Friday, February 7, 2014

your turn #3 (anarchism and civil disobedience)

some of the themes discussed in class this week:

1- the anarchist response to the state, bakunin's idea of perfect logic (the metaphysicians' idea that "thought precedes life", which is a jab at Marx, but also to the idea of intellectualism). click here for an interesting discussion of the antagonism between marx and bakunin. 

2- paul wolff's rejection of "command" and defense of "autonomy:" wolff denies the state any possible legitimacy. how does wolff's anarchism justify people to live in society if at all?

3- socrates' apology to crito is an example of rhetoric which i've called "anti-didactic" in that it seems so by figure of:

a) compelling the accusers to accept that he's better of choosing death (because of the very idea of duty they ask of him).
b) that his choosing death proves his attachment to Athens stronger than theirs (since it goes through the ultimate test: self-immolation).
c) a) + b) make socrates' death a political event.

the lesson from socrates --the ex-sophist-- is that philosophy and rhetoric are NOT divorced.  

4- thoreau's civil disobedience is an important treatise in that it presents the idea that government is typically more harmful than helpful & that democracy --in itself-- is no the cure (since a majority could be wrong). for thoreau the judgment of an individual's conscience is not necessarily inferior to the decisions of a political body --or majority. this makes laws suspicious:
(...) it is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right... Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice.
thoreau's well-known essay influenced gandhi's idea of civil disobedience.

5- martin luther king's compelling letter from birmingham jail. 

a) the motto "wait" as a constant deferment of justice. for king it really means "never."
b) king's use of the oppression of blacks (a particular instance) as an example of the need of universal justice.
c) king's use of aquinas' "natural law" over "human law" and agustine's motto: "an unjust law is not a law at all."
d) his comparison of segregation as a form of instrumentalization of humanity (the Buber's I-Thou predicament).

6- john rawls three criteria (really two, since he accepts that the first two make are sufficient for the act of disobedience: a) blatant violations, b) failure of reiterated appeals to a political majority.

go ahead, make your point (let's avoid being casual, make a deliberate intelligent contribution to the discussion).


  1. Indulged by a natural, perhaps rather biased, stimulus, I would have come to laud and praise Thoreau’s essay on Civil Disobedience. I still do. Yet I find more thrilling to laud and praise the problematization of notions we feel somewhat complacent to accept. Further investigating Thoreau’s essay, Civil Disobedience was written during slavery time in New England and the Mexican-American war. As a counter war practitioner, the objections brought by Thoreau are against a standing army. There is no single distinction among men if the army blurs their independence and individuality: “the mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies” (Thoreau 3). Civil disobedience is conjured from the lack of individuality; for Thoreau, the moral sense emanates from a single self-perspective as opposed to one voice raised in a battalion of men. I then cognize this flawed nuance of individuality and self-reliance that Thoreau so eloquently speaks of. As the essay progresses, men who serve the state are undistinguished stones, properties of a sovereign, and “secondary at control.” Essentially, it is humanity’s duty to resist the state. Thoreau recognizes that no government is perfect, as he builds an analogy to machines and their frictions; nonetheless, if the government is fully corrupted and oppressive, it shall not exist any longer. Thoreau’s attitude does not yet propose the creation of an improved society even if rejecting the role of the national political entity. If individuality is preserved -- regardless if the body in question is a standing army or attempt for mob rule -- how would moral sense exist, considering that individuality must be absolutely accountable, and how just-laws -- “man-made code that squares with the moral law” as Luther King effectively defines -- are enacted? The problem does not rest on whether there should be enforcement of laws (just or moral). It rather rests on whether laws are enforced by a body in accordance to harmony and equity. If one accepts Thoreau in admitting that individuality is blurred by the state being a suppressing entity, then individuality is necessary for non-suppression. Yet, if individuality is embraced, disagreement and eventual friction is also embraced (Thoreau does not deny that). If friction is embraced, how is moral code established? The commotion that arises from trying to consider all individual interests? Not to advance on our discussion on democracy, but as Plato poses in “Ruling as a Skill,” if governance is given to the command “of the crew” rather to the “commander,” how will disobedience effectively emanate justice?
    Over disorder, I prefer the reduced-democracy scenario.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. "All machines have their friction; and possibly this does enough good to counterbalance the evil. At any rate, it is a great evil to make a stir about it. But when the friction comes to have its machine, and oppression and robbery are organized, I say, let us not have such a machine any longer" (Thoreau 8).

    It is rhetorical to claim that when "oppression and robbery are organized" we shall not have "a machine any longer'" but rather only its individual parts acting independently. The unanswered point is how organization is operated, and what will happen when individual interests start colliding.

