debates was guilty / innocent was debates

Gordon Fitch gcf at
Sat Oct 14 09:15:58 PDT 2000

Gordon Fitch <gcf at> wrote:
> > I reject the _values_ which make these incarnations of domination and
> subjugation desirable.

kenneth.mackendrick at
> Some degree of subjugation is necessary for subjectivity. It isn't that
> subjugation is desirable, but a certain degree of it makes desire possible.
> Without a doubt power and domination is fundamental to social relations, it
> also makes the psyche tick. The more we try to take flight from this the more
> it will come back with a vengeance. What concerns me is the way in which these
> relations become depoliticized. So it isn't power as such that I'm concerned
> about, nor the desire to be a dominator or dominated - but more the way in
> which power pretends to be something it is not.

I disagree about subjectivity, assuming we're using the word in approximately the same way (either the ability to experience existence or the ability to objectify oneself and observe oneself experiencing existence). The first is natural to all conscious beings, and the second requires only repression (like all forms of objectification) which can be internalized from parents and others at an early age. I see no further nonpathological _need_ for power and domination in human relationships. Resistance, absence, and therefore desire are given to us with the world; we don't have to produce them artificially.

By the way, by _subjugation_ I don't mean the accomodation of the individual to the community, which may occur between equals. I mean the permanent subjection of one person to another's will, as institutionalized in the State.

Gordon Fitch <gcf at> wrote:
> > It might well be the case that people who adopted values like mine would be
> worse off or unhappier than those who didn't; I don't see that as something one
> could predict in advance.

kenneth.mackendrick at
> That doesn't make for a very good argument though... ; )

It makes a very good argument. Inevitably, a desiring being wants what it wants -- most deeply, simply to work its will. There's no real escape from this. Consequently one must deal with the predicament of willfulness even if one would be happier without will; will can't successfully will its non-existence. (According to the Buddhists, you can't even kill your self by committing suicide.) The need for freedom (anarchy) flows from the inevitability of will and the consequent hatefulness of subjugation -- not from some scheme to get more and better goods.

Gordon Fitch <gcf at> wrote:
> > Now, one of the things you say is that the application of the ideas of
> responsibility and accountability to State institutions and activities (will or
> may) support a fundamental challenge to their existence. Looking at recent
> history, this does not appear to be the case; the bourgeoisie seem highly adept
> at presenting various mummeries to the public which simulate responsibility of
> some sort while they go about their business as usual.

kenneth.mackendrick at
> Well, it is almost impossible for a corporation to remain "local" - in the
> sense of operating on a non-expansive model - without being taken over or
> bought off. This likely wasn't the case all that long ago. So I'd say this is a
> tremendous shift in the way in which corporations see themselves and operate.
> In a way, corporations are holding each other accountable: if you don't expand,
> you die. Naturally, I'm shifting this in the wrong direction for those of us on
> the left... Corporations that insist on "national" boundaries I suspect also
> find themselves starving for investment... and I suspect that corporations
> exert a high degree of pressure on political bodies to transform themselves or
> perish - not to mention challenging the 'existence' of environmental laws...
> tax laws... and I'll bet nearly everyone on this list knows more about this
> stuff than I do...

A major design intention in liberalism / capitalism is to provide a sort of filter between the bourgeoisie and everyone else, in which goods, services, and submission flow toward those on top, but loyalty, responsibility or other attachments do not necessarily flow back. This occurs first locally and then on larger and larger scales until we reach the present situation where it is occurring globally. Part of the strategy is to pretend it isn't happening, hence the mummery.

Rescinding this filtering process, as by demanding personal responsibility of government officals or corporate managers, would have the effect of attacking the institutions that embody it. Surely, however, that is very unlikely to happen in a system which has been set up precisely to prevent such attacks from occurring. Instead, as a result of the latest phase of anger against the elites, we'll see more elaborate mummeries, new institutions and organizations and politicans bombasticating about accountability, all to be swept away when the furor dies down.

> ...

> When I taught Nozick last year... it really made people think. I suspect you
> are correct... I'm not sure that no-government is a desirable state of
> affairs... but certainly it is important to consider and think about. High
> inspirational value, I say.

Nozick, though, is against anarchy. He shows, I think, that a class system (presumably, capitalism) can't continue to exist without some form of government -- it will produce one if one is not explicitly provided. As I recall, he doesn't consider the possibility of a communist anarchy -- it's off his board. I don't know of a Nozick-like author for that. (In a way that's good; we have enough bibles.)

> > If you strike at the State, you had better try to kill it.

> An ethical act par excellence... knowingly striking at what makes your very
> existence possible, desirable and enjoyable.

I don't think it does, however. And if it does, then the human race is doomed, because as our technological abilities grow, the aggressive violence implicit and sometimes explicit in the State will become more and more pervasive and deadly. The 20th century started with such instruments of destruction as the machine gun, barbed wire and dynamite; the 21st is starting with nuclear weapons, intercontinental missiles, biotechnology, and advanced electronics. Simple reason would seem to indicate that the choice is not between socialism and barbarism, but between anarchy and communism on the one hand and annihilation on the other.

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