Wednesday 20 February 2019

From the incoherence and contradictions of political anarchism to the actuality of Romantic Christian anarchism

There was a fair spell of time when, if anyone had asked - which of course they never did! - I would have called myself an anarchist. This was a consequence of being a 'normal' left wing, socialist, Labour Party supporter in my youth, and having realised that the actuality bore no resemblance to the impulse.

It was also a consequence of my having, in my middle teens, becoming a very keen ecologist - or 'green'-advocate as it later became known: keen on a William Morris-ite medieval society, including traditional, non-mechanised forms of agriculture. This even extended to a preference (or the attempt at such) for low-tech music and simpler musical instruments - a preference for recorders over keyed flutes, for the clavichord over the piano etc.

(Unfortunately my manias for electric folk music and grand opera undermined this attempt.)

I would now perceive that I was wanting to arrest society and the arts at a particular, but neither distinct nor stable, point in a process of continual change and development. It was nothing more than a personal, and temporary, prejudice - raised up to some kind of general socio-political principle. And the same could be applied to Morris himself, and to most others who tried to describe a utopian socialistic and/or environmentalist future.

Anyway, I experienced a general collapse of belief in top-down institutions - political parties, trades unions, pressure-groups etc. - as being able to deliver the kind of changes I wanted. And so I began to think of myself as an anarchist. Yet I could not help but still seek for ideological and systematic solutions.

Anarchists are atheists (in practice if not always in theory); therefore their options are limited - somehow improvement must come from what is already there. Somehow a better society must comes from people as they are - therefore, the answer always involves some new way of organising things so that good-decisions, good-results, will emerge from situations that previously led to bad decisions and results.

Secular politics is therefore about how to create processes that will  have the intrinsic property of 'manufacturing' good outcomes. Anarchists analyse society on the basis of power; therefore they try to dispense with powerful people and institutions; therefore they hope to disperse power (without using power) and hope that societies will emerge (since they cannot be imposed) that are 'ruled' by no specific person/ institution but in which each person is autonomous.

In practice, anarchists are compelled to come up with some system by weak the weaker ally to defeat the stronger - and the usual method is some kind of 'grassrotos' or 'direct' democracy - and this is usually formalised into voting. In essence - society is intended to be ruled by mass votes on all significant decisions.

Almost immediately, and sooner rather than later, anarchists recognise that this system (where it can be implemented) does not lead to greater individual freedom; but to an extremely crude form of oppression. I had a few experiences of attending anarchist-type events (and read accounts of others - for example in accounts of the Spanish Civil War), and they were - on the one hand - always shambolic and poor quality; and on the other hand surrounded by a pall of numbingly conformist and self-righteously monolithic moralism.

They were excruciating to me, with a kind of dreadfulness of soul and spirit that I could not deny to myself. 

I think I now realise where anarchism goes wrong - which is its inbuilt anti-Christian ethos, part of which is to regard marriage and the family as institutions. Anarchists are, in practice, much keener to 'smash' marriages and families than they are to attack trades unions and large corporations.

Some anarchists even assert that the individual is an institution! At that point anarchism has reversed, and become nothing-but totalitarian group tyranny.

The causal reason is not far to seek - because anarchists are proponents of the sexual revolution; and each anarchist has a personal stake in this - since they generally are, or aspire to be, beneficiaries of the sexual revolution, in one way or another. As so often with post-sixties Leftism, the politics serves as an abstract smoke-screen for the truth of a sexual motivation.

(Sexuality being  - on average - the second-most powerful human motivation after religion; and when religion is absent, sexuality becomes the most powerful motivator; especially for the most active and aspiring people.)

Yet - properly understood - marriage and the family are precisely Not institutions; they are in fact the only forms of human living that are not-institutional. They are the only forms around-which human society can be, that are not institutions.    

(Not all individual people will get married, not all will want to marry; and perhaps a few will neither  have families nor wish to become adopted into a family - or no family will adopted them. Nonetheless, society will be families linked-by marriages.)

Therefore, by ruling-out marriage and family; anarchists rule out any real possibility of anarchism. Instead they merely replace one set of institutions with another - while simultaneously denying themselves the power actually to implement what they wish-for.

Anyway, I now find myself in the position of actually being - as my ideal - a real, live, political anarchist; precisely because I am now a Romantic Christian believer-in the primacy of marriage and the family.

Furthermore, there is no paradox in my wish for this to become actuality, real-Christian-anarchism is no Quixotic fantasy; since I see all around me that all formal, political, ideological institutions are very obviously in an advanced state of corruption and en route to self-destruction.

While by contrast, marriage and family are spontaneous phenomena because they are in accordance with primary metaphysical reality, as I understand it.

Therefore, if things continue as they are trending, we will reach a post-institutional world; organised around marriage and families. And this will happen like it or not; for worldly good or for ill.

How much of the human world will remain in this post-institutional dispensation is very uncertain; perhaps very little indeed. But that is the world I wish to be a part-of.


Seijio Arakawa said...

One problem is that marriage is being understood as an institution even by most people that get married. Although Mormons or perhaps Orthodox do have the institutions to encourage and officiate proper weddings (if people so desire), that is not the same thing as marriage in a post-institutional Romantic Christian world. And most other weddings, even church ones, turn into a subliminal assault on the notion of marriage woven between the more traditional and unobjectionable rituals.

For example, the last time I attended a wedding in a Catholic Church, the correct things were spoken, the correct motions were made, and almost I beheld the eye of Eternity opening and the great invisible audience turning out to witness the sacrament. Then the priest puts some documents on the altar (the place where the mortal is supposed to be transfigured into the immortal) and takes care that they are properly signed, the climax of the ceremony arriving in mid-air with a thump.

This implicitly teaches that marriage is (a) a set of crowd-pleasing, financially and mentally strenuous rituals which last for one day and (b) a form of economic contract with rights & responsibilities specified by the government, rules regarding the division of property, and so forth. Socratic questioning of many younger people will, indeed, reveal that many of them understand marriage to be a "business contract" (with an undertone of, 'why bother?'). And there are quite a few people who, by adhering to this understanding, are not married even when they say they are.

Then again, there are also a handful of people who are married even though they say or the government says they're not. But understanding how that comes about is not easy.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Seijio - Yes, those who are defending marriage do often defend it as an institution that is being undermined. So do those defending science, medicine, academia, the law, the constitution, the police... But I notice that this is completely ineffectual.

As an institution marriage has been so completely undermined that it is *not even* a legal contract - because one party can break the agreement with no penalty.

(Neither are there social sanctions against divorce in secular society, and not in many churches.)

This means that we are *already in* the post marriage as institution society; just as we are in the post science/ medicine etc society. All institutions are corrupt. So, what now?

AgainstMordor said...

I think you may find some interest in Keith Preston's anarchist website Attack the System. While Preston doesn't recognize the fundamental spiritual root of the problems of modernity, he does a great job of exposing the neoliberal globalist world order (from a particularly American perspective). His solution is radical decentralization- i.e, breaking up the United States and international organizations like the EU and NATO, and leaving power in the hands of local secessionist communities. It's a good source of ideas about anarchist strategy and economics. Preston is socially liberal (but not cultural Marxist) but reaches out to traditionalists and reactionaries who oppose the New World Order.