  4. good comments, marco & giovanna. tx

  5. Something I have realized was that those of individuals who think they align with the human aspiration that is anarchism do not realize how feminism is an integral part, and maybe if they dig a little deeper as to why some have insecurities with antagonism towards feminists, sounds to me like fear. Fear of the unknown. Scared of what liberated sexes entails, losing the privilege and the long time reign of subjugation of women. Those who made a difference, risked their lives for our collective struggle, most if not all imbued with some feminist principles. Anarchism stands for emancipation for all, that includes economically, but there are other social aspects that need rectifying and patriarchy as been governing our lives for far too long. I've never met someone who uses the label feminist for themselves who wasn't aware that men don't live the perfect life and are free of all problems. That feminists hate all men and blame them personally for all problems in this world is an idea I've only ever seen in attacks of a perceived feminist ideology that I've never actually seen embodied by anyone who claims to be a feminist.

  6. what i really found interesting was the parallel between MLK's message and Kantian philosophy. Which you mention up top with, "d) his comparison of segregation as a form of instrumentalization of humanity (Buber's I-Thou predicament)." The dehumanization of segregation goes completely against Kant's categorical imperative "Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end." Makes me wonder what Martin Luther King would think of the abortion issue, taking this imperative into consideration. Would MLK use these same words to fight for the rights of unborn children? "But man is not a thing. He must be dealt with, not as an animated tool, but as a person sacred in himself. To do otherwise is to depersonalize the potential person and use them as a means to an end and not an end in itself." I believe he would be a stringent advocate for the unborn, and he would consider abortion as using a person as a means to an end. He wouldnt just solely be basing this on any church "rule", but also because of the philosophical implications he so eloquently uses against segregation. Kind of makes me wonder how he would be perceived today if he were still alive. would he be lumped into the "war on women" category with a bunch of people we usually dont consider bedfellows.

    cool site with actual photos of notes MLK took on philosophy:

    i really enjoyed the Bakunin vs. Marx piece. Always heard Bakunin's name thrown around and had no idea what he stood for. In reading it I was struck by the difference in how important they believed the "lumpenproletariat" to be in a revolution. With 10 million unemployed at the moment, an estimate as high as 91 million people not even participating in the labor force, and 100 million on some form of government means-tested benefit, I tend to disagree with Marx on thinking the proletariat will LEAD a revolution. Kind of looks to me like the seeds of a revolution, if it is to come in this country, will germinate in the so called "lumpenproletariat".

    Edward Delatorre
    Tuesday/Thursday 9:50 a.m.

  7. Most days I would consider myself to be something of an anarchist, ostensibly because I've always had an issue with authority and I've come to learn about how systems crumble under their own weight eventually (just do away with the whole thing) but I'd also consider myself a bit naive as well, as in the absence of rule/law, I'd assume a permutation of more or less ‘golden rule’ logic at essence, so that to advance freedom is not merely a personal matter but means establishing relations with others by which the involved subjects accept certain immediate ‘limits’ to their range of possible actions with the understanding that the mutual adherence to such limits will enable a fuller flourishing of all involved (a group of people agreeing not to murder one and other advances the freedom proper of all by curtailing each individual’s capacity to murder whenever he pleases). This is opposed to mere licentiousness, which would be that capacity to murder at will, or do whatever one pleases for that matter. Its an advancement of ‘freedom’ vulgarly (or just sociopathically) defined without any reference to other ostensibly or even ideally free subjects. Maybe that's naive given interpretations of "human nature", but it seems to cover the bases, it's just a trickier, more in depth process. It doesn't hold up to the current end game paradigm, but surely it would be more effective overall. How can unjust law exist when it has been discussed for however long it needs to be discussed? This is an idea explored by the Occupy Wall Street movement, but it's a hard sell when political ideas have to be reduced to a sound bite in order to reverberate.

  8. I think Manny's point is a good one. I am less critical of the sovereignty and more of the citizen. If you are on a ship and your captain is oppressive it is not only within your right one could argue it is your duty to stand up for your shipmates and revolt. In this sense i agree that it is our duty to (at times) resist the state. To counter this however I think in a democratic society it is within the states duty to resist a revolt and maintain power as much as possible. The struggle that unfolds is one that I think sifts out unjust laws. This has been seen in society throughout our history as it would appear that as this struggle marches on unjust laws are continuously abolished. The government has the duty to resist as it represents the paradigm of the previous generation. If it were to simply roll over then the new guys wouldn't do things any better than the people they kicked out. The struggle serves as insight into the present. This may purely be bias however it would appear that (Compared to the past) there are few unjust laws to be dealt with (True there are many other unjust things but talking purely about legislation). So in a sense to we come closer and closer to a "Golden rule" as Daniel suggested? Some boat to ride the seas of morality with sure universal footing? Are we coming closer to this?
    This lack of identity that Manny points out in a standing army is in my opinion not conducive to the way the military operates. With small divisions, brigades, and groups, I think a sense of individuality is probably preserved despite the sheer size of the mechanism.

