Error, Counter-Error, Error

A review of the essay, Primitivism, anarcho-primitivism and anti-civilisationism – criticism by Libcom

My hour of favour was over; I found myself lumped along with Kurtz as a partisan of methods for which the time was not ripe: I was unsound! Ah! but it was something to have at least a choice of nightmares.
Conrad, Heart of Darkness

In the book, Time’s Arrow, Time’s Cycle, the palaeontologist Stephen J Gould attempts to ‘rescue’ obsolete scientific theories concerning the discovery of ‘deep’ geological time from subsequent disproofs and explores the ideas they continue to give form to regardless of the progress made by science beyond their original formulation. At the same time, he exposes the sustaining myth of a self-realising scientific method in which ‘observation’ progressively enlightens unsupported conjecture and prejudice. Gould specifically argues against the tendency towards the underpinning dichotomous structuring in some scientific thought, and thus against the whiggish historical approach which sustains it, a structure which proposes the earlier as more misguided and the most recent as always the most progressed. Gould thinks that within apparent sequences of theory the earlier stages very often become distorted, misunderstood or simply forgotten by later formulations which have ended by asking altogether different questions within an altogether different register of metaphor and cultural assumption:

But scientists are not robotic inducing machines that infer structures of explanation only from regularities observed in natural phenomena (assuming, as I doubt, that such a style of reasoning could ever achieve success in principle). Scientists are human beings, immersed in culture, and struggling with all the curious tools of inference that mind permits – from metaphor and analogy to all the flights of fruitful imagination that C.S. Pierce called ‘abduction’. Prevailing culture is not always the enemy identified by whiggish history […] Culture can potentiate as well as constrain – as in Darwin’s translation of Adam Smith’s laissez-faire economic models in biology as the theory of natural selection.

Gould Time’s Arrow, Time’s Cycle


Using a similar approach in this investigation, I explore the representation of the object, ‘primitivism’ as it appears in the discourse of  ‘libertarian communism’. I am not overly familiar with the arguments of primitivism in its own terms, and I am not overly interested in them either, but it seems to me that the libertarian communist critique as presented by Libcom is based on a misrepresentation of the questions being asked by those described as ‘primitivists’. In focusing on weaknesses in the primitivist hypothesis, libertarian communism gains none of the benefits for itself which it would from an exploration of primitivism’s strengths. In other words, what libertarian communism says primitivism is (and this may well coincide with primitivism’s own account of itself) is incomplete and this act of mis-summary, conducted in a rush of political hostility, thereby impedes and reduces the project of libertarian communism itself. In believing in the limits of its own lies, its easy denunciations, and its blunted approach, libertarian communism becomes more stupid – and more ideological.

There is nothing inherently wrong with technology, it just depends on how it is applied – in a free society they can be used to increase freedom (from onerous work, or physical disability etc.).

Primitivism, anarcho-primitivism and anti-civilisationism – criticism Libcom

The most wretched consequence of Libcom’s undertheorised criticism of primitivism as contained in the article, Primitivism etc, is that those who read it and remain unconvinced by the author’s arguments but being still needful for a discourse that will articulate their own separation from the world are likely as not to end up self-identifying as primitivists (if only to exclude the ugliness of Libcom’s approach). Certainly, there is nothing in Libcom’s attitude to capitalised existence, as implied by this piece, that does not evoke a continued nostalgic yearning for a more rationalised governance of industrial production.

The arguments presented in Primitivism, etc are conveyed in the exasperated tone of an established authority addressing those whose sense of homelessness the authority finds utterly incomprehensible. The dismissive tone of Libcom’s criticism is evidence for their not referencing the complexifying critique of alienation. Primitivism etc does not talk about dehumanisation through the reduction of skill sets; there is no mention of the fetish character of the commodity form; and it does not question the proportionate relation in social production between dead and living labour. In the absence of these, and presenting a schoolmasterly, utilitarian approach, which forecloses on the question of the character of technology, the objective conditions for the existence of ‘primitivist’ ideas pass unexamined.

The Libcom author is so consumed with the prospect of ‘defeating’ perceived political rivals that he does not have the time to investigate the nature of the structural flaws of capitalised existence, which are realised in the mediation of social relations by technology. This demonstrable defeat of the otherness of primitivism is based wholly on arguments of utility concerning health, agriculture and production. However, the individual’s desire for simplification, for the human scale, by its very nature is not engaged by pragmatic arguments directed towards global planning.

