A - I n f o s
a multi-lingual news service by, for, and about anarchists **

News in all languages
Last 40 posts (Homepage) Last two weeks' posts

The last 100 posts, according to language
Castellano_ Deutsch_ Nederlands_ English_ Français_ Italiano_ Polski_ Português_ Russkyi_ Suomi_ Svenska_ Türkçe_ The.Supplement
First few lines of all posts of last 24 hours || of past 30 days | of 2002 | of 2003 | of 2004 | of 2005

Syndication Of A-Infos - including RDF | How to Syndicate A-Infos
Subscribe to the a-infos newsgroups
{Info on A-Infos}

(en) ANARCHO-SYNDICALIST REVIEW #41, Summer, 2005 - On the ascendancy of the State

Date Wed, 07 Sep 2005 08:44:18 +0300

Notes for a libertarian critical theory of state power by Oscar Mazzoleni
(La Question Sociale #1, Spring/Summer 2004) Translation by Mike Hargis
In the recent debate on globalization the question of the state has been
reduced to its economic dimension (deregulation of national markets and
consequent crisis of state intervention, etc.) or a crisis of national
identity. This is a 'partial conception and reductive of the role played by
the state in contemporary capitalism. If we want to create the basis for a
renewed libertarian critical theory, we have to take seriously into account
the fact that the state is a fetish that dominates our daily life and our
way of thinking, often understood as such by those who become radically
hostile to the world as it is, which, through its procedures (individual)
and its tools (disciplinary), insinuates itself in all sorts of ways into
the daily life of every individual. In other words, the state is not only
the holder of the instruments of repression (police, prisons), nor is it the
simple regulator of the economy and guarantor of "national unity" Analyses
that present a crisis of the Keynesian state as a crisis of the nation state
have to be viewed with reservations, because the state is also a "mediating"
power, a powerful machine that penetrates the smallest recesses of our
lives. In order to confront it, it is necessary to begin by attempting to
unmask the dynamics and the mechanisms, and, above all, to understand the
reasons for its expansion.

These reflections, which are provisional and subject to eventual amendment
and revision, are the result of a two-fold task: on one hand, to contribute
to laying bare the logic of the state; on the other, to show how, in
contemporary societies, and notably those of advanced capitalism, this logic
is so well imposed at every level as to be no longer the object of critique
and conflict--it has become such a part of the landscape as to appear
"natural." At the same time, I will deal with the inability of the "movement
of movements" to face up to the logic of the state.

The State and Capitalism

To begin with, I want to develop the following points: 1. The logic of the
state plays an integral role in the development of capitalism. Between the
logic of the state and the logic of capitalism there is no simple
opposition, but an alliance in the difference. And the point of contact
between the two is less one of economic order than
political-anthropological: the state responds or attempts to respond to the
need for security (daily, symbolic and material) produced by a capitalism
that pursues a logic of permanent transformation of economic, social and
cultural conditions. This double logic together converges in the same combat
against the forms of antagonistic solidarity that they themselves help to
create. 2. In recent decades the logic of the state has been reinforced in
advanced capitalist countries, in relation to the crisis of social ties
(themselves tied to the crisis of Fordism and of the workers movement) and
with the development of a "diffuse state" capable of adapting itself to the
challenge of flexible accumulation.

The Logic of the State

What is the logic of the state? It can be defined as the domination of the
bureaucratic-administrative hierarchy over the life of individuals. In its
full expression, this logic supposes obedience, discipline, dependence of
the individuals and collectivities that are subject to it. One can speak of
full internalization of the logic of the state when the functions carried
out by the state are considered as "natural" and assumed as such by the
individual. The history of the last two centuries could be interpreted as a
struggle for the hegemony of the logic of the state in all the spheres of
individual and collective life.

Why respond loyally to the injunction of the state? In a general way, this
loyalty has two faces: it can result from an action, and as such it is
"objective," or from an attitude of passivity or of acquiescence towards the
exercise of state authority recognized as such. Insubordination, once
recognized by the Constitution, figures in the first case. The fact of
accepting the authority of an agent, which can pin an infringement on you,
in the second. But does obedience to specific measures concerning the
exercise of state power not suppose something more profound? What is the
basis for obedience?

