Thursday, August 23, 2012

Hey, I never signed any social contract!

Systems of authority, and the technological order that they serve, impact virtually every domain of our lives.  The anarchist view claims that these systems are not legitimate, and I have yet to come across a compelling argument against the anarchist perspective. 

Cristpin Sartwell has written about how the social contract notions espoused most notably by Hobbes and Rousseau cannot withstand even the most basic logical critique. The idea behind the social contract is that we need a powerful group of people (or person, or some technological arrangement) in order to protect our freedoms and to prevent other people from taking advantage of us as they would surely do if they could get away with it, and that we have therefor agreed (if only tacitly) to acquiesce to the power of these people (or person, or technological arrangement). 

One problem with this is that it smacks against the bald fact that over 99% of the existence of our species has proceeded in the absence of powerful systems of authority. How is it that we were able to survive and flourish as a species for 2 million years without these systems if they are essential for our survival and flourishing? Note that it is very likely the case that these systems are essential in a society that has been structured in ways that support the need for these systems, but that’s a logical merry-go-round that never stops.  

Another problem is that virtually all of the conditions that these systems of authority are supposed to counter, the evil conditions that we need to contract against, exist even in the presence of these systems—and some are clearly a product of the systems themselves. And, of course, social contract theory runs into the two inconvenient facts that no historical society has ever come into existence as a function of explicit contract, and that even if such a contract did serve as justification for authority for the founders of such a mythical society, it would have to be renewed with each new generation.  

I can’t speak for you, by I never agreed to relinquish any part of my autonomy for any of the "protectionist" systems of oppression currently in operation.

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