimes went into retreat, in part in the face of persistent passive resistance, poetical life itself had changed as well.. become far more egalitarian than it appears to have been in 19th cent.. women played a crucial role in all of this; yet at the same time, they did so in ways that ended up guaranteeing that gender relations remain among the least affected by the change..

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8 – oppression

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anthropology, more than any other discipline, has tended to focus on people who might by most definitions.. including their own.. be considered oppressed.. politically, we anthros tend to id quite strongly w those we study.. often we act as advocates.. yet, unlike activists involved in radical social movements, anthros almost never speak of such people as being ‘oppressed’..

why? mainly because anthros tend to be keenly aware that one can only create the machinery of oppression once one has first dehumanized or infantilized one’s victims, which in practice means, first and foremost.. delegitimizing their pov.. in fact.. that dehumanization and its attendant humiliation, is one of the most damaging forms that oppression itself tends to take.. hence, we tend to be very suspicious of any sort of argument that assumes that certain people’s perspective are more legit than others.. let alone, universally true..

the obvious problem w this argument .. if you take it to its logical conclusion, it would mean there would be no basis on which to claim anyone was being oppressed (or ever treated unfairly) to begin with.. no one really wants to argue that a rapist’s perspective is just as legit as his victim’s.. or a master’s as his slave’s.. so the usual solution it to appeal to some notion of cultural relativism: yes, we have a category ‘rape’ or ‘slaver’ by which we can make moral judgments, the argument goes; .. the neur or nambikwara, have diff ones.. they live in diff moral/conceptual universe and whoa re we to say our s is more intrinsically legit?

politically this generally leads to a kind of uncomfortable compromise: while few anthros would deny that ie: rape, slavery are indeed evils, wherever they are practiced.. they also tend to insist that imposing our own defns in another cultural context is an even greater evil.. esp if our judgments are backed up (as so often ultimately comes to be the case) by force of arms

in practice this seems reasonable.. since 19th cent w/british abolition of slave trade.. colonial empires have largely been justified by what we now call ‘humanitarian intervention’.. more true today.. still .. adopting such a position leads to one significant.. largely unnoticed conceptual problem. in order to say that the nuer live in own moral/conceptual universe.. we are necessarily assuming that the nuer actually exist: that is there is a relatively coherent set of ideas/principles that can be id’d and described as belonging to the nuer and systematically compared w our own..

marsh label law et al

this implies bounded entities, which is a problem, but even more it means even once you have decided who the nuer are.. you are not treating all nuer perspectives as equally legit, since after all.. it will be nearly impossible to find any statement that every single person you have id’d as nuer will agree with.. as a result.. entire project of cultural relativism deepens on being able to id structure of authority, and thus certain individuals who, more than others, can legit speak for the nuer as a whole.. but here is the logical dilemma.. by what criteria are these authorities to be id’d? one cannot employ ‘nuer conception’ of authority, because until one has id’d who those authorities are, there is not way to know what those ‘nuer conceptions’ are.. like it or not, the relativist has to use some sort of external criteria.. the paradoxical result is that, if one is to take a consistent position of cultural relativism, authority is the one thing one cannot treat relativistically.. the classic relativist has to assume that all cultures/societies do have structures of authority similar enough that they can be id’d by an outside observer, and furthermore, that these structures are intrinsically legit.. the political implications are, to say the least disturbing

yeah.. that can only happen if talking about ll of us.. all human beings.. ie: maté basic needs.. otherwise.. no such statement/description/needs/desires.. in common.. so.. let’s org/infra around that..

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we seem to be caught, then, between 3 almost equally bad choices: 1\ relegate to selves authority to determine right/wrong everywhere in world 2\ relegate to selves authority to determine who holds legit authority everywhere in world 3\ give up on making moral judgments of any kind

yeah.. 3.. and maybe tech could help us detox back/to that

could things really be so bleak? it seems to me there is a way out.. it starts w the recognition that there are 2 problems here: 1\ conception 2\ political.. that we soul do well not to conflate.. after all.. there’s nothing intrinsically oppressive about universalism.. ie: if dalai lama claims right to make judgments about america based on privilege access to universal spiritual truths.. americans rarely feel they are victims of terrible injustice.. this is because dalai lama holds no power over them.. the real problem .. seems to me.. is not w the mere fact of universalistic judgments but w the existence of a global apparatus of B control, backed up by a whole panoply of forms of physical/econ violence.. that can enforce those judgements: whether by imposing itself directly or by reserving to itself the power to recognize what are legit groups and who are their legit reps .. anywhere in the world.. if one accept that some such apparatus is inevitable, then, yes, we have little choice but to agonize over the moral quandaries it creates..