To this question Thomas Hobbes gives a very clear, and, frankly, cynical,
answer: it is the common interest in self-preservation and individual
security. The state can successfully take for itself the monopoly of
legitimate violence (Weber), because this legitimacy, more or less
conscious, is recognized by the majority of individuals within a given
territory. The struggle for the hegemony of the logic of the state, a key
moment in the development of modern society, marks therefore a decisive
point. The state became an essential element in a response to people's
desire for security, and found in the face of those feelings a willingness
to obey.

Insecurity, Historicity, Solidarity

Hobbes's ideal is a peaceful society where individuals surrender their
freedom to the state in exchange for security. Outside of the state, there
are no means of escaping the war of all against all inherent in a state of
nature. For Hobbes, the state and society are one and the same thing: both
were born out of a fear of death, of a "desire for things necessary for a
comfortable life," then of the need for defense against the violent passions
of others . Hobbes begins from individualist presuppositions in order to end
up with radically collectivist conclusions. Put another way, the
internalization of the state, the full respect "offered" to the sovereign
state, would be the condition for a collective existence pursued by
individuals corresponding to their own interests.

This conception has been the subject of multiple critiques, and it is not
our intention to review them here. Let us move on to the illusion of the
idea of a peaceful society, and content ourselves by remarking that in
conflating the state and society, Hobbes excludes the existence of
"security" without the alienation of liberty to an exterior organ and a
procedure that demands obedience. There are those who dream of giving birth
to, or recovering, the forms of organized solidarity that reconcile
themselves, beginning with liberty and individual autonomy, and that furnish
a direct response to the need for security and self-preservation. More
generally, the atomized and egoistic individual of Hobbes is not allowed to
consider historicity or the several degrees of intensity and forms of the
need for security.

The feeling of insecurity is not a natural phenomenon, contrary to what
Hobbes affirms. It is the product of historic conditions (habitat, etc.), of
degrees of social dislocation, of levels of danger, of types of organisms or
collectivities that co-existed (family, etc.) or collided (antagonistic
workers movement) with the state. Besides, to adopt a fundamental criticism
of Hobbes advanced by Foucault, individual obedience is not simply a matter
of a voluntary act; it is the product of the regimentation and subjugation
imposed by diverse apparatuses of power. Let us not forget that, since the
19th Century, western history has been profoundly marked by the struggle
that saw the imposition of the state as the principle, almost exclusive,
referent in the search for an answer to the sense of insecurity of
individuals and whole societies submitted to the expansion of capitalist
social relations. Between capitalist expansion (and the "capitalist war of
all against all") and the "need" for the state, there is a fundamental link.
From this point of view, Hobbes, despite his limits, furnishes us with a key
means of understanding the reasons, certainly partial, for the spread of the
logic of the state.

Insecurity in modem capitalism

and the role of the state

In the 17th Century, when Hobbes wrote his Leviathan, the process of
formation of the modern state was just beginning, and capitalism had not yet
entered its industrial phase. Now we know that the construction of the
state's juridical machinery was the indispensable condition for the growth
and expansion of capitalism. Without the constitution of solid national
states, capitalism would not have been able to ensure the conditions of
security for trade and property in the means of production that it required.
If the state favors the emergence of capitalism, the expansion of capitalism
reinforces the legitimacy of the state, and not only among the holders of
the means of production. By its very nature, capitalism produces increasing
social insecurity. The need for security engendered by the social and
cultural upheavals provoked by the profound transformations of the modern
world, and notably the development of the capitalist mode of production,
creates the conditions for a solid internalization of the logic of the

The capitalist mode of production reproduces itself by constantly putting on
trial its own conditions for functioning (the pressure-cooker of the
productive forces, wrote Marx, means that "all that is solid becomes air").
Social uncertainty and the need for security are reinforced to the extent
that the expansion of capitalism destroys the traditional bases of
solidarity (rural communities, family, etc.) and calls into question the
safety nets it helped create in certain phases (such as forms of worker
solidarity, thrown into crisis by the crisis of Fordism). And it is to the
state and its logic that one looks for "reassurance," at the same time that
capitalism is multiplying the sources of insecurity by destroying the social
ties that formed the tradition basis of solidarity.