… in some inland post feel the savagery, the utter savagery, had closed round him,– all that mysterious life of the wilderness that stirs in the forest, in the jungles, in the hearts of wild men. There’s no initiation either into such mysteries. He has to live in the midst of the incomprehensible, which is also detestable. And it has a fascination, too, that goes to work upon him. The fascination of the abomination–you know. Imagine the growing regrets, the longing to escape, the powerless disgust, the surrender, the hate.

Conrad, Heart of Darkness

The problem of technology, being understood as the material expression of social relations, and how those relations might be transformed in opposition to the resistance to change expressed by technologised networks, remains open-ended.  I think the question being raised by the primitivists’ critique of technology is referred to in the qualitative distinction between ‘tools’ and ‘machines’ made below by Marx:

The machine proper is therefore a mechanism that, after being set in motion, performs with its tools the same operations that were formerly done by the workman with similar tools. Whether the motive power is derived from man, or from some other machine, makes no difference in this respect. From the moment that the tool proper is taken from man, and fitted into a mechanism, a machine takes the place of a mere implement.

Men use tools to realise their social being – the use of a hammer on iron indicates the blacksmith, a plough in the earth indicates a farmer. But alienation is experienced as the use of men by machines; or rather, machines produce a unity of man and tool where men become a mere component of that unity. The social world produced by machines is totalised, coherent, internally linked up. Machines use men in order to realise a society with no reference to the capacities of individual men who must then fit into machined time, machined space. Machines are deployed by the productive apparatus, as a materialised social relation, in order to achieve the autonomised reproduction of itself, in order to speed by the question of itself. In societies where men use tools, things are made to express the relations between dissimilar men but where machines predominate social relations become materialised as quantifiable relations between interchangeable things.

In the former condition, the living man is proportionately in control of the tool that he uses, the proportion of living ‘labour’ to dead ‘labour’ (i.e. of activity in relation to tool) is weighted towards the man. He decides to work, and the tool operates according to his skill and decision – evidently, his decision is mediated by the pressure of needs as these encroach on him (but this was always going to be an argument of proportionality). When he stops work, the tool stops work. The tool is the servant to man’s purpose. The resultant productive activity is at the man’s scale.

We see that this changes with the interposing of the machine within the productive process. At this point, men become dependent on the socialised, or integrated society-wide, productive apparatus. Humanity becomes historically dependant on machines at the moment it is denied access to the land and thus on tool based production. Before the enclosure acts forced workers into the cities they had the capacity to withdraw their labour and return to the countryside.  Machine-age man is thereby immediately and at all points in the productive process, separated from the means by which his existence is directly reproduced. This separation is realised both at the scale of ordinary individual existence and at the level of the quality of personal experience. Machined production immediately introduces a runaway of quantitative changes, saturating local markets, exceeding every capacity, however conceived, of individual men.

The machined world is inseparable from mass forms…  production becomes incomprehensible to individuals and this threshold of the supra-human scale indicates a production of qualitative changes which Marx calls ‘socialisation’. The machine does not express a man’s work in relation to social organisation but rather realises the purpose of society’s relation to itself as a reproduced, networked, autonomised totality of productive centres. Marx’s conception of socialisation involves both the flowing together of production with social organisation, and as a precondition (and end) of this confluence, the realisation of society as inseparable from the totality of its immediate reproduction –  a situation in which there is no historical surplus; a condition of fetterlessness. The autonomisation of production results in/depends upon the separation of all individuals’ activity from the direct production of their conditions and thus transforms conditions into the production of their activity.

For example, there is no easy way for a supermarket worker to grasp the purpose of  society through the nature of the work that they undertake. This is the core experience of alienation: the individual cannot infer the exact nature of the society in which they live, which exceeds their every horizon; and they cannot relate their activity to any discernible purpose beyond filling the hours of existence and receiving a wage as recompense for those hours.

The produced object, say, the packet of frozen peas which the supermarket worker has moved from the truck, to the cold store, to the shopfloor freezer units, is a complex historical object which its filed-down, foreshortened appearance, so that it might appear purely in the forms of use and exchange value, actively obscures. The packet of frozen peas does not just contain those part-hours of labour in which it is immediately manufactured and finished but also embodies all the foreshortened history of processes and knowledge that led up to the form of its production.

The supermarket worker pushes a trolley of frozen vegetables to the freezer department. This circumstance has no meaning for him separate from the prospect of the completion of his task. He does not consider the long processive sequence that he is integrated into. Bird’s Eye, for example claim that their peas are frozen within two and a half hours of being picked. An extraordinary achievement, and equal to any in human culture. And yet as an achievement it is also utterly banal, in that all such ‘breakthroughs’ are the result of multiple piecemeal developments within the various arenas of human endeavour and are achieved because of, and not in spite of, a general social and productive condition of immiserating stasis.