but there is an alt: we can ask what it would take to eliminate such coercive structures entirely..to do so would mean asking a very diff set of questions..

huge.. yes..

ie: itch-in-the-soul questions.. everyday.. and use that as data to facil us.. get us back/to our natural interconnectedness

first and foremost.. on what basis can one hold these structures to be intrinsically illegit? it is here that the existence of terms like tsindriana becomes so important.. because they demo not only that the authority is always contested, everywhere, but even more, because they suggest that the ways in which it is contested, even down to popular metaphors/images, are often surprisingly similar.. they hold out the possibility that even if not consensus on such questions exists now.. even though there’s probably nothing everyone on earth currently agrees on .. there is at least the possibility for such an agreement in the future.. after all.. what is more essential about human beings is not what they are at any given moment, but what they have the capacity to *become

yes huge

and/or *restore.. ie: almaas holes law

there is an essence.. where we all agree.. and we’re missing it .. by insisting on less control.. but still part\ial ness.. so that we are still in tragedy of the non common.. reaffirming that we can’t let go more.. to see.. that we do have an essence of consensus.. very deep.. very very deep.. but beyond that.. and this is huge.. public consensus always oppresses someone(s)

and i’d add.. i think we all agree on that now.. we just can’t hear it because of our intoxication w hierarchical listening.. so.. need a means to undo that first

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one of the founding assumption of anthro: that if one is to try to understand what all human beings have in common, it behooves us to start w the cases that seem maximally unfamiliar

(section on ie’s of m’s: 1\ family (hierarchy via age) 2\ kingdom 3\ spirit possession) – skimmed it

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conclusions

on the morality of hierarchy.. we are left w a picture which is admittedly pretty confusing.. (on defn’s of oppression/tsindriana)

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if one were to base oneself exclusively on 19th cent sources, it would be hard to escape the conclusion that hierarchy was universally assumed ot be a natural/inevitable principle of all human life, deeply embedded in the family, the basis of all social life in the kingdom, and that it would never have occurred to anyone to challenge this

even deeper.. this has taught us (globally.. aka: everyone).. to listen hierarchically.. even to.. and maybe especially to.. ourselves.. we need to undo that if we want to get back/to us

but if so.. left w an historical puzzle.. because all of this changed remarkably quickly following the french conquest in 1895.. and the abolition of slavery and dismantling of he monarchy in 1896

did it really? did it change?.. seems to be same song

almost immediately one begins to see signs the kind of moral discourse so prevalent across rural imerina today: one oin which kings/queens are almost invariably rep’d as oppressors who treated their subjects like slaves and whose descendants have since been punished by sterility and death

see.. (too me) not enough change (or even.. not really change) if just pointing finger at ie: kings/queens.. it’s all of us.. it’s any form of m\a\p

where did this sort of rhetoric come from is such ideas had been literally unthinkable a mere generation before?..

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one ie: can see as something inherent in nature of hierarchy.. whose logic always seems to create images of equality as a kind of side effect.. et al

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could be true.. what i want to draw attention to here, though, is the way that principles like hierarchy and equality are always available to people as ideas because they are always immanent in forms of practice.. they tend to become thoroughly entangled in one another as a result.. at some pt.. hierarchical principle comes up against others.. at least, w/in work process itself.. people practice a form of unreflective, pragmatic communism ‘from each according to abilities to each according to needs’.. tendencies to slip into this sort of equalizing logic outside of certain highly ritualized contexts..

all forms of hierarchy, i would venture rest on egalitarian, even communistic, practices whose logic can always be invoked to subvert them, since it is the basis of so much everyday morality.. even the most basic atom of hierarchy has to be rep’d as somehow equal/reciprocal, in order to seem fair

terms of conversation

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the interesting thing is that this richness of sensuous experience does not make such concepts (for oppression) incommunicable across cultures.. any more than the fact that any 2 malagasy are drawing on a diff set of personal experiences when they talk about oppression makes it impossible for them to really understand each other.. .. if anything.. i am convinced the opposite is the case.. the very richness is source of endless creativity that ultimately is an essential part of what makes it possible for us to speak across apparent cultural boundaries to begin with

this is huge..