The success of the logic of the state does not flow from a metaphysical
necessity; it has material foundations that are in good measure the
conditions of insecurity produced by capitalism. From this comes the link
between the state and capitalism--strong links, despite the logic of
different parts. It is the key that allows us to understand why the state is
so successful in imposing its hegemony, in a logic capable of integrating
the development of the capitalist mode of production and of substituting
itself for other forms or institutions that once guaranteed solidarity among
individuals. It is not an accident that in advanced capitalist societies,
the concept of "solidarity" tends, in common language, to slide toward that
of "security"--and it would be an error not to see its effect on neo-liberal

The Modern Machinery of Subjugation: Between Capitalism and the State

The logic of the state and that of capitalism are contiguous and in
agreement, both founded on the development of ways and means of social
control designed to subject the individual. There is a double dialectic at
work here: institutionalization of instruments of control, of rules, of
forms of subjection of bodies, as the studies of Foucault have admirably
described on the one hand; and more or less subjective, more or less
intense, acceptance of the state, not reducible to a "structural effect," on
the other. This acceptance of the logic of the state comes through two
channels: one is unconscious and affective, the other, rational and
cognitive. The fact of acceptance, of making certain gestures that are the
concrete expression of the logic of the state (paying taxes, walking on the
sidewalk and not on the grass, as prescribed by law, etc.) is explained also
by usage or custom ("it's normal"), by taking into account a cost-benefit
analysis ("if people don't pay their taxes, how will public hospitals be
funded and how will the police, who protect us from crooks, be paid?").

In contrast to pre-capitalist and pre-industrial societies, modern
capitalism developed by putting in place a number of "apparatuses" that
favored the hegemony of the logic of the state in shaping the mentalities of
western countries in the course of the 20th Century, and notably between
1910-1960. It developed:

1. obligatory military service, as a means of regimenting the masses; the
condition for modern nationalist war, it allows the mobilization of the
proletarian masses under the national banner;

2. factory discipline, Taylorism in particular, that spreads military
discipline to the organization of labor and the production of goods;

3. modern bureaucracy in its administrative apparatus of the state, which
multiplies the "administrative connections" in daily life;

4. the welfare state, which is not only a bureaucratic apparatus, but also a
means of intervening into the body of society in a subtle way; at once
"protector" state and guarantor of the "social security" In brief, the
military, the Taylorist-Fordist enterprise, the bureaucracy and the social
state, articulated in a complex fashion the same project of the formation of
modern society. The result is the consolidation of the logic of the state in
contemporary society. These apparatuses have also contributed, thanks to the
wellsprings that are social recognition, fear, interest, in a word, the need
for security (material and existential), to extort or convince everyone of
the need for obedience and subjection.

The role played by the bureaucracy in this framework merits underlining. In
consolidating itself, the bureaucracy transforms relations between state and
"subjects"; from a binary vision (sovereign-subject) to a tertiary vision
(sovereign-administrative apparatus-subject), where the strength and
stability of the state and its apparatus "is not measured by the efficiency
and legitimacy of the top, but in the diffuse character of control of
behavior at the base." One cannot understand the role of the state in
contemporary society without taking this fundamental transformation into
consideration, premised on the association of the development of the
bureaucracy and the forms of discipline and enlistment produced by the
military and the Fordist-Taylorist enterprise.

