Friday, 7 September 2012

The state as a fear machine

Keith's conclusion from several papers presented at the Anarchist Studies Network Conference given here earlier:
What I took away of most value from all of this was the idea that anarchism is not about freedom at all, since personal autonomy is really an illusion, but rather it is about a particular freedom: freedom from fear.

It is food for thought indeed. The occupation actions of main squares in especially heavily authoritarian states like Tunisia and Egypt were about the conquest of fear. We could witness the millions defying the curfew which had been in place for such a long time in Egypt. This was (and is) the anarchist side of revolution in these countries, and perhaps with most of the following similar actions elsewhere.
As it goes with action, it also had the element of overcoming fear of relating to others you would not have related to without the action. Has it all calmed down now and are we witnessing the quietness of the grave, or the silence just before the outbreak of a new and bigger storm? We shall see.

"The state" was founded on fear. Franz Oppenheimer wrote it in Der Staat: the mechanism we call "state" originates in nomadic tribes vandalizing or threatening to vandalize sedentary farmers. Mob rule, literally. We will protect you from anyone running over your harvest with the hordes on horses but it comes at a price...
It is an interesting thought - the state as a neolithic (probably late neolithic) invention. I presented it in my last examination to become a political scientist - Oppenheimer is a mostly forgotten libertarian socialist who is also the brain behind the original kibbutzim-idea (which must not be associated with the founding of a state).

But reading Debt by David Graeber in between conference hours I hear that the thought is much older than from the early 20th century: Ibn Khaldun - founder of the disciplines of sociology and social anthroplogy, and also a mystic - wrote it earlier, in the 14th century A.D.
I know earlier on Czech sociologist Ernest Gellner stressed the importance of Ibn Khaldun's thought and the anarchist consequences of it.

The state as a mechanism based on fear - fear of "the others" who are coming to destroy your livelihood, fear of "chaos". If the state is based on fear which has to be shielded off at the cost of the fearful themselves then it is really sure: anarchism is about overcoming fear.
A fascinating new look at the old -ism.