C'est nous qui brisons les barreaux des prisons, pour nos frères, La haine à nos trousses, et la faim qui nous pousse, la misère. Il y a des pays où les gens aux creux des lits font des rêves, Ici, nous, vois-tu, nous on marche et nous on tue nous on crève.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Misconstruing Power

The libertarians and conservatives continue to push for 'small government', seeking minimal encroachment by authorities in individuals' personal affairs. The co-called 'anarcho-capitalists' even propose that no government exist at all. To the extent that state coercion and idiotic bureaucracy are to be avoided, people across the political sphere may agree with this push.

In the case of libertarians and conservatives, this push arises from a complete misunderstanding of power. It appears to be viewed in somewhat medieval terms, wherein power is localised within members of a hierarchy, such as a monarch, or legislature.

Another way to understand power - a more philosophical, and more French reading (I'm think of Foucault and Deleuze, ignored and/or despised by the right) is that power is dispersed throughout a system or society. It has no center. Therefore, even in the case of an idealised 'small government', or even in the case of no government altogether, power and coercion would simply be transferred from agents of the state to private actors. In others words, the overall system would not be one iota less oppressive or coercive; you would merely have different agents calling the shots. The 'hard' forms of coercion (police, military, prisons) would almost certainly remain as is. The soft forms of coercion (education, mental health, etc) would be privatised, but would be no less coercive for all of that. You would still have a judicial system, and you would still have exploitation and domination in the workplace.

Consequently, when attempting to think a small government, we ought to completely reject the infantile notions of conservatism and libertarianism as the medieval misunderstandings that they are.

Here's some music: