"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

May 26, 2010

The State As Theater

I don't hold any stock in reformism. I see no point in dressing up the windows of the shopkeeper's palace, on the off chance that his workers will feel even momentarily better about their submission, on account of promises of rainbows and a sunny tomorrow.

I see no point in more-better bureaucrats, tasked with saving the rest of us from ourselves while they ignore the ridiculously obvious - that the state does not serve "the people" because it cannot serve "the people." The state makes subjects of persons. It demands first their submission to its violence, or the threat of violence. That coercive order of things premises the entire rationale of the state.

No state exits, or can exist, without armed enforcers.

People who cooperate towards some end, without coercion, without the threat of violence, without the explicit sanction of punishment - these people do the politically economic opposite of forming a state.

Perhaps, as Spartacus suggests, they can retain organizations which don't become consumed in the logic of their own preservation. Perhaps not.

That really doesn't concern me here.

I spent most of yesterday afternoon watching professional liberals stage mock trials of so-called Obama failures, on MSNBC. They set up Obama, BP and various state and local poobahs for criticism, only to drag in "experts" who then exonerated them.

Classic shit.

Synopsis: What can Obama do, really? Make more speeches? Attack BP more vociferously? Prosecute BP, Transocean or Halliburton executives? Get out ahead of the problem? Do the "proactive" thing? Find a scapegoat? Offer up Salazar's title, his proverbial (but never his actual) head?

Yep. They concluded each segment with a demand that Obama do more...


The commentariat, the esteemed political class, thinks that the way to handle rising anger and disaffection, the method which best suits American conditions, works as nothing more than performance art.

They do not err.

The power of the state depends upon violence. No doubt. But its operation, its day to day purpose, follows from a different logic. The liberal capitalist state needs adversaries. It needs the appearance of enemies. And yes, most conservatives fall squarely in the liberal tradition. They may want fewer brown people around, or more talky talky about Jesus, or less authority for uppity women - but we're not talking monarchists and actual falangists.

Not yet, at least.

The liberal state requires illiberal enemies. Caricature Muslims work. Or Chinese politburocrats. Or Russian mobsters. Or a Mexican narcotics principate.

It needs misdirection, it needs the performance to cover its multitude of necessary sins.

And BP, like Exxon before it, does not fit the bill. It cannot fit the bill.

Why, Jack, why?

For the same reason that Halliburton, Goldman Sachs, Walmart, McDonnell-Douglass-Boeing-Whatever, GE, MSNBC, Viacom, Disney, SAIC and Archer Daniels Midland will never fit the bill.

Because they own the theater itself. Or they pay for the price of admission, as generous sponsors.

So look, over the next week, for a whole lot of redirection towards:

North Korea.

If that happens...aw, hell - when that happens, please remember that Obama will follow up that sideshow with oil related reformism.

And it will resemble exactly that which happened to health insurance reform, financial regulation reform and the current debate about immigration reform. It will look a lot like theater, used to cover more piracy of the commons, more depression of real wages, more consolidation of power in the executive - because theater it goddamned is.

That state needs violence, yes.

But it also needs this sort of theater.

When we stop buying tickets, and stop worrying batons and bullets, well - they'll drop "reform" right quick, and show us clearly the purpose of the liberal capitalist state - to protect liberal capitalist property and liberal capitalist power.

So I say, "fuck it."

Let's up the ante and kick the fuck in.

UPDATE:  Lambert on Booman's demand that Obama do some theater.


Jay Taber said...

I put together a reading list http://skookumgeoduck.blogspot.com/2005/06/recommended-reading.html a while back, consistent with this philosophy. When I spoke about useful organizations, I was talking about cooperative associations engaged in dispersing power.

In Europe, the movement to decentralize control of social needs from states to nations is transforming the Celtic nations, Basque country, and Cataluna. In Canada, Northern Ireland and the Andes, first nations are revolutionizing society. Allying with the principles of this indigenous resurgence is one way to create a more democratic world.

How we go about devolution in the US is yet to be determined, but we will need community-based political organizations to do it.

Jack Crow said...


I understand your focus. I think in the right hands, especially ones which have a whole lot of active participation, an organization might function usefully for a specific period of time.

I'm just not confident of the durability of the "right hands."

My issue isn't organizing. It's organization.