Crisis of Fordism, Increasing Insecurity and "Need" for the State

The crisis of Fordism (flexible accumulation) erodes expectations that, in
the first post-WWII decades, the development of capitalism and the state had
themselves contributed to making, giving birth to, matters of (in)security:
the precarization of the world of labor and the end of the (unfulfilled)
promises of Fordism (although the crisis of the big Fordist factory does not
signify the end of the application of the methods of rationalization of
work, and therefore of society); bureaucratic and neo-liberal attempts to
undermine social welfare programs; an increase in atomized individualism,
producing an expansion of the consumer society; and the crisis of the 19th
century workers' movement. This workers' movement had both encouraged and
held back the logic of the state: encouraged it by delegating to the state
more and more of the sphere of reproduction, social assistance included;
held it back by favoring the development of alternative logics, of
solidarity and struggle, inside or outside the state (for example, the
European movement of '68 was profoundly marked by languages, cultures and
images inherited from socialist, communist and anarchist movements).

Beginning in the 1970s, the subaltern classes of Europe have largely taken
the following path: they at first began by playing off a well-being and
material security that their parents had never known; they have
progressively freed themselves from their ties with the land through full
integration into the life of the factory and city; they are, in part,
appropriating the usages, the modes and the values of middle-class
consumption; they are in fact becoming more dependent on the company (the
wage being their only means of subsistence), on the market (in matters of
consumption) and the state (diverse allocations). The arrival of flexible
accumulation has produced a form of atomization, favoring the development of
fears of social origin (and their political exploitation by the right),
creating new outlets and demand for individual and collective security.

Let us not forget, within the overall picture of this transformation, the
disappearance of mass conscription. In western countries, the enterprise of
nationalization of the masses, with its rites and liturgies, notably the
military, seem to have partially declined. In the 1990s, the crisis of
compulsory military service--the decisive institution, we have seen, in the
work of constructing the image of the nation-state--revealed itself. The
professional military, conceived for foreign intervention, has not bent to
discipline or enlisted the masses. If the military institution has lost its
function, it is not only because a war between western states is
inconceivable, but above all because the formation of the citizen-soldier
has disappeared as an interior necessity. This is an evolution that is not
only explained by strategic reasons and international (armed conflict
displaced outside of Europe, etc.) or interior (development of police
forces) policy, but also by motives tied to the struggle for hegemony over
the lower classes.

The abolition of compulsory military service assumes that the dominant
classes consider henceforth as an accomplished fact that the majority of
people have internalized the logic of the state, seeing in the structure of
the state an archetype of modern society. When the state is internalized as
the principal regulator of social life, its power is neutralized in the eyes
of the majority of the population. This presupposes that the state, as such,
is affirmed to be the defender (and guarantor) of the whole of society and
not only of some of its components (the dominant classes), but also it has
adapted its modalities and mechanisms of intervention in the more general
transformations that affect society and the mode of capitalist production.

The Diffuse State in the Era of Flexible Accumulation

The economic, social and cultural transformations of the last three decades
have, in sum, favored the enlargement of the role of the state in response
to the demand for individual and collective security. And yet, after all
these years, there is a tendency to see in the emergence of the
transnational role of the financial markets and in the great mobility of
companies a weakening of the intervention of the state, including from the
point of view of its capacity to guarantee the nation's internal cohesion.
Still, throughout the conglomeration of apparatuses, of laws, of multiple
sources of finance and power, the state has not ceased to attend to itself;
its sphere of influence is enlarged, it increasingly invades our
professional life and life outside work. But evolution has not stopped to
the extent that, while the crisis of Fordism amplifies itself and
nation-states are subjected to increasing exterior economic pressures, the
instruments of the hegemony of the logic of the state themselves tend to be

At this stage, it would be useful to underscore the ambivalence of the
modern bureaucracy: on the one hand, it is rigged out in the image of a
rational and anonymous (Kafkaesque) structure, nourishing the myth of total
control of the life of the individual (a la Orwell, in one view); but on the
other hand, the development of the administrative apparatus in western
countries is going forward, with a very powerful internal differentiation
that has an apparently "soft" impact on the life of the individual. Still,
if power is centralized in the latter instance, the activities developed by
the different components of the apparatus vary in form, as well as in
content, and tend to occupy, through multiple ramifications, all spheres of
existence. Certainly, this corresponds to the interests of the bureaucratic
castes, to a systematic demand for social control, but it also assures their
legitimacy as the instruments of guarantee and control of other spheres
(such as the economic sphere).