Every technological advance, as a correlate of the rising organic composition of capital, stands at the juncture where the populace thereby experiences the further intensification of its own proletarianisation. It is because of the unchanging character of global population-wide productive relations that accumulated alterations along specialised sequences, changes in quantities of achievement, become possible. It is because the frame of the capitalist relation is fixed that innovations within it, as these express accumulations and investments of capital, and as these in turn fix innovation to productive sequences, are realised. Progressions only occur as captured sequences and not between or across sequences… progressions in infrastructural forms indicate an underlying stability. The transformations realised by capitalism indicate its unalterable character.

The immediate process of harvesting, preparation, distribution and sale supplies the commodity with its immediate use and exchange value. In the example of frozen peas the complex productive chain that is reduced into the simplified product follows along these lines: the optimum moment of picking is set; the peas are then harvested by hand or machine at a rate which optimises the capacity of the processing plant; they are packed in ice, taken to the processing plant, sprayed with water to remove dirt; blanched in a vat of boiling water for a few minutes to kill enzymes; sorted in salt solution to separate older from younger peas; inspected to remove foreign objects;  frozen either through a blast tunnel or on a belt over metal plates cooled by liquid ammonia; or they are packaged and frozen in multi-plate freezers; packaging is belt-driven and fully automated; in its ‘finished’ state the product is then ready for distribution and storage.

At every point in the process, technical innovation intercedes to increase the volume and speed of production and thus lower the costs, for example, the UK’s largest ‘frozen food logistics facility ‘ was opened in 2010; it has a floorplan size of 175m x 88m X 36m high, it has a capacity to store 77,000 pallets of frozen food at temperatures of minus 27 degrees Centigrade. From storage, the commodity is moved to retail and only at this point enters into the realm of activity of the supermarket worker. We might observe here  that the entirety of the cycle of the production of this commodity, as a social and not utilitarian process, functions in order to both obscure that worker’s knowledge of it, and prevent his control over it; or another way, he is excluded from it, in order to be fitted into it.

But beyond this immediate process of frozen pea production, a complete cycle of which takes only a few hours (and less than a century ago this would have seemed inconceivable) lies the four thousand year history of pea cultivation: the incremental experience that accompanies the development of a crop; the social relations which have developed besides and within its cultivation; the agricultural implements; the question of storage and the manufacture of storage facilities; the spread of populations it supported; the impact on the environment of its cultivation; the insights drawn from its cultivation and then applied in diverse productive, culinary and cultural fields; the transformations in cultivation and processing and impact on sedentary and nomadic populations and their livestock; the developments in engineering necessary to produce refrigeration, storage facilities, transportation networks; the development of markets far removed from point of production.

But even these multi-strand sequences of accumulated activities are not the whole story because every object of a society reflects the combination of the entirety of past relations, all those indirect acts which contributed to the reproduction of a society as a whole at all points in its history, as well as the continued interaction of  this history with those acts of past social forms within their own speciality, also flow into any and all specific live, present activity of man and tool.

The communist assumption, or given, within the ideology that is derived from the critique of political economy, an assumption that cannot as such appear within the method of that critique because it has no evidential basis, is the objectivity and integratability of the essence of every phase of history into a totalised human becoming. This is the assumption, the given, that the text,  Primitivism, anarcho-primitivism and anti-civilisationism – criticism draws on. It is assumed by Libcom that the eradication of the Value form will liberate use-values from commodity production, that the system of production by machines will repattern itself on a society defined by conscious control of world productive activity which itself can be reduced to the universalising concept of ‘production for need.’ It is assumed that the Value form is historically peripheral, a mere scaffolding, extraneous to the reproduction of society for-itself, and will be necessarily jettisoned in the objective process of history.  Evidently, there is some controversy over how to identify the content of what is integral and what is peripheral but that is not our concern for the moment.

