Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Why I Want to Democratize the State Rather than Smash It

I. Violence Is Ineradicable in Plurality

(a) There will always be an uneven historical development and unequal material distribution of resources, capacities, information, and luck.

(b) The relative beneficiaries of these unequal distributions will have strong reason to maintain and consolidate their hold on these benefits.

(c) It is always possible and usually easy for human actors to retrospectively rationalize misconduct that serves what they take to be their interests.

From all the above, there will be an irresistible tendency in any given social order to make recourse to violence and deception to maintain and consolidate its contingent terms, especially on the part of its imagined beneficiaries.

State apparatuses arise out of the violence inhering in plurality, sometimes expressing and facilitating it, sometimes resisting and ameliorating it.

II. The Necessity (and Impossibility) of Legitimate Violence

In his immensely influential essay “Politics as a Vocation,” Max Weber proposed a definition of the state that has assumed foundational force in especially North Atlantic political thought. For Weber, the state is the constellation of institutions and organizations definitively empowered by a monopoly on the legitimate recourse to coercion to maintain a given social order within a particular territory under specified conditions.

Needless to say, in almost every historical instance hitherto states have deployed their putatively “legitimate” coercion in the service of established interests and privileged elites.

In proper democracies, to the contrary,

(a) states deploy coercion legitimately always only to frustrate its illegitimate deployment in the commission of violent crimes, the infliction of duress, the commission of fraud, or in the violent adjudication of disputes

(aa) or maintain the adequate appearance of doing so;

(b) states deploy coercion in ways that comport always with the consent of majorities of the governed

(ba) or maintain the adequate appearance of doing so; and

(c) states maintain social order in ways which conspicuously facilitate the achievement of general health, welfare, and security through the administration of public interests, the regulation of commerce, and the fairest distribution of the costs, risks, and benefits of technoscientific development to all its stakeholders

(ca) or maintain the adequate appearance of doing so.

III. End-Point or Starting Point?

Anyone of an anti-authoritarian bent will note the conspicuous vulnerability to devastating abuse inherent in this institutional legitimization of coercion.

(a) This recognition is pretty much the starting point for mature democratic political thinking.

(b) Typically, this recognition is the end-point for conservative and facile libertarian political thinking, or, more to the point,

(ba) the insistent re-assertion of this recognition provides the characteristic and in fact indispensable gesture for the ongoing project of anti-democratic rationalization that passes for conservative and libertarian political thinking.


Black guy from the future past said...

I hate to be blunt and or crass, but anarchists REALLY need to read this shit!

Dale Carrico said...

Thanks, I appreciate it.