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Brother; drive out power in yourself. Never let it fascinate you If Anarchist John Zerzan has one wish in his new book, it is that we might wake from this nightmare of myth and History.
Wise children often ask their social science teachers: The teacher seldom has a good answer because the question is rarely understood: Why must I learn theirjunk, theirHistory; that is, the ghostly lessons of their wreckage. The influence of utopians has always been an embarrassment, as if the inspired initial spark of a political project keeps raising its shrill orphan voice while the Parties have long since grown into maturity or senility and realpolitik or compromise.
But after the plowshare has been broken, dream-visions have usually been met with fixed bayonets from both sides. Martyrdom is the only acceptable elite in anarchism. Who Killed Ned Ludd?
Look for the assassin at the feet of the Angel of History. If agriculture was the original sin of History, the Fall was our descent into Symbolic forms which created a psychological removal best expressed by the use of artillery. With the epoch of History proper, beginning with the Neolithic, internal abstractions are projected outwards onto a terra nullius, a void now dedicated to the manufacture of first commodities, the domestication of animals and conflict management, in terror of the silences of a world made ancient by representation and signs.
The great farming apparatus of this era mirrored institutionalized ritual and the codes of orthodox magic, which are the ancestors of surveillance technology and remote control.
Division of labor lead to the great land enclosures and the dawn of the money form, nascent surplus-value with its classes of guardians, warriors, magistrates, clerics.
The subsequent Bronze Age saw pottery, the production of rich varieties of armaments, the complexities of credit and written script, and the formation of the great elites — and naturally, slavery. Zerzan sees our much-vaulted great leaps forward as merely rarified variations on a theme, but he follows these zigzags with penetration and a knack for devilled detail.
The other irruption into the natural world is that old monster, Time. Zerzan rejects the picture of an unbroken continuum where all tributaries lead to an inviolable present, a comforting illusion which mirrors the artifice of irrigation systems and continues to haunt all ideologies.
The capitalist regimen of days reduces dynamism to the motors of production and psychology to an internal fateful machine it also allows our current Neoliberal ideologues to declare that all historical epochs are over. With some reservations, Zerzan co-opts three rough historical eras from Spengler and Jaspers to chart the fairly abysmal record of human enlightenment.
After all, a good anarchist cannot totally dismiss the solemn judgment of Nihilism. Yet Zerzan sees a constant spirit of revolt puncturing the gray impenetrable historical mass: The much-maligned angry mobs of the Middle Ages, a period usually rendered as a vast darkness before the autocratic glory of the Renaissance, were not always witch-hunters and fanatics — many were intransigent partisans against monarchic cruelty and the despotism of the Church.
One of his main criticisms of Marx — or more properly, of Marxists— is that only the means of production are to be handed over the working class, not the means to fundamentally change or halt what is produced. This fatal mistake can only produce a resurgent bourgeoisie, soon back in charge again as both Bakunin and Trotsky wryly predicted.
There is also the question of Power; or rather, the claim to Power. Who would elect to be powerless in the face of the Beast? Power does what it wants and what it wants is totally arbitrary or dictated by its economic reasons which escape common logic. Careless, heedless resistance and the power of the refusal of old power the power of the doomed?
And is the power of the State only able to be broken by another rival power? Can this rival power ever be rejected in turn, after it has smashed all the old statues?
And if it cannot, then perhaps a reign of terror by the oppressed is always justified, necessary and righteous in its dark parody of unjust justice, an act of cleansing for the wretched of the earth? Are such questions even worth asking, as they hardly apply to the time-beside-time of anarchist revolution — or if they do, are they not equally applicable to the other political schools?
Still, as per Zerzan, the theory and practice of Power might itself be yet another hostile intrusion into humanity, just like the disciplines of History, Agriculture and Time.
Certainly, ideas of power run through historical processes — but they do not necessarily ordain destiny.Essay Scholarships.
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