  9. Carolina L. SantanaFebruary 11, 2014 at 4:17 AM

    Any individual plagued by injustice and social inequality is bound to coincide with the Marxist framework that freedom and egalitarianism is not a matter of passivism on the side of the oppressed, but rather a confrontation that must be viciously snatched from the oppressors. Reverend Martin Luther King would agree with this foundation for equality when he is stating that “History is the long and tragic story of the fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily”. This is a point that Marx would not only wholeheartedly agree with, but he also created his own rendition within the Communist Manifesto, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.” I believe that the black liberation movement, on which Martin Luther King was the forefront, is also a class struggle as much as it is a rise against racial inequality. The bourgeoisie were those not only in control of the means of production, but also those sitting in the place of power, enforcing slavery, and then challenging segregation, and then passionately opposing the black liberation movement. Those in power were benefiting by racism, and as Dr.King states, “it gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority.” Keeping the blacks in their segregated low-income housing and in their low-quality schools allowed society to reap the benefits of being able to produce more while compensating less to those who are being oppressed.

  10. We have reached a time where I feel that our state is at constant attack. Our generation has constatntly put the state in stress. We are generation that is more involved. We want to be a part of our government because we are tired of those in power makin decisions for us. Our generation was responsible for occupy wallstreet one of the biggest movements of our era that sent fear through all the "big boys" of wall street". We have become a more aware of our state and aren't just confiding to the rules which we are born to we actually question the lawas which are placed upon us. Something that prior generations were lacking.

  11. I sympathize with the view that anarchism is the most radical form of a socialist ideology. Of course, this might sound absurd since our definitions around socialism revolve around the state. It's sometimes hard to separate the two. But the basic facet of anarchism is best outlined in anthropologist academic David Graeber's text 'Are You An Anarchist? The Answer May Surprise You': "Anarchists argue that almost all the anti-social behavior which makes us think it’s necessary to have armies, police, prisons, and governments to control our lives, is actually caused by the systematic inequalities and injustice those armies, police, prisons and governments make possible." Permitting radical perfect equality (that being the socialist aspect of anarchism), anarchists believe that humans shouldn't be forced to behave properly. In fact, guaranteeing equality, human beings won't need to be forced to behave properly. This was Kropotkin's view in Mutual Aid. Kropotkin argued that humans are biologically wired to behave socially, thus eliminating the need for a state to filter and facilitate that social activity. So, if you take socialism, which is broadly defined as an economic system based on the social ownership (or popular ownership) of the means of production (notice that the state is not mentioned; the state is just a well-known manifestation of socialism but not necessary to facilitate this relationship), anarchism is just the non-statist branch of radical socialism (literally, no barriers between the worker and the mean of production).

    Since someone already mentioned feminism, I'm going to bring back Judith Butler into this conversation. Having been self-described as a "provisional anarchist," Butler is not foreign to anarchist circles. In fact, Butler's work screams of anarchism. In the first chapter of Butler's 'Gender Trouble,' criticizing the view that women are the subject of feminism, Butler argues that if women are the subject are then there women "before" the law? In terms of the state of nature, are there women in the state of nature? Butler then criticizes the state of nature as a "fictive foundation of its own claim of legitimacy" calling it "that foundationalist fable" describing a "nonhistorical 'before'" that guarantees a "presocial ontology of persons who freely consent to be governed and, thereby, constitute the legitimacy of the social contract." This criticism of the state of nature is as saturated in anarchist thought that I wonder why the authors didn't include Butler's work in the 'anarchist response' section of our textbook.

    It's important to realize that Thoreau is sometimes described as an anarchist. Although he advocated for a non-violence respond to state injustice, that as a tactic could be debated. Civil disobedience seems to be more of a tactic than a philosophy, albeit, a non-violence one. However, that's just an oversimplification of civil disobedience.

    Anarchism is incomplete without Marx, and my hesitation to describe my political ideology as anarchist is rooted in a extreme admiration of Marx's work. However, anarchism is useful in--not describing a mode of life--but instead an ethos of intensity.