this is why i think idiosyncratic jargon is not ridiculous as our means of communication.. esp since today we have the means to facil that chaos

(in antananarivo while learning the language) i spent a lot of time sitting in cafes and restaurants thinking about posture, gesture, the movement of bodies in space.. most anthros spend a lot of time thinking about such matters, in that very early stage.. when they can’t really talk to anyone.. and most of the time have no idea what the people around them actually think is going on.. most also know it’s a good idea to jot down the thoughts on has at that early stage because one is likely to notice things that effectively vanish from consciousness soon after.. i became obsessed w the politics of the gaze: specifically, at who dares to look freely about in public places.. on a couple occasions when i myself felt entirely constrained/inhibited by the surety of challenging counter gazes.. i remember reflecting that this must be something like what most of the planet’s women live w constantly in public, and that he effect it produces – of constant contraction inwards, never knowing quite where to fix your eyes, or searching for safe empty places nearby, living in a claustrophobic bottle of oneself – could only have a devastating effect on one’s sense of investment in one’s surroundings.. one’s way of occupying space..

whoa..

i had recently been reading elaine scarry’s book – the body in pain (1985).. so i began reflecting on the analogy between this and pain and physical discomfort which scarry describes as a process of destroying worlds, as something that collapses that very sense of investment in the surrounding world w its networks of meaning/objects, that sucks the meaning away, compressing it into the minimal, circumscribed space of the hurting body..

the body in pain

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my notebooks were full of speculation about how the play of surrounding eyes, feeling of pain/painlessness, objective potentials for action or the threat of violence, all contribute to (and also flow out of) one’s immediate physical bearing, carriage, gestures, how one holds ones’ arms and legs, tendencies to curl up or splay oneself out, speaking loudly or not at all, and so on ..

the problem was that i soon realized this had almost nothing to do w how malagasy women normally lived/behaved.. this became apparent the moment one moved, as i soon did, away from institutions dominated by foreigners.. if anything, the situation seems the reverse of what i was used to.. before long, i was remaking to a friend – how remarkable it was that in terms of ordinary body language, it was often women who seemed more apt to make the bold, expansive gesture, who strode w greater confidence in public.. men.. even young men.. more often seemed to contract in on themselves in pubic, to soften seem shy and self contained.. why was that?

friend said: ‘that’s because they are pressed down by their culture’ accompanying the words by a gesture: her hand pressing steadily downward..

one might call that first, basic level – before words = the level of phenomenology.. often the most profound cultural insights are achieved by intentionally bringing things down to this sort of degree zero.. and then working back up again..

huge.. to idiosyncratic jargon.. lanier beyond words law.. rumi words law.. et al

this was in fact precisely what scarry was trying to do in the body in pain, a book which draws richly not just on the phenomenological tradition but on the half forgotten insights of existentialism.. as such, it did prove useful after all.. scarry begins by proposing an opposition between pain and language.. physical pain, if sufficiently intense, destroys the very possibility of language: language being he most important way in which the self embeds and invest itself in the surrounding world.. hence suffering makes one collapse into oneself..

language as control/enclosure

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in this sense, having another person bearing your burdens, then capturing their right to speech, could indeed by seen as the most obvious way to expand into larger worlds at their expense..

voice ness.. whalespeak.. et al

but i ended up using scarry’s work not just to understand malagsy concepts, but to bounce off them.. in fact, to bounce each off the other in a kind of conceptual dialogue..

the 2nd half of the book (159-326) is specifically concerned w production , or as she puts it, ‘material making’ as a kind of meeting point between language and pain.. labor she argues is not experienced as inherently painful as a form of oppression, unless it’s divorced from a sense of agency, of making something..

this is true, but the 3 part division between words, making and carrying.. the latter emblematic of all sorts of other forms of support/maintenance work, classic forms of women’s or menial work .. seemed a useful corrective.. it reminds us how much our habits of thought have, at least since the time of marx, made the work of the craftsman or factory worker emblematic of labor in general; and how that focus itself tends to relegate most forms of real work to the shadows..

