Thursday, 2 April 2009

From "Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology"

By David Graeber.

To sum up the argument so far, then:

1) Counterpower is first and foremost rooted in the imagination; it emerges from the fact that all social systems are a tangle of contradictions, always to some defree at war with themselves. Or, more precisely, it is rooted in the relation between the practical imaginaiton required to maintain a society based on consensus (as any society not based on violence must, ultimately, be) -- the constant work of imaginative identification with others that makes understanding possible -- and the spectral violence which appears to be its constant, perhaps inevitable corollary.

2) In egalitarian societies, counterpower might be said to be the predominant form of social power. It stands guard over what are seen as certain frightening possibilities within the society itself, notably against the emergence of systemic forms of political or economic dominance.

2a) Institutionally, counterpower takes the form of what we would call institutions of direct democracy, consensus and mediation; that is, ways of publicly negotiating and controlling that inevitable internal tumult and transforming it into those social states (or if you like, forms of value) that society sees as the most desirable: conviviality, unanimity, fertility, prosperity, beauty, however it may be framed.

3) In highly unequal societies, imaginative counterpower often defines itself against certain aspects of dominance that are seen as particularly obnoxious and can become an attempt to eliminat them from social relations completely. When it does, it becomes revolutionary.

3a) Institutionally, as an imaginative well, it is responsible for the creation of new social forms, and the revalorization or transformations of old ones, and also,

4) in moments of radical transformation -- revolutions in the old-fashioned sense -- this is precisely what allows for the notorious popular ability to innovate entirely new politics, economic, and social forms. Hence, it is the root of what Antonio Negri has called "constituent power," the power to create constitutions.

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