Friday, October 12, 2012

Anarchy, authenticity, and the technology of authority

As a rebuttal to those who would insist that some form of government is necessary, that we need systems of authority and coercive control, I would ask two questions: first, what, exactly, do we need these systems of authority for? And second, who is “we”? 

Systems of authority are necessary requisites for any technology beyond simple tools and crafts. Authority is necessary for any technology that involves division of labor and specialized knowledge—at a bare (and rare) minimum to serve a coordinating function, and usually to impose “divisions” of labor that force some people into undesirable stations—somebody has to work in the mines.  So without highly oppressive systems of authority underwritten by lethal coercion, we could never have computers or automobiles or professional sports. 

But, and here’s the clincher, since most of our goals and purposes are—through reverse adaptation—being generated by technology itself, without authority and the technological order that it supports, individuals would be left to our own devices (both literally and figuratively). Authentically human motives and goals would emerge as the only motives and goals possible.  

In other words, our perceived needs for the technological systems that require coercive authority and control are generated by the systems themselves; remove the systems and our needs for them evaporate.  

And In regards to the “who is we” rebuttal: when people say such things as “we need government” they are referring to an abstraction, an imagined collective humanity. This “we” does not exist.  Instead, there are real concrete individuals who have real concrete needs as individuals. Some of the needs of one individual are the same as the needs of other individuals. But, once again, the majority of the specific needs that are in play at any given time are needs that have been generated as a function of life embedded in the technological order. Remove authority, and the technological order evaporates along with these needs. 

So it is true that we (the abstract human collective) “need” systems of authority as long as we (individual people) continue to pursue purposes generated by those same systems of authority. Which is to say that we (both collectively and as individuals) really don’t need these systems of authority. If anything, the systems of authority need for us to continue to act as if we need them. 

A reversion to the base-anarchy of our pre-domestication past seems to me to be the only option if the goal is to live an authentically human life. And any goal that is inconsistent with authentic human living is not an authentic human goal. Unfortunately, any attempt to promote the proliferation of authentic humanity, however modest, is sure to engage the protective defenses of the technological order. 

So, at least at some level, the problem is well defined.

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