"...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

Nov 13, 2010

No Voluntary Hierarchy

 JRB is simply wrong.

This is not a matter of opinion.

If the participants of a game, role or play can walk away at any point, and suffer no consequences, and meet no restraint, you do not have power. If they are not bound by ranks, and forced to conform to the roles and rules of those ranks, you do not have a hierarchy.

If they cannot walk away at any point, or face punishment if they do, you have power. If they are ordered into ranks which are enforceable, you have a hierarchy.

There is no hierarchy anywhere that does not depend upon enforcement. I challenge you to demonstrate even one.

Just one.

The hier-archy has ranks. It it doesn't have ranks, it isn't a hierarchy. If you want to discuss a set of relations where people pretend, play or consent to act out dominance and submission, call it that. Call it what it is: role playing.

But don't call it hierarchy. A hier (sacred) archy (power, ruler) sacralizes an order of rank. Its existence demands the ranking of persons, depending upon the obedience of the below to the orders of the above, on obedience and fidelity to the order of ranks itself.


Anonymous said...

Agree with you here.

What was up with that drubbing people were handing you at Caruso's?

Even those who say they aren't pedantic about Political Correctness seem to hew pretty close to its theme, don't they?

Jack Crow said...

I think it was honestly a misunderstanding, at Distant Ocean.

I think they saw the argument they wanted to see, not the one I was actually making.



Randal Graves said...

Just one?

Care Bear Land. You think Happy Bear ever clocks Smiley Bear on the jaw for not taking out the trash? C'mon.

If I may be serious for a moment - ouch, that hurts - I see what JBR was trying to say (the sentiment, anyway), but I agree with you fine gents.

Word verification: burito. I've never gotten an almost-real word before.

Jack Crow said...


From even my own perspective, I'm nitpicking the hell out of two words (hierarchy and power).

But, I think it's really important to avoid excusing power by giving the word benign meanings it doesn't deserve. There are plenty of words which already cover "consent," "role playing," "dominance and submission games," and "voluntary rule making."

I see no reason to rehabilitate the word "rape," either - if that adds some perspective.



Jack Crow said...

And I'd also really like to see a single example of a hierarchy which is somehow divorced (and free) from the exercise of punishment, control and enforcement.

I can think of no hierarchy which exists without enforcing the ranks which comprise it.

JRB said...

How about the Zapatistas? They have a military apparatus which exists by the consent of the community, which is hierarchical -- not egalitarian -- in form.

It's a hierarchy with disciplinary functions, not unlike a state. And it's legitimated by the community.

Plenty of examples of exactly this sort of thing in life, sometimes for good reasons, but the issue is always one of legitimacy.

Maybe for you that isn't really a hierarchy, or forms some exception to your otherwise "universal" rule. I'm comfortable applying mine to any relationship.

Jack Crow said...

1. You believe in the social contract, JRB? An answer to this might help clarify your treatment "power" as if it isn't always followed by the word "over." It might also help me understand what you mean by "community."

2. What is the community? Who constitutes its members? What happens if a single person dissents? Does "the community" still exist? Is the dissenter bound by the orders or decisions of the military wing, even if that dissenter never agreed to constitute an armed force, to start?

3. I'm not dealing in "egalitarian" concepts. Nor am I using egalitarianism as a template. I am stating over and over again that there is no hierarchy which exists without (a) ranks and (b) people who give orders which must be obeyed.

4. What is the consent you speak of? How does it operate in any environment where unanimity does not obtain?

5. Isn't a military apparatus by execution, constitution and definition an agency of compulsion and force? How can a military apparatus, once constituted, actually exist by consent, since its organization depends ultimately upon obedience?

6. What is this legitimacy of which you speak? You rely on it a lot. How can anarchist honestly speak of legitimacy - the "making by law" - and still be an anarchist? Do you see why I think terms matter, in that light?

What happens to this "legitimacy" if "the community" has members who don't accept it? How can something be legitimate for those members of a community who never agreed to it? What determines this "legitimacy" if its possible to dissent from its object and yet the object is still brought into existence?

What are the limits to this community, if any? Is it an entity which exists beyond the scope of its constituent parts? Is it an actual thing, or merely a word used to describe a non-fixed set of social conditions? If it's the latter, how can it actually give consent or confer legitimacy? If it's the former, how can a person be a member of it and still dissent?



JRB said...

Holy moly.

It's a hierarchy, dude. And it has their consent.

Jack Crow said...

First, I wrote:

"There is no hierarchy anywhere that does not depend upon enforcement. I challenge you to demonstrate even one."

Assuming for a moment that "the community" (which you leave nebulous and ill defined) gives its (somehow and magical) unanimous consent - you still have not demonstrated that the military wing of it the does not depend upon enforcement. [And how does an anarchist community have a military in the first place?]

All you've done is state that a hierarchy exists and that some community gave it "consent."


I also find it truly telling that an anarchist - any anarchist - would argue for a hierarchy, any hierarchy.

The an- ought to negate the -archy, no?