In a society in perpetual transformation, the struggle for reproduction of
the logic of the state is continually subject to some defeats. When speaking
of the development of a diffuse state, this term designates the instruments
of reproduction of the logic of the state that correspond to the recent
phase of financial-economic globalization. Alongside of "the diffuse
factory" produced by the crisis of the big productive concentrations
relevant to the model of Fordist accumulation, one sees, in the epoch of
flexible accumulation, the requirements for control. Consequently, the power
of the state adapts itself to, let us say, the "porousness" of social life
by multiplying itself over the territory. If, on the one hand, the
nation-state has delegated some part of its power to the supra-states
(European Union, U.N., etc.), on the other, one sees a decentralization of
the central apparatus, such that power has been confided in local and
regional authorities. Local authorities that carried out (in the centralized
state tradition) tasks of an administrative and executive type until
recently, are seeing their functions of political direction growing
tangentially, and end up acting, with their own prerogatives, at the side of
the central state and in the same territorial space. This is what is called
in the specialist literature "multilevel governance." If, on the one hand,
this process makes it appear that the state is losing some of its power, the
central state being confused with the state as such, it also contributes to
making its contours more blurred, less easily identifiable, including by its
adversaries. To this process of mimicry is added the fact that the state
apparatus has tended to adopt the organizational forms of work borrowed from
private enterprise (lay-offs, contingency, Taylorism, etc.), and the fact
that the private sector henceforth assumes tasks that for decades were the
prerogative of the state (see, for example, the spread of private police).

More then ever the political sphere tends to superimpose itself on the
"civil society," since, in a clearer fashion than ever in the history of
modern capitalism, this reduces itself little by little to a rhetorical
device or to a fetish. Consequently, it could become more and more difficult
to identify the state as a target of first importance in the anti-hegemonic
struggle for individual and collective autonomy; since the recent movements
against globalization do not seem, for the most part, seem to see the state
as the adversary.

The State in the Conceptions of the "Movement of Movements"

The State, as a concept as much as a problem, has achieved a particular
status in what has been called the "movement of movements"--formulated by
those called "another worldists"--since Seattle. The critique of liberalism,
the denunciation of repression at the time of demonstrations in Naples and
Genoa, the opposition to militarization and war after September 11, 2001,
translates all its importance. And yet this role of protagonist has never
been accompanied by explicit reflection on the role or real problematic of
the state. No one, or nearly no one, has written about the capacities of the
state apparatus and of the legislative disposition to mold consciousness in
order to obtain submission to routine, to produce and reproduce social
hierarchies; no one, or nearly no one, has written about the articulation
between the "protective" and repressive dimensions of the state.

I want to attempt to respond to two types of questions: a) what are the
principal conceptions of the state that have emerged within the "movement of
movements"? b) to what extent have these conceptions evolved or, on the
contrary, have remained mired in a simplistic or contradictory vision of the
contemporary state?

In order to identify the declarations, the positions taken, the more or less
official documents of research or analyses of the role that the state plays
in society today, one does not have to go too far. The works of a certain
analytic breath can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Certainly, there
is not a lack of references and punctual critiques, whether for requiring
more democratic practices on the part of the structures of the state or in
order to critique the repressive character of some among them--but none that
have a systematic character, that are not simply fragmentary or in the
nature of a hint. For sure, one is tempted to blame the lack of reflection
and fundamental critique on the heterogeneous and vaguely "moral" nature of
the movement, or to say that, if one is seeking an elaborated critical
thought, it is from the traditional intellectual minorities who operate
inside and around the movements. And still one finds within diverse
"campaign" documents, in more or less explicit form, the conceptions of the
role of the state presented, at times even in a transverse fashion, in the
different currents or sensibilities of the movement of movements. Despite
the extreme heterogeneity that prevails on other levels, including that
where one observes the differentiations on the national and continental
bases reflected in specific social and cultural policies, it is possible to
distinguish at least three conceptions inside the movement: one that defends
the sovereignty of the national states and opposes it to globalization,
another that foresees a "reappropriation by the base," and a third that
could be qualified as "insurrectionist."

