The recent political scene of the West can be seen as the growth of fragmentation of nationality, social identity and the political collectivity. The most obvious events come to mind: Trump, Brexit, the Gilets Jaunes and other currents of populist fervour. However these events have greater lineages than is supposed in most media narratives. The tribalism present in modern politics and the ideological variation are built from blocks made during the fall of mass parties and the increasing relevance of policy automaticity and the growth of life politics. A politics of antagonism has built itself upon infrastructure of political disengagement and senses of consensus. Continue reading
The libertarian political goal is dead. The achievement of a small state, so small that you could drown it in the bath, is never going to be achieved in pluralistic democracies that favour particular groups of lobbyists, tribes or social movements. Each of these groups will increasingly desire patronage and a seat at the table, increasing the complexity of decision-making and the distribution of resources which in turn increases the scope of the state and its organisational nexus. A small state then is impossible unless coercive structures are in place to limit its growth, thus making the ideal of a small state redundant.
“The tribal form, at its best, embodies high ideals about how a society should be organized and how people should treat each other”. The tribe is the ur-form of the human socius, becoming the building blocks of further governmental assemblages as human societies increased in complexity and scale to encompass different forms of order, from kingdoms and empires to feudal suzerainties to constitutional states and liberal democracies. However, as systems evolved and concatenated, the tribal form remained as an essential presence amongst more complex elements. The language of governance still holds sway to notions of fraternity, affinity and the centrality of councils for discussion and dissemination. While the modes for these forms have been largely de-ethnicised and scaled away from kinship groups toward complex levels of decision-making, the notion remains of maintaining common bonds around bordered and segmented spatio-temporal series. Continue reading
The concept of a free labour market, or even markets freed from the grips of wage labour in some significant manner, is conceptualised in much left-libertarian thinking as the development of truly freed markets. Writers such as Kevin Carson and Eugene Holland posit a postcapitalist concept of markets that have distinctively non-Polanyian features (i.e. removing labour, money and land from circuits of exchange), instead having sets of independent producers engaging in voluntaryistic commerce along the lines of selling their wares on the market for simple profit. “In a society where most people own the roofs over their heads and can meet a major part of their subsistence needs through home production, workers who own the tools of their trade can afford to ride out periods of slow business, and to be somewhat choosy in waiting to contract out to the projects most suited to their preference”. Throughout much of Feudal Europe such a conception held sway for long periods as much of the peasantry had access to lands and tools that allowed them to self-provision in a very simple division of labour. However even during this period it was subject to strong regulatory forces through forms of serfdom, land tenure and labour provisioning that limited peasant movement. While certainly not fully akin to capitalist wage labour, these shared obligations were contractual (in a loose sense) and required the limitation of full freedom as posited in left-libertarian ideologies. Continue reading
The Libertarian Ideal (with Chris Shaw): a podcast I did with Frederic Voltaire Bastiat discussing critiques of libertarianism and my ideas of post-libertarianism.
In this podcast I discuss theories of state formation, critiquing the conquest theory of the state that is proffered by Rothbard, Oppenheimer and Nock. I propose that state formation is instead more complex, incorporating cooperative as well as coercive methods which are facilitated by increasing socio-political complexity. I further note that states have facilitated technological development and created infrastructure for economic structures that libertarians see as anti or non-state (i.e. markets, money, innovation, etc.) and that states cannot be viewed as unitary forms, but are instead heterogeneous structures that are part of wider societal assemblages that combine and conflict along contextual lines. Continue reading
My original essay defining delineations that make up and inform the libertarian ideal as I see it set out critiques of the libertarian position on markets in relation to modern capitalism. I noted that libertarians played a paradoxical game similar to socialist claims of real socialism never existing. In this case, libertarianism wanted to claim the benefits of modern capitalism (technological development, increasing life expectancy, better choices in marketplaces, etc.) while removing any statist baggage that sullied the waters. Thus capitalism and the progenation of markets were placed in an ideological vacuum that removed them from historical context. I further critiqued the libertarian reliance on abstract axioms, primarily the non-aggression and self-ownership principles, which further removed economic exchange and political development from historical reality. Continue reading
Basic income is far too often framed in a confusing manner, presented as both a simple policy proposal with particular effects and as a fully realisable political imaginary that encapsulates a development upon the existing political economy. It is conceived as both a landscape for governance and a particular node within this landscape. In doing this, proponents want it to be a hegemonic vision encompassing a world without work and a set of labour relations radically different to those figured today as well as a narrowly focused distribuendum that is prefigurable to currently-existing institutions and ideologies. The framing of basic income, as revolutionary yet simplistic, is confused and altogether difficult to parse when considering the potential of its wide-ranging effects. Continue reading
Leviathan is the accomplishment of the totality, the sublimation into the monadic drive. The sum of its oppositions spread outwards into the stratosphere, escaping from and then re-conquering the jungle from which it came. The war of all against all is driven upwards, to the bounds of national sovereignty and the slow elimination of the borderlands. The subject is made the state, as the state itself becomes all-encompassing, mythologising it’s everlasting quality as a foundational axiom. It developed because it needed to be developed, tautologically justifying itself as a result of the condition of brute human nature. However, with its tentacles spreading ever further, it reaches the point of contradiction. In subsuming the antagonisms of society at large, it either accepts these as an existing framework for debate and conflict (thereby creating in itself the means to be wrought open), or makes itself increasingly totalitarian in its imaginations. All conceptualities come under its gaze in the latter formation, leading to a “commonwealth itself” becoming “a ‘demonic machine’, a tremendous enthusiasm mobilised against every other”. The rationalist philosophy of Hobbes must take on the character of ideological totality, and thus in internalising conflictual patterns into its mythology must either let them fester (thus picking away at the initial wound) or externalise them as the enemy outside of its purview, to be removed. Continue reading
I recently joined Todd Lewis on his Praise of Folly podcast (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_NktIJ2maM) to discuss the current state of libertarianism and anarchism as well as his essay critiquing those positions, Contra the Self-Ownership Principle: The Nightmare of Libertopia.
This is a comment I wrote on a planning application within my local area which outlines my opposition to this development and why in general city councils like Coventry still have much room for potential developments in decentralised planning and the creation of new economies of scale, yet show their status quo bias when allowing planning applications like the one pushed through:
Apart from the effective removal of CT Furniture, another community charitable institution, from the area (it may move elsewhere), the increasing move toward developing and encouraging student accommodation above and beyond either productive economic capacity or affordable housing for the local population (of which this planning application is a part of) shows the short-termism of council planning, focusing on the here and now of student consumer spending over other long-term considerations. Continue reading