I'm hesitant to engage in these debates with much vigor as I question what value will result, but nonetheless I feel compelled to contribute. So, in the tradition of railing against binaries........ I still feel as though these debates are largely predicated upon a very narrow definition of the terms which prohibits us from considering what is actually valuable or productive about these different projects/practices.Look, sure, sure, we can concede that all words always only provisionally corral the play of signifiers into contingent salience in the service of certain values -- scientific (prediction and control, say), moral (belonging, say), political (stakeholder reconciliation, say), and so on, just as we can concede that distinctions are always actually a bit ambivalent, some of them plenty ambivalent, and that the pretense otherwise usually polices hierarchies into play that seduce academicians into becoming deconstructionists and so on.
For example, I don't see the importance of a claim to 'nonviolence', but rather see the necessity of maintaining a sharp criticality when we do decide to engage in violence, as well as when others do. I believe that you're not a utopian, and I know that you know that systems of governance will also always be in the business of distributing violence in some way. The question, I believe, is doing so in the most transparent and accountable way possible, to ensure that whatever practices of necessary violence that remain are just. In summary, it's never a question of if we are violent or not, but rather how accountable we make ourselves to others in this process and relationship. How is it productive to place an off and on switch on something which is ongoing and is a necessary part of being in the world?
Furthermore, the (false) dichotomy between anarchism and democracy seems even less productive. We can certainly point to many examples of anarchism-in-practice and democracy-in-practice which would be both ideal and indistinguishable. We can also point to abhorrent examples of each which we would not like to associate with. Why appeal to simplistic oppositions when we can instead talk about what each tradition offers us in our own participation and thought. It seems as even if we were to maintain the binary as a foil of sorts, we would still be in a situation where each position doth protest too much about the other. The antiauthoritarian and anticapitalist traditions of anarchism can be quite potent, as can the traditions of transparency, horizontalism and accountability within democracy.
Perhaps this position is the result of my own theoretical biases, but I truly believe we have more to gain from the play and flexibility of these terms than we do in their simple opposition.
P.S. -- it seems a coalitional politics would necessitate an open negotiation, flexibility and criticality when making use of these contested terms. --i
But we are using words on the assumption that something like communication is happening here, and when I am using the word "nonviolence" I am using a word that means something roughly communicable and worthy of attention, and while I am happy to concede a whole lot of wiggle room as to the precise set of actual or logically possible events that I would describe as violent ones as against my hunch about which ones people in general would describe as violent, just as I would concede the same in every instance of language use, and yet I think we can concede this and still agree most of the time such assignments are quite possible and so urgently necessary.
So, I agree with plenty of your nuances, but I am incredibly far from conceding your point "it's never a question of if we are violent or not, but rather how accountable we make ourselves to others in this process and relationship." Never? I don't believe that, and to be honest I don't believe you really believe that either.
Earlier in your response you make this point, that goes more to the substance here (at least I think so): "I know that you know that systems of governance will also always be in the business of distributing violence in some way." Yes, of course. I think this goes without saying but I do repeatedly also say it. But as I also repeatedly say, violence both precedes and exceeds the state. This means that the point that matters to me is that it is far from true that only states are in this business of "distributing violence" as you say, but also that it is for me far from true that this business of "distributing violence" is the most structurally predominate, essential, or exhaustive business of states. To say otherwise -- which anarchisms indeed do, essentially, relentlessly -- is to be importantly wrong, wrong in ways that can generate a prejudicial take and selective focus on governmental administration and election processes and foci of political campaigns and so on that are profoundly skewed, and this does matter to me.
I honestly don't know what you are talking about when you speak of "anarchism-in-practice" that is indistinguishable from "democracy-in-practice" -- an unplanned party among friends? the emergence of mafiya warlords in the streets of a Russian city in the vacuum of the fall of the Soviet government? Occupy's People's Mic? There is debatable substance here, but to review the way I have been talking about these issues hitherto, on the one hand, dance parties are neither sustainable nor scalable enough to justify those who want to smash the state, and on the other hand, I think democracy is just the idea that people should have a say in the public decisions that affect them (including sometimes decisions about who are the people, what is the public, what is a decision, and so on) and that there IS no democratic eidos at which we are aiming but an interminable process of democratization in which we struggle to enable ever more people to have ever more of a say in ever more of the public decisions that affect them involving institutional experimentation but also, crucially, heartbreaking compromised struggles for reform in the belly of the beast of the status quo.
"How is it productive to place an off and on switch on something which is ongoing and is a necessary part of being in the world?" Many left anarchists at this very moment think it is better not to vote even though that is one among many real tools at their disposal to yield outcomes closer, in some instances only marginally, to the ones they themselves incessantly claim to cherish, while many right anarchists at this very moment think we would all be better off dismantling government altogether so that spontaneous market orders indistinguishable from a feudal warlordism they denominate liberty will emerge. If your "on and off switch" refers to the usefulness of these words to help grasp the not at all false distinction that yields these structurally complementary idiocies provoked by the facile fantasy of a spontaneous order that trumps the impasses of stakeholder politics, then I disagree with you -- if your "on and off switch" reminds us not to fetishize a distinction as leaky in inopportune moments as most distinctions are, even the useful ones, then I agree with you, but I think the point is something of a tail wagging the dog.
I hope this response justified your effort in proposing your intervention, and that you don't think I am merely being flippant in engaging you.
Re: your PS, definitely yes. See Carl Rogers and the rhetorical model of argumentation model inspired by his mediation strategies called "Rogerian Synthesis" (which I -- alone! -- teach at Cal in the Rhetoric Department as part of my Rhet 10: Rhetoric of Argumentation core course).