States as Ramparts Against Globalization

This is the preponderant conception within the movement of movements, that
of Attac and Le Monde diplomatique, which have been the most visible and
explicit defenders, those who foresee a reinforced control of the nation
state over markets and financial flows. For those who hold to this
conception, it is the idea of the state as, above all, a protective barrier
against the domination of the market, as guarantor in the last recourse of
the community and the common good, as a rampart protecting the interests of
the citizens against a wild and lying liberalism. "Something sure and
lasting ... that institutes the values and rules" and translates into "a
requirement of constancy in the face of a capitalism that constantly invents
its opposite." In this part of the movement of movements, the state is seen
as invested with the functions of solidarity and cohesion (the mechanisms of
redistribution of the social state), of administration, of protection and of
security, and at the same time, the struggle against criminality. At base,
what is it that allows making the link between the defense of nature against
its wild exploitation, the revalorization of Parliament against the
executive, the struggle against the waste and private appropriation of
water, except a revalorization of the role of the state? In this way of
underscoring the fundamental otherness of the state in relation to
capitalism, one finds traces of the classic representation of the state
defended by European social democracy at the beginning of the 20th century.

Through the events in Genoa, this current was amazed by the repressive face
of the state; then, through the interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, and
with the same amazement, its role as war maker. They did not want to see,
what is more, that the authoritarian drift is the inevitable consequence of
an invasive liberalism. The opposition to "militarized globalization," one
can see, does not have strictly economic explanations that return to the
fundamental repressive and warlike nature of the modern state. One is not
astonished, therefore, to find that the critique of police behavior and of
American interventionism has not been followed by minute and systematic
examination of the role of the police and of the state in contemporary
societies. The simplistic opposition between world capitalism (to be fought)
and statist sovereignty (to be safeguarded or restored), but also the
difficulty in grasping the nature of the contemporary state, translates into
an incapacity to elaborate a critique of the statist logic as such. This
current refuses to consider the state in all its institutions, its resources
and mechanisms of control that essentially have as their goal to guarantee
the social order. And yet, how could the state (national), the holder of the
monopoly of legitimate violence (Weber) on a given territory, deprive itself
of the use of a police apparatus that permits it to repress all forces
inclined to weakening and removing the legitimacy of this monopoly?

Globalization From Below & the Reappropriation of "Administrative Networks"

The second conception of the state is above all promoted by the currents of
the "movement of movements" such as the Italian "Disobedient," which call
for what is termed globalization from below--through means, for example, of
the "participatory budget"--and a more general aspiration for a
"democratization" of state structures. This heterogeneous current is moved
by the desire to furnish a practical response to the expropriation of the
power of citizens by capital and by contemporary national and international
institutions. Among the multiple experiences that point in this direction,
there are those who, in the European and South American metropolis,
designate the local institutions, seen as communal, as the place of the
reappropriation, where the emergence of a critique of the state focuses on
its centralizing and bureaucratic character, an expression of a decadent
democracy. But the promoters of this conception, who in general critique the
sovereigntist conception of the state, start from an idealized
representation of it and of its relations with "civil society."

The contemporary state is a complex apparatus, segmented and a little
everywhere, henceforth, decentralized. The "alternative" participation in
the cadre of local powers cannot last long unless they restore hierarchical
roles (those who decide what sectors and resources to be submitted to debate
and above all to decision making) or insert themselves into a context of
radical change at the local, regional, and national levels, of the relation
of forces-between capital and labor but also between administrative logics,
founded on the delegation of power, and logics of social liberation,
supposing a veritable reappropriation. Without this dimension, a critical
theory of statist power that extols participation of the base--a theme that
in itself can be inscribed in a libertarian critical theory--ends up
returning to the statist logic. The problem is that, in this conception, the
state tends to be confused, by simplification and misunderstanding of the
phenomenon, with the nation state. And consequently, once one declares one's
aversion for the "nation" and rediscovers the "local" and "civil society,"
the state loses all problematic character, whether on the theoretical or
political plain, and remains a fundamentally neutral "place," apparently
open to reappropriation.

