Constructing an Anarchism: Contr’un

Suggested readings:
  • none
From last week:
Ways to get lost for a while:
A neo-Proudhonian Synthesis:
A Tour of the Lost Continent:
    Constructing Anarchisms:

      The Contr’un is the individual encountering themself as (an) anarchy.

      Let’s dispense with a lot of the familiar apparatus, here in the final stages of this construction, and concentrate on a basic “program” for anarchist practice.

      In this approximation of anarchism, I am ultimately giving in to the temptation of reducing “anarchist practice” to the practice of three kinds of encounter:

      1. Encounters with the self, in which we recognize the anarchic, plural and evolving character of selfhood;
      2. Encounters with others who share with us a commitment to the pursuit of anarchy (if, perhaps, they don’t always share precisely the same understanding of that notion);
      3. Encounters with those who do not share that commitment.

      Perhaps there is more than we can safely and specifically call anarchistic in the realm of practice, but I’m inclined to limit this final discussion to a narrow range of interactions in which people, as I put it in the posts on guarantism, “get mixed up” with one another, but without, as we have said, pacts or contracts—or the creation of anything resembling the polity-form. The very specific thing that I have been attempting to pull from Proudhon’s social science is a way of characterizing those particular interactions in some general sense: an anarchic “social system,” with all of the attendant difficulties and necessary cautions about systems recognized.

      We want to know how to act like anarchists. And what I’ve suggested in recent posts is that it will be easiest to answer that question in a wider variety of contexts if we can get it right in our most intimate associations—generally the kinds of associations that even non-anarchists might be inclined to keep free of political and economic modeling. It’s not a question here of whether or not people choose to form families, with whom they engage in intimate relations or even what they imagine intimacy to consist of, but instead of establishing a general sense that we can come together on the basis of our similarities and differences without having to fuss with questions of equality and inequality. It’s a matter of recognizing that we do indeed come together in ways that produce associations with real character—whatever the formal character of those associations—much like that we attribute to individuals, but also that individuals are themselves structured in ways that resemble what we might otherwise call associations. Add a sense of our living dynamism to this structural account, which posits the conscious free absolute as simultaneously involved in a range of individualities at various scales, and perhaps it is not too much to say that the goal is learning how to live like the anarchies that we are.

      We should expect this encounter with the anarchic self to be ongoing and to confront us with:

      • our diverse and sometimes conflicting interests and desires;
      • our voluntary associations at various scales;
      • our involuntary, but real associations, including those, like our involvement in ecological relationships, that we have to find some means to do justice to and those imposed on us, which we might choose to abandon, if we could, or radically restructure;
      • the developing tendencies of the various individualities in which we find ourselves involved; and
      • various kinds of still untapped potential suggested by these complex relations.

      If you want a reading assignment for the week, you could always go explore the various editions of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.

      About Shawn P. Wilbur 2703 Articles
      Independent scholar, translator and archivist.