  12. The post-9/11 America is a very bleak place. The government is spying on its citizens and is bombing anything under the sun. We, as Americans have become too apathetic to say anything. Should we defend the government for spying on us? It all depends if they have successfully stopped any terrorist attacks. What people consider terrorism is often misunderstood a lot. The idea that it being a foreigner attacking us is by some people’s definition: terrorism. Some people forget that the Oklahoma bombing was done by an American. True, 9/11 is different, and I agree. We are different people, and we are doing everything in our power to prevent the nightmare to happen again. This reminds me of Hobbes and his social contract, that for a society to continue being a society, it must have a sense of security. I can’t help but see the correlation with what our government is doing. They are spying us, not because we’re entering in an Orwellian society, but because it is trying to ensure our security so that we can function as a society. It’s necessary evil, but is it really necessary. The NSA has been around since Bush first ordered it to spy on us. Do we really need to jail and take away American citizens their rights, because they leaked information to the public? Are we not American citizens who, as whistle blowers, been praised for doing this duty to our public? I do not defend the spying of the state. I just understand it. I think the paranoia of the state is diminishing the act of protest and civil disobedience. The Nation has militarized the police. The police, instead acting like our law enforcement, acted like soldiers. The world is vastly changing, and a paradigm shift is inevitable. We, as citizens, ought to disobey those in power. Civil disobedience is a privilege, and we have the privilege to still have it…..or so it seems. Occupy movement would have gone down different if people knew what they were doing, or had an idea as to what they were protesting (another matter for another time). I have to ask, do states have right to invade the space of a person, even if it’s justified?

  13. Although the metaphor of the sinking ship which Wolff painted for us seems simple, it's honestly got me confused. He says that he's not obeying his command just because of his supposed authority on the ship, and I understand that. Just because a person has authority doesn't mean that you should simply obey their commands. I mean, if it was someone who's never been out on the shore, let alone a ship, than I wouldn't listen to what they're saying but, what is it that makes a captain? It's not only that he is capable of commanding a crew, but also that he has knowledge and experience. I would listen to what he's saying because he's, hopefully, and expert in that area just as I would listen to "doctor's orders" only because they know what they're talking about. I'm not necessarily acknowledging that they have any authority over me since no one truly has authority over an individual except themselves (or maybe the nagging parents in some cases, am I right?). I mean, isn't that the reason why some people vote, hoping that whoever they vote for is knowledgeable enough to make the right decisions, decisions that involve such intricacies that some find either too confusing or just font care to follow?

    I'm conflicted. On the one hand I see why having someone in charge is beneficial since there have been some who do it well and in benefit for the people. There are also times where a leader, against what Plato says (this is actually part of chapter three, but I can't help myself from adding it), acts for selfish reasons and here is when corruption happens. Then again, if a leader is corrupt, I bet Plato would say that they're no leader at all since a leader only acts in benefit of their people. Then again, I see the merit of what Bakunin is saying that intellectual's own downfall is their own intellect and knowledge. Some intellectuals do scold the "ignorant" AKA people who don't want to accept their beliefs. Others are very stubborn in accepting other's pool of knowledge and incorporating it into their own.

    All this problematizing (or rambling, whatever you'd like to call the above) has really got me in a knot.

    ~Katherine Davila

  14. I hate to say it, but people can not rule themselves as in an Athenian-like democracy (instead of having every head of an Athenian household represent his interests and vote, having everyone citizen of all sexes, races, creeds and religions vote), a direct democracy. It's be too chaotic and disorganized, and even if it somehow worked, it'd be way too tedious for each citizen to engage (in Athens, the heads of households would devote their lives to democracy and Athens). A representative democracy is the best way to go, though it is innately flawed since it's kinda utilitarian. On disobedience, I think than an unjust law should and must be broken, not just for its sake, but to prove a point, and one who breaks it, should openly let him/her-self be caught defying it, not only to hold true to the act/ attract it attention if possible, but also to defend the act. Things, I think (or at least I'd like to think) change over time naturally, but somethings need a little bit of a push.

    -Manny Alonso

  15. The idea that democracy doesn’t work well at times is a bit comforting to me. Of course there have been instances where the majority have been wrong, but I think that this mass conscious, which essentially “runs” a government in theory, is a necessity. Without people like that no one would have a reason to be a progressive. I consider myself a progressive thinker (yet I have a lot of work to do on that subject) and I would be hard pressed to find a place in Miami where people who I relate to meet and discuss such topics as this… if only. Anyways I digress.

    I am not sure how to speculate on Socrates’ death given the limited knowledge I have on it. I guess I have a lot to understand about political events such as these, but doesn’t his death seem a bit selfish? I see that his death shed light on his teachings and the lack of progressive thinking found in Athens at the time. To be honest how much attention does self-immolation really draw to a cause? Is the martyr (?) even aware of the ramifications of his actions? Personally when I see these people online or on the news, the Greek pensioner who shot himself or the fruit vendor who set himself on fire in Tunisia, and I think could I do that? Could I become so vehemently opposed to my government that I see this as my only option for any sort of recognition? As I am writing this I begin to understand the weight these actions carry, I mean these people killed themselves in protest of government. Now governments kill people every day but why are these different? I say they are not much different than a 19-year-old U.S. soldier sent to the middle east… for what! It is sick I tell you and this needs to be discussed more often, death has become almost arbitrary this day and age and it saddens me.

    Good night.