in fact, none of he malagasy conception i’ve discussed, however apparently exotic, emerge from an entirely alien conceptual universe.. this is why they have the potential to tell us something. to describe kinds as children seems bizarre, but only until one really thinks about it.. heads of state do tend to be self important, petulant beings, surrounded at every moment by people taking care of their physical necessities and reminding them how to act..

so a combo of david on care and freedom and maté parenting law so still whales.. not letting go enough to see.. (what legit free people/children are like)

the reason why anthros are often so reluctant to make cross cultural generalization, it seems to be, is because, when they do look for common terms, they tend to look on precisely the wrong level..

yeah.. all of us do that.. we haven’t yet looked deep enough.. to resonate w 8b people today..

they invariably look for forms of constituted authority. if looking for some sort of moral universal, they assume this would mean principles present in all known legal system; if they are asked to search for aesthetic universals, they look for any quality that might be seen as present in every object formally recognized as ‘art’ (or whatever they decide is the closest local equiv).. the inevitable conclusion, then, is that such universals do not exits..

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what i am suggesting instead is that it would be better in such cases to look at common ways of arguing about morality, or common ways of thinking and talking about aesthetic pleasure, which seem far more similar cross culturally than any particular conclusions that such convos may come to (let alone conclusions that are then given some kind of authoritative stamp).. this would be *the way to try to get a sense of the common underlying tendencies/capacities.. the generative mechs if you will.. these become **easiest to see, perhaps, precisely when someone is challenging what is locally considered received authority/wisdom

*yeah that.. but deeper.. **not about arguing/defining/authority/wisdom (those are all enclosures of legit essence).. but about what’s missing from our essence.. .. what’s causing that pain

my main point here is perfectly obvious, even if it is a point to which classical relativists have seemed oddly blind. questions of cultural diff only become relevant when there’s already some sort of convo going on.. no reason to ask how/whether one is to sit in judgment of another person’s cultural universe.. unless you have some idea what that universe is.. and that means people are, to some degree at least, already communicating

or already assuming communication is complete..

the fact that people are communicating, in turn, presumes 2 things: 1\ some ground of similarity that makes communication possible.. ie: all human languages have nouns/verbs/subjects/objects

i think we need to go way deeper than that.. if we want to get to legit fittingness and belonging ness ie: the commonality is we’re human.. way beyond nouns/verbs/language/words..

but no one .. even experts armed w powerful computers have figured out how to communicate w dolphins or killer whales..

? by language? or ?

2\ convo has to take place w/in some larger social/political context.. that this context is not simply a product of the convo but rather plays a substantial role in shaping what people feel they *have to talk about

huge part of our cancer.. whalespeak.. over and over.. what we need is to realize there is nothing we *have to talk about.. what we need is a means to undo our hierarchical listening.. so that thinking about what to take about and our surroundings.. becomes irrelevant.. and listening for that itch-in-the-soul.. everyday.. becomes/restores our energy

cultural relativism in the form we’re most familiar – what i’ve been calling classical relativism – took shape w/in a very particular political context.. its heyday was mid 20th cent.. a time when anthro was considered politically relevant largely inso far as it could contribute to describing structures of legit authority w/in indian reservations, colonial system of indirect rule, or newly independent nations w/in an inter state system still firmly controlled by the former colonial powers.. in other words it was all about helping Bs id legit authorities..

yeah that.. of all of our language ness

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things have changed.. but they probably haven’t changed as much as we like to think.. as long as there are powerful international Bs they will be asking anthros to help them id who to recognize as legit local authorities.. at least in those areas they find the most marginal and confusing.. increases in mobility and indications of the possible beginning of a major breakdown of traditional power relations make it possible to conceive an anthro that would be, first and foremost, *a mutual convo.. between everyone equally.. **about the nature of authority itself.. if anthro is to emerge as a political force of liberation, rather than simply ***damage control, this is what it must ultimately become..

oi..

