Friday, 23 September 2016

Nihilsm and Anarchism vs Cynicism and Anarchy position vs practice

In my recent rereading of Alejandro de Acosta's excellent essay Cynical Lessons, it got me down to further clarity of performative practice vs elective position. The comparison between the two would be classical cynicism vs modern nihilism. Both represent negations of sorts but are very different in their founding nature.

Nihilism essentially began as a position in nature. Not so for cynicism, a philosophy of performers in its classical hey day. Cynic was never enveloped by cynicism. The same cannot be said for nihilism. There has been a post 1968 trend that has attempted to inject activity and practice into nihilism(see the likes of Vaneigem as well as post situationist and other 1968 radical derivatives). However, nihilism for the most part has always been been positional be it political, epistemic, metaphysical etc. What I have recently got to telling certain post left anarchists is that what you aim for in orientation has already been done by the cynics. Classical cynicism and cynic represent that symmetry between performative practice and position that is quite simply missing from nihilism. Bob Black once aphoristically referred to nihilism as 'going beyond good and evil and stopping halfway'. In general I agree and see nihilism as a regurgitative halfway approach to the problems of power and reification that is captive and critique of and within a Western world that creates 'laws' of identity and false misplaced concreteness. The cynics already figured this out long ago but they developed a way of life that was against and beyond the civilized world around them. They were classical defacers of currency with an ability to express it in corporeal practice. The nihilists, clear on back to their elective ideological origins, have never displayed this comparable will to power.

What of anarchists and anarchism then? In finer moments the former have shown this ability particularly in their individualist expressions. All in all however anarchism to is a position dominated discourse. It's practice is mediated by elective positions, proposed solutions and constituted struggle. For the cynic if there was a struggle it was corporeal before it was constituted. It can be proposed that anarchist should make cynicism and addition to the positional fold. Bob Black's whimsical 'anarchocynicalism' comes to mind. As I see it cynicism is too good for most of anarchism which cannot be bothered with performative practitional exercises that supersede the need to struggle and organize in a constituted manner. For me the union lies with anarchy beyond and after anarchism. This is where anarchs come in. Anarchs arguably represent the same symmetry with anarchy that cynics do with cynicism. Anarchy like cynicism is a life and activity before anything else(to borrow a phrase from Emile Armand on Individualist Anarchism) and anarchs need to develop and differentiate this from the agitpro organizing rabble of anarchism. Stemming from the likes of Yang Zhu in ancient times and Max Stirner in modern times, the anarch has set his/her position on nothing. From here life against authority and power is an orientation. Anything positional should be second hand participation at most(get a politico to do the dirty work as long as they and the rest continue to believe in spectral realities).

From this there can be a thorough distillation of(not necessarily denial) desire and an overall emphasis on detachment. Other orientational practitions like Zen can also play a role for that. There is also the place of history as regards a new practice of cynicism and anarchy. Unlike Vaneigem, I have no interest in activating either into History. Bringing history into anything(even critical) is where life and activity will go to die. Historical corrections of any kind are always prone to institution and power. This includes revolution, something Vaneigem and the situationists even at their best could not(Like Stirner) reject. If post-modern cynics and anarchs are to be anything it is post/non historical or revolutionary. The revolt that he aspired to was always Christian, Plebeian and slave moralistic in nature. It is not revolt and struggle that matters but currency defacing and detachment and disownment from alien spectral realities. 3rd person registered world change should not be bound up with self transformation. The former is already always set into motion by events alien to oneself. Revolution and history are simply spooks to be defaced.

All in all a new age of anarchy beyond anarchism should be as much about the anarchs as it is about anarchy. Let the ancient cynics be a lesson(but not a history lesson).

Citations and references

Cynics(Ancient Philosophies)