The abolition of society
"Society...1. a group of persons who have the same customs, beliefs, etc. or live under a common government and who are thought of as forming a single community... 3. all people, when thought of as forming a community in which each person is partly dependent on all the rest".
Webster's New World Dictionary
Nothing we "know" can be assumed to be true- none of our conceptions of the world are sacred and we would do well to question them all. Many anarchists talk about creating a "new" or "free" society. But few question the idea of society itself. The conception of society is amorphous- and so more difficult to deal with than particular aspects of it like government, religion, capitalism or technology. It is so ingrained in us that questioning it feels like questioning our very nature- which makes it all the more necessary to question it. Freeing ourselves from the character armor that represses our desires and passions may very well demand, not merely the transformation of society, but its abolition. The dictionary definitions above show society to be a single entity made up of individuals who are in a condition of (at least potential) dependency upon each other- which is to say, who are not complete in themselves. I see society as a system of relationships between beings who are acting (or being treated) as social roles in order to reproduce the system and themselves as social individuals.
The dependency of social individuals is not the same as the biological dependency of infants. Biological dependency ends once the child achieves adequate mobility and hand-and-eye coordination (in about five years). But in those five years, the social relationships of the family repress children's desires, instill fear of the world into them and so submerge the potential for full, free, creative individuality beneath the layers of armoring which are the social individual, beneath the psychic dependency which makes us cling desperately to each other while we despise each other. All social relationships have their basis in the incompleteness produced by the repression of our passions and desires. Their basis is our need for each other, not our desire for each other. We are using each other. So every social relationship is an employer/employee relationship, which is why they seem always, to one extent or another, to become adversarial- whether through joking put-downs, bickering or full-fledged fighting. How can we help but despise those we use and hate those who use us?
Society cannot exist apart from social roles- this is why the family and education in some form are essential parts of society. The social individual doesn't play only one social role-but melds together many roles which create the character armor which is mistaken for "individuality."
Social roles are ways in which individuals are defined by the whole system of relationships that is society in order to reproduce society. They make individuals useful to society by making them predictable, by defining their activities in terms of the needs of society. Social roles are work- in the broad sense of activity that reproduces the production/consumption cycle. Society is thus the domestication of human beings- the transformation of potentially creative, playful, wild beings who can relate freely in terms of their desires into deformed beings using each other to try to meet desperate needs, but succeeding only at reproducing the need and the system of relationships based on it.
"A pox on all captivity, even should it be in the interest of the universal good, even in Montezuma's garden of precious stones."
Free-spirited individuals have no interest in seriously relating as social roles. Predictable, predetermined relationships bore us and we have no desire to continue to reproduce them. It is true that they offer some security, stability and (luke- )warmth...but at such expense! Rather, we want freedom to relate in terms of our unrepressed desires, the opening of all possibilities, the raging fire of our passions unbound. And such a life lies outside any system of predictable, predetermined relationships.
Society offers safety, but it does so by eradicating the risk that is essential to free play and adventure. It offers us survival- in exchange for our lives. For the survival it offers us is survival as social individuals- as beings who are composites of social roles, alienated from their passions and desires- involved in social relationships to which we are addicted, but which never satisfy.
A world of free relating among unrepressed individuals would be a world free of society. All interactions would be determined immediately. All by the individuals involved, in terms of their desires- not by the necessities of a social system. We would tend to amaze, delight, enrage each other, to evoke real passion rather than mere boredom, complacency, disgust, or security. Every encounter would have a potential for marvelous adventure which cannot fully exist where most relating is in the form of social relationships. So rather than remain captive in this "garden of precious stones" called society, I choose to struggle to abolish society- and that has several implications as to how I understand "revolution" (for want of a better term).
The struggle to transform society is always a struggle for power, because its goal is to gain control over the system of relationships that is society (a goal which I see as unrealistic since this system is now mostly beyond anyone's control). As such, it cannot be an individual struggle. It requires mass or class activity. Individuals have to define themselves as social beings in this struggle, suppressing any individual desires which do not fit in to the. "greater" goal of social transformation.
The struggle to abolish society is a struggle to abolish power. It is essentially the struggle of individuals to live free of social roles and rules, to live out their desires passionately, to live out all the most marvelous things they can imagine. Group projects and struggles are part of this, but they grow from the ways in which the desires of the individuals can enhance each other, and will dissolve when they begin to stifle the individuals. The path of this struggle cannot be mapped out because its basis is the confrontation between the desires of the free-spirited individual and the demands of society. But analyses of the ways in which society molds us and of the failures and successes of past rebellions are possible.
The tactics used against society are as many as the individuals involved, but all share the aim of undermining social control and conditioning, and freeing the individual's desires and passions. The unpredictability of humor and playfulness are essential, evoking a Dionysian chaos. Playing with social roles in ways that undermine their usefulness to society, that turn them on their head, making toys of them is a worthy practice. But most importantly, let us confront society with ourselves, with our unique desires and passions, with the attitude that we are not going to give in to it, or center our activities around it, but are going to live on our own terms.
Society is not a neutral force. Social relationships only exist by the suppression of the real desires and passions of individuals, by the repression of all that makes free relating possible. Society is domestication, the transformation of individuals into use value and of free play into work. Free relating among individuals who refuse and resist their domestication undermines all society, and opens all possibilities. And to those who feel that they can achieve freedom through a merely social revolution, lend with these words of Renzo Navatore:
"You are waiting for the revolution? Let it be! My own began a long time ago! When you will be ready...I won't mind going along with you for a while. But when you'll stop, I shall continue on my insane and triumphant way toward the great and sublime conquest of the nothing!"
[Social transformation- or the abolition of society, from "Anarchy:
A Journal Of Desire Armed", issue #25, summer 1990]