*yeah let’s go for that.. ie: 2 conversations et al

but **no agenda for the convo.. esp one focused on authority.. that is still ***response/defense/energy-suck.. with legit non hierarchical listening.. authority et al becomes irrelevant

this is not to argue that all forms of authority are illegit.. if that were so , there would be nothing to discuss

oh my..

mutual relations even the most intimate.. *always involve the recognitions of boundaries and acknowledgment of difference: this is for ie, what we are generally referring to when we speak of dignity or respect.. the practice of relativism is just a mater of mutual respect

yeah.. i think *this is all part of the cancer we live in.. i don’t think legit communication would even think about boundaries/differences.. esp not about dignity/respect

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it (dialogic relativism.. mutual recognition of respect for diff’s founded on fundamental similarity/equality) could only rest on a commitment to carry on the convo in a way that never pushes aside uncomfortable questions – such as.. *who get to speak and who has to do the heavy lifting..

i think if we could hear/see/be.. our legit similarity/essence.. *those questions would be irrelevant

if our exploration of he term oppression shows anything.. i think it is how rich/heterogeneous the material from which we could thus patch together a shared sense of humanity really is

yeah.. i don’t think our shared sense of humanity can be ‘formed’ like that.. i think that’s part of our problem.. we keep trying to create/form/define it.. make sense of it.. (wasting tons of energy) .. rather than live/be it.. let the dance dance..

bibliography: lost people

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pat 3 – direct action, direct democracy, and social theory

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9 – the twilight of vanguardism

a fundamental principle of political debate for instance, is that one is obliged to give other participants the benefit of the doubt for honesty and good intentions.. in part, this emerges from the style of debate consensus dm encourages: where voting encourages one ot reduce one’s opponents’ positions to a hostile caricature, or whatever it takes to defeat them a consensus process is built on a principle of compromise and creativity, where one is constantly changing proposals around until one can come up w something everyone can at least live with.. therefore the incentive is alway sot put the best possible construction on others’ arguments..

decision making is unmooring us law

all this struck a chord w me because it brought home just how much ordinary intellectual practice – the kind of thing i was trained to do at the uni of chicago for ie – really does resemble sectarian modes of debate.. one of the things that had most disturbed me about my training there was precisely the way we were encouraged to read other theorists’ arguments: if there were two ways to read a sentence, one of which assumed the author had at least a smidgen of common sense and the other that he was complete idiot, the tendency was always to choose the latter.. i had sometimes wondered how this could be reconciled w an idea that intellectual practice was, on some ultimate level, a common enterprise in pursuit of truth.. the same goes for other intellectual habits: ie: carefully assembling lists of diff ‘ways to be wrong’ (usually ending in ‘ism’ – subjectivism, empiricism all much like their sectarian parallels: reformism, left deviationism, hegemonism) and being willing to listen to pov differing from one’s own only so long as it took to figure out which variety of wrongness to plug them into.. combine this w the tendency to treat (often minor) intellectual differences not only as tokens of belonging to some imagined ‘ism’ but as profound moral flaws, on the same level as racism or imperialism ( and often, in fact partaking of them), and one has an almost exact reproduction of the style of intellectual debate typical of the most ridiculous vanguardist sects..

intellect ness et al

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why so few anarchist at the academy?

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marxism has always had an affinity w the academy that anarchism never will.. it was after all invented by a phd and there’s always been something about its spirit which fits that of the academy.. anarchism, on the other hand, was never really invented by anyone.. true historians usually treat it as if it were.. ie: proudhon, kropotkin.. but 1\ 19th cent thinkers generally credited w inventing anarchism didn’t think of themselves as having invented anything particularly new.. basic principles ie: self org, voluntary association, mutual aid.. are as old as humanity.. 2\ rejection of state and all forms of structural violence, ineq or domination (anarchism literally means ‘w/o rulers’).. even the assumption that all other forms are somehow related and reinforce each other was hardly some startlingly new 19th cent doctrine.. just the least likely opinions to be written down.. we are talking less about a body of theory than about an attitude/faith: a rejection of certain types of social relation.. a confidence that certain others are much better .. and a faith that it would be possible to do so

anarch\ism.. pierre-joseph proudhon.. peter kropotkin.. structural violence.. self-organizing.. et al

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bourdieu once noted that if he academic field is a game in which scholars strive for dominance.. then you know you have won when other scholars start wondering how to make an adjective out of your name..

kevin on anarchism w/o adj et al

anarchists are distinguished by what they do.. and how they org themselves. to go about doing it.. they tend to argue about what is the truly demo way to hold a meeting: at what point does org stop being empowering and start squelching individual freedom

once you hold a meeting ie: public consensus always oppresses someone.. decision making is unmooring us.. et al

is ‘leadership necessarily a bad thing?

