Part 1 was a brief overview of anarchist thoughts and ideas. This part deals with the links between posthumanism and anarchism (while part 3 deals wth anarchism in superhero comics). These links can be best introduced by consider the role of Nietzsche’s philosophy in anarchist thought. As I’ve written elsewhere (elsewhere being here), that posthumanism as a critical/philosophical position arguably finds its first full bloom in the ideas of Nietzsche. As Spencer Sunshine has written,
There were many things that drew anarchists to Nietzsche: his hatred of the state; his disgust for the mindless social behavior of ‘herds’; his anti-Christianity; his distrust of the effect of both the market and the State on cultural production; his desire for an ‘übermensch‘ — that is, for a new human who was to be neither master nor slave.”
The pioneering anarcho-feminist Emma Goldman, for instance, gave dozens of lectures about Nietzsche and baptized him as an honorary anarchist.In her autobiography Living My Life she wrote that, “I pointed out that Nietzsche was not a social theorist but a poet, a rebel and innovator. His aristocracy was neither of birth nor of purse; it was of the spirit. In that respect Nietzsche was an anarchist, and all true anarchists were aristocrats”. While in Anarchism: What it Really Stands For Goldman wrote a defense of Nietzsche’s philosophy:
Friedrich Nietzsche… is decried as a hater of the weak because he believed in the Übermensch. It does not occur to the shallow interpreters of that giant mind that this vision of the Übermensch also called for a state of society which will not give birth to a race of weaklings and slaves.
Moving further into the twentieth century, the theoretical school that has come to broadly be known as post-structuralism was also profoundly influenced by Nietzsche in its main thinkers such as Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze. These thinkers would in turn go onto influence the development of critical posthumanism (again, more on that here). Many of these philosophers cam from what has come to be known as the Class if 1968. Indeed, French anarchist and hedonist philosopher Michel Onfray has described the May 68 revolts as “a Nietzschean revolt in order to put an end to the ‘One’ truth, revealed, and to put in evidence the diversity of truths, in order to make disappear ascetic Christian ideas and to help arise new possibilities of existence“. However, the alliance of Nietzschean thought and anarchism has not been undisputed. Nietzsche has of course been much misunderstood over the years, with many thinking of him as effectively fascistic (hence Goldman’s defense above), but this antipathy works both ways.
With this mind Saul Newman wrote an article called “Anarchism and the politics of ressentiment“ in which he notes how Nietzsche “sees anarchism as poisoned at the root by the pestiferous weed of ressentiment – the spiteful politics of the weak and pitiful, the morality of the slave“. Instead, Newman proposes how “anarchism could become a new ‘heroic’ philosophy, which is no longer reactive but, rather, creates values…a community of ‘masters’ rather than ‘slaves’. It would be a community that sought to overcome itself – continually transforming itself and revelling in the knowledge of its power to do so.” The result would be a form of post-anarchism, a hybrid of anarchism and post-structuralism. Not that this notion of overcoming and of “continually transforming itself and revelling in the knowledge of its power to do so” is necessarily a brand new idea in the history of anarchist thought. For instance, Giuseppe Ciancabilla (1872–1904) wrote in Against Organization that
we don’t want tactical programs, and consequently we don’t want organization. Having established the aim, the goal to which we hold, we leave every anarchist free to choose from the means that his sense, his education, his temperament, his fighting spirit suggest to him as best. We don’t form fixed programs and we don’t form small or great parties. But we come together spontaneously, and not with permanent criteria, according to momentary affinities for a specific purpose, and we constantly change these groups as soon as the purpose for which we had associated ceases to be, and other aims and needs arise and develop in us and push us to seek new collaborators, people who think as we do in the specific circumstance.
This emphasis on becoming, change and process rather than static organisation has strong affinities with posthumanist philosophy. Indeed, Andy Miah has described critical posthumanism “as a philosophical stance about what might be termed a perpetual becoming” (Miah, 2007:23). To highlight just one example, Deleuze and Guattari talk of ‘becoming-schizophrenic’. Described by Mark Dery as a, “…radical strategy for survival under capitalism” the Deleuzo-Guattarian schizophrenic refuses to be, “the closed, centered subject required (and reproduced) by capitalist society” (from Dery’s The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium: American Culture on the Brink). As Deleuze and Guattari themselves put it:
The code of delirium…proves to have an extraordinary fluidity…it might be said that the schizophrenic passes from one code to the other, that he deliberately scrambles all the codes, by quickly shifting from one to another, according to the questions asked him, never giving the same explanation from one day to the next, never recording the same event in the same way (quoted in Dery)
The Occupy Movement presents a recent example of this anti-organizational thinking, having been frequently criticised by those don’t grasp the agenda as lacking focus or real demands, when the point is that one cannot make demands of a system one wishes to abolish. As long as the movement remains open in its outlook it cannot be either appropriated by the machine nor calcify into its own micro-fascism-“real occupiers get their tents from Milletts“. Time will tell what the outcome of that particular movement will be, but its worth remembering that as of yet its openness and lack of definitive ideas has kept the dialogue ongoing and prevented the development of a grand master narrative that a more typically mundane and potentially bloody revolution could be built around. As Leo Tolstoy wrote in 1900’s On Anarchy: “The Anarchists are right in everything…They are mistaken only in thinking that Anarchy can be instituted by revolution.” Perhaps the post-anarchists of the occupy movement have understood this lesson.
In the final part of this series we will see how this posthuman anarchism has been represented in comic books, and how these Anarchist superhumans point towards a brand of anarchism that integrates both political and mystical ideas..