To Profess Progress

The recent Kaczynski-style attacks aimed at Mexican nano-technology researchers has lead to another wave of anti-primitivist rhetoric on the internet. Condemning targeted bombings of scientists is one thing, but insulting a wide range of people holding techno-skeptical views is quite another. I’ll leave off the relevant distinctions between anarcho-primitivism and the Individuals Tending Toward Savagery for another time, because right now I want to focus on something of larger scope.

Some claim that primitivism and anarchism are mutually exclusive tendencies. The primitivist fixation on searching out the origins of hierarchy, oppression and alienation easily belie this claim. There is at least a strong overlap between the two, but where do they part ways? “Primitivism” implies a conservative ethos, a harkening back to the good ol’ days. Though primtivists rarely speak of “returning to the caves” as the anti-primitivists claim, they do tend to maintain an Edenic mythological worldview.

If anarchism is conceived as a Left movement, then it must be construed as a champion of the novel, of progress. Indeed, much of historical anarchism has positioned itself in such a manner. Anarchists have echoed the progressive rhetoric of Leftism in describing various liberatory trajectories. But the mythology of progress is not merely the domain of Leftists. Imperialists, Fascists, and Capitalists all speak of progress when advancing their programs. The vaunted rhetoric of technological progress is susceptible to appropriation by any of these political tendencies.

I look askance at all myths of a purported Golden Age, whether that age is located in the past or the future. The positions of uncritical pro- and anti-technologists are alike simplistic and facile. Some older forms of society, culture, technology, or what-have-you are worth preserving or resurrecting, while others deserve to be abolished. Likewise some new forms are emancipatory and others are not. We do ourselves a disservice by maintaining such myopic views. We should form our own mythologies of liberation, rather than relying on the detritus of Christianity and the Enlightenment.

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3 Responses to To Profess Progress

  1. iconoclasta says:

    as an individualist eclectic anarchist I find these actions of sabotage of unwise sacrifice. There are too many jailed people for doing this things and I really don´t think it is worth it so I can only suggest those getting too much inside this thing to love themselves more. On a related topic I think anarcho-primitivism is an anarchist position but nevertheless one too fixated on the technology thing and I tend to agree that it idealizes pre agricutural life. Nevertheless I am an anti-development person because all these growth thing is focused on keeping this machinery of consumerism, environmental destruction and overworked humans. This is why I think it is wiser and more fun attempting to join other individuals in Temporary Autonomous Zones as Hakim Bey says and creating interesting situations rather that trying to teach a lesson to the masses or thinking one or a few people can sabotage in a significant way the current social machinery.

    • inpraiseofchaos says:

      while maybe the actions they did are not wise in the sense that its not strategic for the aim of destroying civilization, but they make sense if one looks at the history of Individualist Anarchists (especially Egoist Anarchism). Its a History of taking back ones life by living in conflict with the world they despise, one sees this in the lives of Renzo Novatore, Bruno Filippi, the Illegalists (most famously the Bonnot Gang), among others. Obviously living in conflict with the world they despised was risky and one sees this by looking at the fate of those that lived this way. They were either arrested and then later executed, accidentally killed by their own bomb, or died in a shoot out with the police. To say they were self sacrificial or that they didn’t love them selves enough is absurd, saying that would be like saying that doing anything conflictual with this world is self sacrificial and that also means you don’t love yourself enough as doing so you run the risk of going to jail or being killed (your TAZ’s would be no different as they would also be conflictual with the world in which we live and thus they would be risky). I don’t see how their actions were self sacrificial at all, it seems to me that their actions life affirming, they were after all taking back their lives. They also seemed to have loved themselves enough as well, as they cared enough to take their lives (they could have submitted to the world around them). I also don’t think that these Individualists tending toward the wild are trying to teach the masses a lesson, nor are they claiming that they can sabotage civilization in any significant way (in fact their targets were the specific individuals not the institutions themselves), but i would say that they are interested in getting revenge by bombing these individuals (in similar vein as Bruno Filippi ). When I think of how self sacrificial is usually used, it seems to indicate that one is throwing away their lives for some external cause, basically not living for themselves, examples of this are obviously when Buddhist monks and other various people self immolate themselves or Islamic Terrorists or other types of Terrorists that use the tactic of suicide bombing. Also one can say that one is being self-sacrificial when one is not living for ones self, but living for some external cause (like god, the State, or the masses for example). your criticism of such actions sounds familiar to me, I think we may have had an exchange on Anarchist News at some point. if you are the same person, i will respond to your concern that we were making such actions heroic and thus elevating them to being a hero. While i find that their lives are inspiring to me in many ways, i do not hold them up to the level of hero, nor an ideal to be emulated, its just that I find their lives interesting and in some ways influential to me.

      • iconoclasta says:

        an old debate within individualist circles. In this article by french individualist Emile Armand while he finds symphathy and solidarity with illegalists, nevertheless he exposes similar criticisms such as mine as well as other good points. Émile Armand
        Is the Illegalist Anarchist our Comrade? http://www.theanarchistlibrary.org/HTML/Emile_Armand__Is_the_Illegalist_Anarchist_our_Comrade_.html Nevertheless Armand himself spent 3 years in jail for helping someone escape military service.

        Now of course there is a difference between illegalists and those who do actions such as those of sabotage out of ecologist concerns. Illegalists engaged in theft and scams in order to obtains means of personal survival and in a lot of cases they were young working class people not too different from people of similar social backgrounds who now engage in crime without political motivations. The second case is of people doing things out of personal ideals. So there is a difference between for example mapuche indians in chile burning a building of a wood company who is going to displace them from their lands and an US middle class person who tries to burn a place of scientific experimentation with animals. I find the first case more justified as far as personal action while in the second case campaigning would be wiser.

        Also i am not a pacifist but methods of non-violent civil dissobedience have an advantage over violent actions in the way that they at most can cost you a few days in jail while arson and bombs can cost you years adding also the risk of injuring innocent people such as someone who was just doing a cleaning service or a security guard who didn´t have more options in life than having that horrible job or a passerby. Of course in a case of insurrection it is easier to do things like burning a police station, bombs and things like that and it seems to me in that case it is more justified as far as being a part of mass action. If I was in London in the recent riots, you could have definitely expected me having obtained a laptop or something like that but in a different situation I really don´t want to risk years of jail time for a stupid laptop so If i could will steal it in a safe easy situation such as from an office with poor security.

        In the end i think one has to be wise. I don´t think it is wise to spend time in jail because of an excess of altruism or because of an excess of self confidence in one´s toughness. Armand in the previously mentioned essays brings out an interesting point to consider: “it must still be pointed out that in order to be seriously practiced illegalism demands a strongly tempered temperament, a sureness of oneself that doesn’t belong to everyone. As with all experiences in anarchist life that don’t march in step with the routines of daily existence, it is to be feared that the practices of illegalist anarchism take over the will and the thought of the illegalist to such an extent that it renders him incapable of any other activity, any other attitude.”

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