Friday, December 29, 2006

tha po po 

I just wanted to respond to this 'cause its important to me, and it seemed a litte long for comments.

it may be that police are symptoms of an inherently unjust and
"disordered" social order.

and there may be societies of previous times and other places that
lacked civil law.

but in the current world system, civil law is a concomitant of all
functioning polities. that may be condemnation of us, of humanity, etc.
but no place on earth without civil law at the moment is doing well. and
civil law must have enforcement.

even if we were somehow to attain true anarchic lawless society, that
would still have to be mediated by an orderly (lawful) transfer of power
from the leaders to the rest of us.

First, an anarchic society isn't lawless, a chaotic one is. All anarchic societies thus conceived or realized have some sort of "law" even if in some cases it amounts to what we could call "custom".

Second the assertion that a power transfer has to be mediated seems to me strange and unsubstantiated. People can "take" power by appropriating the mechanisms of the state. Usually this is done in an unmediated fashion, a fashion that is by definition lawless, i.e. violent revolution. Or they can simply exercise power and make the state structures more or less irrelevant. In either case it is a "lawless" process. States do not make legal provisions for their own dissolution, at least if Lincoln is to be believed. A transfer of power to an anarchic society would have to be orderly, but it could not be lawful, at least according to the laws of the structure that was being transferred away from.

so if the anarchist revolution you envision is to occur, it will have to
involve the police in a lawful self-dismantling that, as it occurs, will
STILL have to be regulated.

Again, the point above. Historically these things aren't very well regulated, but rather somewhat spontaneous and cascading sequences of events in varying spans of time. Indeed your assertion is somewhat absurd on its face. How can the law lawfully self-dismantle? Who or what would possibly regulate such a process?

For the record, the anarchist revolution you claim I envision isn't the one I envision. To assert that anyone thinks we're going to snap our fingers and have utopia is to engage in a war on straw. Most likely the police would eventually be (gradually) deprived of funding and individual policemen would no longer find it useful or moral to be involved with the institution.

i'm hard-pressed to imagine what sort of "social relations" can exist on
a LARGE scale (which is the only kind modern societies have the option
of basing themselves around) without formal rules, and thus without

If you necessarily define "modern" as "large" then no, non-hierarchical social relations probably will not be "modern". However, there is no reason to think that there could not be non-hierarchical social relations that still qualify as "modern" in the other senses of the word (technologically advanced, culturally, morally, politically, economically sophisticated, etc.) It is indeed difficult to imagine if one is relatively new to the topic, but there is actually an extensive body of theoretical, historical, ethnographic, anthropological, and practical literature on the subject. Flights of imagination are not required.

Again, formal rules do not necessarily entail "enforcement" as you mean it. There are plenty of mechanisms for "enforcing" rules in a non-hierarchic society that do not depend on violence or physical coercion.

that current social relations can be shown to be both contingent and
unjust does not at all imply that we can leap across an unthought,
unimagined gap into a realm of non-hierarchical relations that can't be
anticipated or defined as anything other than the negation of the
present state of affairs.

No leap is proposed. Revolution is a process, not necessarily an event. It is also not unanticipated or undefined, and certainly is not merely a negation of the present state of affairs. To proponents of slave societies a non-slave society was considered unimaginable, impractical, and a utopian negation. Fortunately these proponents did not carry the day.

social relations are structured. structure means hierarchy. "moments" of
disruption or transcendence or modification of structure are just
that--"moments" that exist, in time, between punctually identifiable and
therefore structurally visible forms of concrete social relation. to
think that we can eternalize a moment of revolution/transition is much
less realistic than faith in the Kingdom of God. an eternal instant of
freedom is nothing but a trick of the mind, a fetishization of the
negative moment in dialectical logic.

Structure does not necessarily mean hierarchy. There are such things as non-hierarchical social structures that work. Some of which have been used in the past, some we use every day, and some are currently being created.

I certainly am not proposing that we eternalize a moment of anything. No anarchist revolutionary that I know does either. An eternal instant of freedom is indeed an illusion, but only for those who define freedom negatively, as the absence of coercion or some such. This is the prevailing view of freedom in our society, but it is not the only one in existence. Indeed it is a fantastically destructive one, and I will add, the view of freedom upon which capitalism and hierarchical social relations are based.

law enforcement of some kind is required in modern societies.
now maybe you're right--maybe most police officers are most of the time
involved in perpetuating unjust social relations. that seems simplified
to me, but whatever...

I actually wasn't asserting that most police officers are actively doing these things most of the time, although they are existentially. Most of the time they could be handing out candy to kittens. It still wouldn't change their fundamental raison d'etre which is to act as the mechanism for the state's monopoly on violence in the service of preserving unjust social relations. The very existence of a police force perpetuates unjust social relations. This is its end and its condition for existence. From what I understand most beat cops spend most of their time mediating domestic disputes, certainly an admirable activity, although there are probably better means for this than armed men.

The point is that in the limiting case, when the social order faces a crisis of legitimacy, the police are called upon to act in the defense of the illegitimate order. Witness the entire history of the labor movement in any country you choose to name. Or more recently and closer to home, witness the police repression of the Seattle protests of '94.

Even in a non-limiting case the policies of policing agencies are always geared toward increasing social control, witness the perpetual increase of surveillance, detention, expansion of power, diminution of individual rights, increased militarization, etc. Because the causes, unjust social relations, must remain unexamined, the institutions are faced with always treating the symptoms. Thus the structure of the institution always sees more control as the solution to any given problem. Whether or not individual policemen do is irrelevant.


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