yes.. any form of telling people what to do et al

leader\ness et al

or alternately they discuss the ethics of opposing power: what is direct action.. when is it ok to break a window

these are all not what i see as a.. if so.. that would explain why we haven’t yet.. ie: direct action.. violence.. any form of democratic admin.. killing us

one might sum it up like this: 1| marxism theoretical/analytical about revolutionary strategy 2\ anarchism ethical about revolutionary practice

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a insists that one’s means must be consonant w one’s ends; that one cannot create freedom thru authoritarian means; that as much as possible, one must embody the society one wishes to create.. this does not square very well w operating w/in unis’ social structure, presenting papers at conferences in expensive hotels, doing intellection battle in language no one who hasn’t spent at least 2-3 yrs in grad school would ever hope to be able to understand.. at very least then.. a would ten to get one in trouble

but if we went deeper.. all the intellects would be able to see too.. the things our souls crave..

language as control/enclosure et al

this then leads to an important question: if role of revolutionary intellectuals is not to form an elite that can arrive at the correct strategic analyses and then lead the masses, what precisely is it?.. this is an area i think anthro is particularly well positioned to help.. 1\ most self govern, non market, radical alts have been mainly studied by anthros 2\ practice of ethnography provides model.. of how non vanguardist revolutionary intellectual practice might work.. ethno is about teasing out the hidden symbolic moral or pragmatic logics that underlie social action.. how people’s habits/actions make sense in ways they are not themselves aware of.. one obvious role for a radical intellectual is precisely that: looking first at those who are creating viable alts on the round and then trying to figure out what the larger implications of what they are (already) doing might be

yeah.. we so need to go deeper than that.. even the most radical alts is like naval gazing at whales.. has to be all of it.. or not legit dance

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brief history of vanguardism

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on bourdieu and bohemianism. and avant guard.. and art for art’s sake.. some say bohemia was children of bourgeoisie who had temporarily rejected fam’s money/privilege.. but bourdieu did research and discovered that a very large % of 19th cent bohemians were children of peasants

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19th cent vanguard used for anyone seen as exploring path to future, free society.. it was marx who began to significantly change the idea by introducing notion that the proletariat were the true revolutionary class..

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for me.. the really intriguing question is: why is it that artist have so often been draw to revolutionary politics to begin with?

to me.. because we’re all artists (deep down).. and sea world is against our/that nature.. so anyone resisting not being a legit artist.. is also seeing sea world for what is.. and seeking to change it

it seems to me the answer must have something to do w alienation.. forms of unalienated production.. ie: imagining then bringing into being.. ability to imagine social alts.. particularly the possibility of a society itself premised on less alienated forms of creativity..

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i would suggest, revolutionary coalitions always tend to consist of an alliance between a society’s least alienated and its most oppressed.. ie: indigenous.. tend to be very least alienated and most oppressed people on earth.. and once it is tech possible to include them in revolutionary coalitions.. it is almost inevitable that they should take a leading role

higashida autism law et al.. but not really a leading role.. just need less detox..?

319/313

10 – social theory as science and utopia: or does the prospect of a general sociological theory still mean anything in an age of globalization

335/329

11 – there never was a west: or, democracy emerges from the spaces in between

seems i’ve read this before.. but can’t find it.. skimming

maybe one of these: theory of value; fragments of an anarchist anthropology; dead zones of imagination; ..?

361/355

throughout this essay, i’ve been arguing that demo practice, whether egalitarian dm, or govt by public discussion.. tends to emerge form situations in which communities of one sort or another manage their own affairs outside the purview of the state.. the absence of state power means the absence of any systematic mech of coercion to enforce decisions.. tends to result either in 1\ some form of consensus process 2\ majority voting.. demo innovation.. has tendency to spring from cultural improv.. all of this has very little to do w great lit traditions seen as pillars of great civs.. just actual genealogy impossible to reconstruct.. the very process of recup tends to scrub away the more exotic elements or integrate them into familiar topoi of invention/discovery.. vs .. searching for origins of democracy where would least likely find it (368/362)

373/367

on who ‘the people’ might be.. in other words ‘the people’ must be evoked as the authority behind the allocation of violence..

374/368

for most of human history, faced w such questions.. professional intellectual shave almost universally taken the side of the elites

it is rather my impression that, if it really comes down to it, the overwhelming majority are still seduced by the various ugly mirrors and have no real faith in the possibilities of popular democracy. but perhaps this too could change

381/375

12 – on the phenom of giant puppets

do have this: giant puppets

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