Machines are not just materialised labour but are materialisations of purpose and therefore express the values of the direction of social production. Every component of every machine, every movement in every act of work, expresses the specifics of its own embedding in the history of alienation and exploitation. As Marx explains in Chapter 1 of Capital, use-value is as integrated into and expressive of the capitalist relation as exchange value… the implication is that use cannot simply be extracted from the commodity form by means of the suppression of the exchange relation. Exchangeability does not particularly carry the violence of capitalist society, as this in itself is the result of a long history of violence and dehumanisation which eventually stabilised in a generalised system of abstraction by which objects might be measured against each other. Exchange is the expression, the outcome, of that history which implies that the suppression of this outcome does not transform the nature of the conditioned relations which have produced it (and which remain present in the deep grammar of the historical materiality of production).
Where exchange has been put into question, i.e. in workers’ co-operatives, alienation has continued at the level of tasks required, even if exploitation has been attenuated. Even in generalised circumstances where exchange has been seemingly eclipsed by the optimisation of utility, the productive relation has retained its alienating character. Thus, at the very best, Libcom seem to be presenting a set of reduced rate of exploitation arguments with regard to the relation of live labour to industrial technology rather than an anti-alienation approach as such. In other words, their anticapitalism accepts from the outset the necessity of coming to terms with the historical form of capitalist production, which it seems to them, must be historically retained as a necessary condition of communism. But this conclusion is avaricious and unthinking – it is not in the nature of inheritance for the beneficiary to be in a position to retrospectively select from the conditions which have historically coded the character of his appearance. The proletariat cannot ‘extract’ elements of capitalism as if capitalised relations were a passive field of archaeological artefacts, and then put them to a different purpose.

This high density integration of received historical codes of exploitation into the very fabric of productive process is something not addressed by Libcom in their affirmation of the utility of technology, and is often conveniently forgotten by those working in the trail of Marx as well. However, the automated nature of capitalist production, and the effects that automatic procedures have on decision-making (i.e. it is difficult to decide against that which has already been decided on further up the line) means that it is highly unlikely that workers might ever be in the position to give orders to the machines on which they are employed. In all historical examples of ‘self-management’, the necessities of production have required the re-instigation of the entire capitalist cycle as the optimal environment for their operation.

What the author of Primitivism, anarcho-primitivism and anti-civilisationism – criticism says of primitivism also holds true of his own ideological prescription, ‘Even if you could turn the clock back it would just start ticking again.’ Even where ‘production for need’ has suppressed production for profit, the economy itself, and in spite of decisions made against it, has hitherto dictated the necessity of a return to full capitalism. It is not possible to decide against, or even discriminate between, that which gives rise to the capacity for  the content and locations of decisions that are pertinent to that process. Decision-making does appear within industrialised society, but that decision-making function itself does not decide where or when it should be applied. We may not choose the points in the productive cycle where we are not to be recuperated, where we are not to be abased – in fact, this has been decided in advance of our individual appearance on the scene. There is absolutely no historical evidence that any capital intensive technology could function within a non-capitalised society without it reintroducing, as a latent or secondary effect, the relationship-dynamics of commodity production.

If Libcom have identified shortcomings in the primitivist ideology at the level of the question of the pragmatic production of society it has also failed to analyse the penetration of the Value form into the fabric of the infrastructure that it proposes to wield for communism. In other words, Libcom has, perhaps for reasons of political expediency, not fully extended its critique of capitalism, with the implication that it must end up, as in its critique of primitivism, making staged arguments in favour of what are received capitalised forms. In the rush to produce a political critique of a rival, it has failed to achieve the necessary precondition for the critique of capital, i.e. a radical separation of perspective from its object… something primitivist extremism could never be accused of. This is ambivalently addressed by the article itself where it accepts that some of its advocates consider that primitivism…

is not a program for a different way of running the world. Rather it exists as a critique of civilisation and not an alternative to it. This is fair enough and there is a value in re-examining the basic assumptions of civilisation. But in that case primitivism is no substitute for the anarchist struggle for liberation, which involves adapting technology to our needs rather then rejecting it. The problem is that primitivists like to attack the very methods of mass organisation that are necessary for overthrowing capitalism.

This is an unsubstantiated assertion based, as we have already seen, on the assumption that live activity may defeat the deep programming of the productive apparatus and that communism may be grafted onto existing capitalist forms because they are somehow ‘neutral’, and not saturated by the alienation of those who have produced them. It also assumes the feasibility of a ‘mass movement’ which is resistant to ideological recuperation.

No historical mass movement for social change has ever not also positively expressed its capitalist determination… no struggle for freedom has not also introduced a new innovative phase in its own exploitation. Far from being self-evident, as Libcom imagine, and going on previous historical examples, a politically conscious ‘mass movement’ directed towards ‘liberation’ is unlikely to achieve its stated aim – the dynamic of mass forms require an internal cohesive bond that is simplified in direct proportion to the numbers involved and thus facilitates its own immediate recuperation. In fact, there are no precedents for successful social revolution that have not also led to the furtherance of the capitalist mode of production.

