I was recently made aware of the reemergence in our recent protests and more of 19th century anarchism stepping right from the pages of Dostoevsky’s novel The Possessed and the writings of Georges Sorel on myth and violence. This anarchist impulse among us has not been much noticed or even superficially covered by our media and commentators.
Here is an article titled “No, We Should Not Condemn Uprisings Against Police Murders Like George Floyd’s” on taking down the system from Jacobin magazine.
Two weeks ago: “An angry crowd broke into the Minneapolis Police Department’s Third Precinct headquarters Thursday night and set fire to the building, capping another day of protests, many of them violent, across the Twin Cities.
The police station on E. Lake Street has been the epicenter of protests this week for people demanding justice after the death of George Floyd, who died Monday when a Minneapolis police officer set his knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes.
Nearby, Minnehaha Lake Wine & Spirits, the target of looters the night before, also was set ablaze. As flames leapt, sharp explosions sounded as people threw bottles filled with accelerants or fired bullets into the fires.”
In reading this editorial and report, I realized that the anarchism expressed there was in a moral universe parallel to the Caux Round Table’s long-standing concern for the ethics of systems of authority and order – capitalism, government, civil society and ownership of wealth.
I thought that we should consider, in the context of widespread protest over inequality in this country, more fundamental questions of what is right to do when things go wrong.
I decided to go back to the beginning of the modern movement to deconstruct ideas and systems deemed wrongful for upholding inequality, the Discourse on the Origin and Basis of Inequality Among Men, written by Jean Jacques Rousseau in 1754. His thesis that society must be blamed for inequality has inspired political movements from the Jacobins to Socialists, Communists, Syndicalists, Anarchists and National Socialists like Mussolini, Hitler and Pol Pot.
Rousseau’s inference was that once society and its inequalities in their current form are dissolved, some utopia will emerge to provide us with much better lives. Ironically, the word “utopia” was coined by Sir Thomas Moore to mean “no place,” borrowing from the Greek and making a pun on another Greek word “eu-topos,” signifying a place of happiness and goodness.
In the spirit of Rousseau, I propose to deconstruct his thesis and thereby deconstruct contemporary American anarchism. You can judge the success of my effort by reading my piece titled “Wherein Lies the Immorality of Inequality?”
I would be most interested in your thoughts and feedback