The State as Defender of Capitalism, To Be Destroyed

The third current best illustrates the penetration of the logic of
domination within statist structures. However, the representation of the
state that this current offers remains schematic, focused as it is on the
openly repressive role that the apparatus plays in order to defend
capitalism and its property. In the movement of the Black Bloc notably, the
state and capitalism constitute a single objective, "to be destroyed"
through the practice of direct action. Inspired by a classical
insurrectionist model adopted by numerous minorities in the course of the
19th and 20th centuries, direct action, or exemplary action, violent,
against private property, against the "symbols" of capital, would be the
means of showing anew the true face, violent, as well, of capital and State
power. Now this conception rests, it is easy to see, on a misunderstanding
of the complexity of the action that states exercise, through a thousand
ramifications, on and in contemporary societies, where many other methods
are used to get the job done other than the "traditional" channels of the
police or prison repression alone. This very simplified representation of
the functions of the state ignores the "security" and "protector" roles that
it plays in an ever clearer fashion, in response -from the top--to a crisis
of community and social ties that the "insurrectionalist anarchism" of the
19th century could never foresee.

Affinities, Potentialities & Contradictions

Once the three principal conceptions of the state present within the
movement of movements are illustrated, it becomes possible to locate their
affinities and differences. What unites the second and third
currents--whether it is those who see in the state an enemy to bring down,
beyond all mediation, or those who imagine a possible "appropriation" by the
methods of the processes of democratic participation-is the critique of the
notion of national sovereignty. This is a critique that distinguishes them
from the first current, which sees, on the contrary, in the restoration of
"lost" sovereignty the means of combating globalization of the markets. If
the "insurrectionist" current distinguishes itself by the use of immediate
forms of symbolic street violence destined to provoke a reaction of the
lower classes against the repressive apparatus of the state and capital, the
other two envision, though in different ways, a "democratization" of the
state by peaceful or, in any case, legal means: reinforcing of Parliaments
against the executive powers, considered as hostages of the multinationals
and the supranational economic organizations (IMF, World Bank, etc.), in one
instance, "municipalism" and "participatory budget" in another. They never
call the machinery of delegation of power into question, demanding, rather,
that it be opened up to the participation of citizens, in other words,
engage in a process of reforms that will realize the promise more or less
explicitly carried by representative-democratic ideology.

The distancing and distrust with respect to parties, perceived as
bureaucratic organs answerable only to themselves, seems to be the common
denominator that connects the three conceptions. The idea that there exists
a crisis of politics is largely shared, even if the conclusions drawn from
this diagnosis are not the same. If liberational potentialities are in some
fashion diffuse within the movement of movements, which I believe, it is
that which unites them, despite the contradictory expressions. It would
indeed be an error to believe that the "another worldist" movement has not,
in practical terms, created obstacles or risks for the dominant classes in
their struggle to impose the hegemony of statist logic. One of the goals of
this struggle being the neutralization of social conflicts by means of
administrative treatment of problems, the movement's strength derives from
finding that it exercises a certain resistance function. However, it does
not manage to express itself in counter-hegemonic terms, for want of a solid
consciousness, against those who animate the logics of statist domination.
None of these conceptions includes questioning the development of the
administrative machinery of the modern state, the increasing complexity of
its decision-making processes, the fact that dividing up tasks and
technocratic specialization tend, in a phase of crisis of the labor
movement, of the crisis of communist and socialist ideals and of the end of
a bipolar world, to reinforce and to impose themselves in all spheres of
life. A significant part of the movement of the movements, in addition, does
not see a contradiction between participation of the base within the
framework of the current juridical-administrative order and the exercise by
the State of its "social" role, because the fact that the installation of
the social state in the post-WWII period largely contributed to the growth
of the machinery of state control is not taken into account.

In a phase of crisis of legitimacy for party democracy, of crisis of the
social state, in an epoch of an emerging "flexible" state, it is not
impossible that a logic of "democracy from below" could succeed in making a
place for itself. But only in certain sectors of marginal importance, where
any risk of calling statist-administrative logic into question is isolated.
If a coexistence of this kind appears possible, it is not only because the
holders of this logic (bureaucratic-administrative elites) are convinced of
their legitimacy in all circumstances, or because among the relatively
autonomous structures of the state (local, regional, national) there is a
complex articulation, but because of the "soft" character that the
administrative-bureaucratic logic is forced to adopt under the pressure of
other logics, such as that of the market.

In fact, the administrative machinery (and the police) produces the rules
and regulations intended for their internal functioning and for their
function of maintaining order, but this increasing margin of autonomy and
power is hardly disturbed by the effects of electoral storms and by the
possible participation of citizens in the management of negligible shares of
the state budget. At the same time, these repressive apparatuses are
constrained to adapt their logic to a Western world where this capacity is
not generally exercised by open or specific repressive bodies (like what
occurs during demonstrations and, especially, in prisons), but by the means
of softer forms and more flexible devices of socialization by obedience,
adapted to the consumer society (if one does not consume, one breaks the
rules of living together and becomes a pariah).

Vis-a-vis the current reign of statist logic, a strategy of provocation of
open repression is soon confronted with its own impotence. The violence,
hardly more than symbolic, of the "insurrectionist" components is far from
being able to start a process of erosion of the monopoly of force and of the
socially legitimate exercise of physical violence that Western states hold.
The important social support from which the state profits today does not
result so much and not only from a manifest confidence, but owing to the
fact that, for the majority of people, militants of the movements included,
its structures and its services (not only social) form part of the
conditions of life and of the universe of minimal certainty. Two elements
are, moreover, to be taken into account relating to the function and the
representation of physical violence in contemporary societies: on the one
hand, the role played daily by the media, which can put on display and
standardize or censure violence; and on the other, the phenomenon derived
from submission of the social body to the official monopoly on violence,
that of the internalization of the prohibition against taking justice into
one's own hands, such that, in the contemporary societies, these forms of
violence manifestly appear morally unacceptable.

It is in the essential interest of the dominant classes that the currently
prevailing split continue between a representation of the state that
stresses its protective function (against the market and the uncertainties
of living conditions) and that which sees it as a repressive apparatus. In
other words, it is their interest that the questioning of what indissolubly
binds these two faces of the state together does not in any manner enter the
field of the common understanding, does not leave the niche in which
marginal minorities are confined. To consolidate this split was the implicit
objective of the police repression at the time of the anti-globalization
demonstrations in Gothenburg and after (Prague, Genoa, etc.). And if this
repression is reduced meanwhile, it is not only because, in the context of
today, such open, public, and "free" violence exerted by the machinery of
the state is likely to undermine the credibility of the controlling elites.
It is also because, up to now, at least, the objective is achieved: to
isolate the "violent ones" from the "peaceful" and the "democrats," and,
therefore, to prevent subjects other than those recognized by the state
(other states, parties, etc.) from problematizing the legitimacy of the
system's standards, and, especially, calling into question the statist
monopoly on domination and violence.

By Way of Non-Conclusion

The question of the state seems now to be the hidden face of the movement of
movements, that which reveals its weaknesses. The conceptions of the state
that prevail within the vague "alternative world" (altermondialiste),
whether they preach its "defense," its "appropriation" or its "immediate
destruction," seem incapable of calling into question the profound official
logic of the present capitalist state. These considerations, rather than a
moralist critique of the limited capacity of the various components of the
movement of the movements to "think the state outside of the state," are an
invitation to conceptualize a phenomenology of official power such as is
exercised today, in order to expose power, but also its contradictions. This
task, which remains to be achieved, is undoubtedly a necessary condition for
the development of a libertarian theory of domination truly adapted to the
challenges of the 21st century.

(This article first appeared in Italian in Collegamenti Wobbly Numbers 2 and
4. Translation into French by Nicole The. This translation from the French
is by Mike Hargis.)

A-infos-en mailing list

A-Infos Information Center