The unreality of primitivism is thus contrasted with a pseudo-pragmatics, the feasibility of which depends on the highly restricted framing of its arguments – we are thus presented with a choice between two nightmares, the impossible and the expedient. By presenting their proposition for the mass movement model as incontestable, Libcom fail to recognise the bourgeois character of such idealised representations of agency. There are simply no feasible models for human liberation available to us, as this liberation must first occur as a structural condition over and before the sphere of capacity for decisive ‘action’ comes online  – that is to say, in order for decisive actions to be undertaken, there must first be in place the structural environment which respond to such actions (echoes of the Milgram experiment here). Set beyond the capacities of mass movements and all the unspeakable mess they trail behind in their wake, the overthrow of capitalism is a high order emergent event which will be no more susceptible to the directions and demands of  libertarian communism than to those of primitivism but which conversely may eventually support experiments in both (and many others besides).

Where Libcom ignores the embodiment of social relations in objects and seeks an idealised immdiate victory of live labour over the relations of production, as if assuming complex machines were still tools, it separates itself from both materialist and historical understanding (i.e. which, if nothing else, assumes the conditioning and mediation of present acts by existing circumstances). If all else in its ideology is in error, primitivism (as it is represented by Libcom) is essentially correct in its understanding of the extent and nature of the capitalist totality which it finds in every detail and rightly argues cannot be overthrown by means of workers’ self-management of production for ‘need’.  By way of contrast, Libcom’s conception of the expropriation of industry becomes a pound of flesh argument, it fails to engage both with the question of where exactly the revolution will cut the determination of live activity by received forms as well as the question of  where its version of communism will and will not come to terms with those forms:

All these workers, men, women and children, are obliged to begin and finish their work at the hours fixed by the authority of the steam, which cares nothing for individual autonomy. […] The automatic machinery of the big factory is much more despotic than the small capitalists who employ workers ever have been. At least with regard to the hours of work one may write upon the portals of these factories: Lasciate ogni autonomia, voi che entrate! (Leave, ye that enter in, all autonomy behind!)


But it is through the question of the individual’s capacities that the primitivists frame their critique of capital, and this occurs at the very point where Libcom’s re-presentation of the positivist arguments of Engels falls quiet. The loss of competence from individual life has a continuing impact beyond the individual scale. Men, who as individuals serve machines, tend to reproduce machinic logics in their social life – the interactions of social life tends always to replicate the underlying relations of productive forms. That is to say, the men who serve machines in producing their material conditions also tend to mutually reduce each other to a quantity of facilitating nodes in multiple networked relations (the compulsive ‘feeding the fire’ mentality of internet networking as an example).

The machine-age man discovers within himself the alien and insatiable needs of the network as if they were his own, and sets about realising its furtherance of intersections in his own life – his every real-world act becomes an alibi for the further realisation of his cybernetic avatar. It is this perpetual simplification of the self to 140 characters in all areas of his existence that baffles the essence of the individual – the essence being his non-reducible, solutionless, difficulty as it is put into question, and to the sound of Duelling Banjos, by the inquisitive, wild dog, approach of the Other.

The autonomy of the individual is defined by his competencies, i.e. the emergent capacity to withdraw his labour from the community and live by his own efforts. However, we should ordinarily expect this capacity of fully competent individuals to be rarely acted on…  the competent individual, in his social interactions, is supplied from an almost infinite store of metaphors, lessons, experiences, images and stories by which he can enrich his discourse with the Other and thus actively seek out its company. The intercourses between competent men, defined by mutual regard, strongly contrasts with the passive aggressions of those who are socialised, dependent on and de-individualised by ‘the authority of steam’.  What is this competency that may be set against proletarianised deskilling?

It seems to be the ability to use tools and knowledge in numerous environments where a positive reciprocal relation between self and setting becomes possible. A list of competences now follows: knowing the most common wildlife species, (birds, amphibians, reptiles, insects, trees, fungi) and their habitats, types of soil/rock etc. Knowing the major star constellations. Recognising cloud formations and likely imminent weather conditions; orienting oneself to the cardinal directions and to the particulars of a landscape; wild swimming; tree climbing. Knowing how to survive a night comfortably in the countryside; knowing how to make a campfire with/without matches; how to grow vegetables; how to rear livestock; how to hunt, kill, prepare meat/fish; practical carpentry skills; basic cooking; how to build a waterproof shelter. Knowing how to understand other people’s opinions and interests and respond to them in a non-aggressive way.

To this very basic list one might add competences in sewing, writing, drawing and so on. None of these are significant in themselves, and the principles of them all may be learnt in less than a few hours but that is not the point. And nor is it the point that these competences are now superfluous, that we are ‘freed’ from learning them and that we have learnt new skills that realise other aspects of our being –  the ability to use a keyboard or how to drive (i.e. competences applied in relation to machinery) do not engage the fullness of existence that, for example, a simple night in a forest does.  It seems, from a materialist and historical perspective, that different orders of skills are mutually exclusive as they are so tied into the mode of generalised social production… there are many exceptions, but generally speaking, most ‘free time’ activity, for most of us in the West presently is now mediated through screens.

The competences should be understood as appropriate scale activities which produce the individual as an individual through his activity – without them, the individual becomes lost from his own life and appears as represented by networked mediation.  A revolt facilitated by digital communications remains tied to the alienating form of that technology, and thus expresses its revolt against the obsolete fetters placed upon the full realisation of that technology. And yet, this is not to say that we might change the world by reskilling. Competence, and its absence, is an outcome, an expression, an indication of the underlying structure of society… society is not produced through individual acts and abilities.

However, it is certain that those who have become personally competent will not accept unskilled, production-line employment in factories unless they are forced to by poverty. Factory work requires a violent preparation of the workforce, a process of densensitisation and dehumanisation. It is perhaps for this reason that the members of Libcom, who in spite of advocating the neutrality of mass production, and who have achieved a minimal competence in the critique of capital, are not employed as factory hands. This is a sketched indication of the intolerability of such work to intelligent and sensitised individuals, who ‘naturally’ want more from their waking hours than to exist as machine parts and thus gravitate away from such work where the opportunity presents itself.

Primitivism is essentially an ideological representation of, and compensation for, the anxiety experienced concerning the disappearance of individual competence… at some level primitivism grasps that if individuals are not competent in life skills then their capacity to take control of their circumstances and make decisions about their own lives is severely inhibited.  The deskilling and dispossession of proletarianised human beings is defined by an increasing dependence on machinery and a separation from immediate cycles of self-reproduction. It is a circumstance that the author of Primitivism, etc seems to accept as historically given and thus not to be contested… for him, the question of social transformation centres solely upon the management of the existing mode of production which he proposes may be converted to meet need not profit. He does not grasp that the critique of technology, which is not the same as the rejection of technology, is the only means by which the Value form, the productive relations that realise it, and its mediations via commodified objects, may truly be revealed. In every discreet object, to the very depths of its component parts, the productive relation is present. And for this reason, in order to expose the capitalised heart of the productive process, it is necessary to establish an externalised perspective and do a Kurtz:

“The earth seemed unearthly. We are accustomed to look upon the shackled form of a conquered monster, but there – there you could look at a thing monstrous and free. It was unearthly, and the men were – No, they were not inhuman. Well, you know, that was the worst of it – this suspicion of their not being inhuman. It would come slowly to one. They howled and leaped, and spun, and made horrid faces; but what thrilled you was just the thought of their humanity – like yours – the thought of your remote kinship with this wild and passionate uproar. Ugly. Yes, it was ugly enough; but if you were man enough you would admit to yourself that there was in you just the faintest trace of a response to the terrible frankness of that noise, a dim suspicion of there being a meaning in it which you — you so remote from the night of first ages – could comprehend. And why not? The mind of man is capable of anything – because everything is in it, all the past as well as all the future. What was there after all? Joy, fear, sorrow, devotion, valour, rage – who can tell? – but truth – truth stripped of its cloak of time.

Heart of Darkness


4 thoughts on “Error, Counter-Error, Error”

  1. Beautiful analysis of the alienating and de-individualizing nature of the division and simplification of labor (IE civilization). I have developed a very similar critique of civilization myself. It bugs me when dissidents assume that i am attached to my negative views of civilization in an ideological sense. A critique of a particular social system does NOT carry with itself a necessary corollary of an idealization of an opposing alternative. Many, including the communists, have a very unfounded and assuming conception of freedom, when all it takes is a more rigorous application of one’s own tools of analysis. A communist mode of production is as “authoritarian” per se as a capitalist one because the division of labor itself creates necessary reliance on the Other, in this case one’s “fellow workers”; this reliance, along with egalitarian principle, necessitates compromise of individual value non-contingent on the Other, thereby castrating individuals of power over themselves. Same alienating structure, just different masters.

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