From Bertrand Russell to Brazilian Carnaval: How To Make The World As It Could Be Made.
By Robert Hanna
THINKING FOR A LIVING: A PHILOSOPHER’S NOTEBOOK (SECOND SERIES, INSTALLMENT 11)
PREVIOUS INSTALLMENTS IN THE SECOND SERIES
The Omnibus Edition contains the nineteen installments of the First Series of THINKING FOR A LIVING, revised and collected into a single volume, as a downloadable .pdf for universal free sharing–
THE FIRST SERIES
83. From Bertrand Russell to Brazilian carnaval: how to make the world as it could be made. It is of course well-known that Bertrand Russell, along with A.N. Whitehead, was the co-author of Principia Mathematica (1910, 1912, 1913), and, along with G.E. Moore and Russell’s student Ludwig Wittgenstein, also a Founding Father of Analytic philosophy.
But it is far less well-known — indeed, even a well-kept secret of cultural and intellectual history, whether popular or professional academic — that Russell was also an anarcho-socialist, not merely a pacifist, during World War I.
For example, here’s what Wikipedia says about Russell’s activities from 1916 to 1918:
During the First World War, Russell was one of the few people to engage in active pacifist activities and in 1916, he was dismissed from Trinity College following his conviction under the Defence of the Realm Act 1914. Russell played a significant part in the Leeds Convention in June 1917, a historic event which saw well over a thousand “anti-war socialists” gather; many being delegates from the Independent Labour Party and the Socialist Party, united in their pacifist beliefs and advocating a peace settlement. The international press reported that Russell appeared with a number of Labour MPs, including Ramsay MacDonald and Philip Snowden, as well as former Liberal MP and anti-conscription campaigner, Professor Arnold Lupton. After the event, Russell told Lady Ottoline Morrell that, “to my surprise, when I got up to speak, I was given the greatest ovation that was possible to give anybody”.
The Trinity incident resulted in Russell being fined £100, which he refused to pay in hopes that he would be sent to prison, but his books were sold at auction to raise the money. The books were bought by friends; he later treasured his copy of the King James Bible that was stamped “Confiscated by Cambridge Police.”
A later conviction for publicly lecturing against inviting the US to enter the war on the United Kingdom’s side resulted in six months’ imprisonment in Brixton prison … in 1918.[i]
Notice especially, however, that there’s no mention whatsoever of Russell’s radically progressive book, Proposed Roads to Freedom: Socialism, Anarchism and Syndicalism, published in 1918, the full text of which can be found here.
84. In part 2 of Proposed Roads to Freedom, Russell discusses many concrete social and political issues, and proposes a number of concrete solutions, in line with his favored doctrine, “Guild Socialism,” which is a federalist development of Kropotkin-style anarcho-socialism.
And in the last chapter, “The World As It Could Be Made,” he quite lyrically describes a normative vision of a categorically politically better world: as it were, John Lennon’s “Imagine” for 1918.
In fact, it turns out that Lennon’s political views were actually strongly influenced by Russell’s views, via Paul McCartney.[ii]
One thing that is very striking about Russell’s arguments in this 1918 political book is his consistent avoidance of a priori reasoning, abstraction, and even minimal formalization.
It is as if, in this book, he found great intellectual relief from the relentless abstractions and formal-logical reasoning patterns of Principles of Mathematics (1903), the first volume of Principia (1910), Problems of Philosophy (1912), the aborted Theory of Knowledge project (1913), Our Knowledge of the External World (1914), and even An Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy (1918), written in Brixton Prison, about which he later wrote in his Autobiography:
I found prison in many ways quite agreeable. I had no engagements, no difficult decisions to make, no fear of callers, no interruptions to my work. I read enormously; I wrote a book, “Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy”… and began the work for “Analysis of Mind.”[iii]
As a consequence, however, Russell’s political solutions in Proposed Roads to Freedom are in fact too concrete–too much embedded in a certain historical-social context: Europe and England, circa 1918, at the end of The Great War.
This fact makes Russell’s excellent ideas less generalizable, less directly applicable, and less relevant to the USA and the rest of the world, one hundred years later, circa 2019, not to mention the future world, than they should be.
84. But here I can help Russell out with a basic procedural principle of existential Kantian cosmopolitan anarcho-socialist dynamics,[iv] as follows.
First, by an institutional structure, I mean
an ordered set of moral principles shared in common by a group of people, with a collective aim, guiding their mutual interactions.
Or, in other words, an institutional structure is a social network of moral principles designed to further some collective aim.
Second, by oppression, I mean this:
A person or a group of people are oppressed if and only if their actual condition falls below what would be minimally sufficient to meet the ethical demands of respect for their human dignity.
Third, by oppression with respect to X, I mean this:
A person or group of people are oppressed with respect to X if and only if their actual condition falls below what would be minimally sufficient to meet the ethical demands of respect for their human dignity with respect to X.
So, for example, as the Black Lives Matter movement clearly demonstrates, young black men in the US have been oppressed with respect to treatment by the police: the police historically have been and still are treating young black men violently in ways that fall substantially below what would be minimally sufficient to meet the ethical demands for their human dignity with respect to police treatment.
Fourth, Federalism says:
States should introduce a series of mediating institutional structures between government and the individual, each of which and all of which have specifically ethical aims and rational justifications.
Fifth, Quasi-Federalism says:
Humanity should introduce a series of mediating institutional structures between government and the individual, each of which and all of which have specifically existential Kantian cosmopolitan anarcho-socialist aims and adequate rational justification.
Sixth, Quasi-Federalism operates according to a recursive[v] basic procedural principle that I call the principle of Devolutionary and Dynamic Anti-Oppression, aka DDAO:
Suppose that a State or Statelike institutional structure S exists. Then S should be replaced by a series of new institutional structures, each one of which simultaneously represents a definite step in the direction of the devolutionary deconstruction of S and also a definite step in the direction of the dynamic construction of a non-oppressive condition, in a post-big-capitalist, post-State, post-State-like institutional world, for all the people affected by S.
According to DDAO, in a normative sense, each new institutional structure simultaneously represents a definite “left to right” decrease in big-capitalist alienation, commodification, and economic oppression more generally, and in Statist and State-like institutional coercion and authoritarian oppression more generally, and also a definite “right to left” increase in individual and collective non-alienation, non-commodification, non-coercion, and overall non-oppression.
So each new structure is dual and enantiomorphic (mirror-reflected) in a categorically normative sense.
More generally, we should always be looking to design and create new institutional structures that have this normatively dual, enantiomorphic character, namely, they satisfy DDAO.
85. Here is a brief example of how DDAO can be applied, also partially inspired by Alex Vitale’s breakthrough book, The End of Policing.[vi]
For each armed police force in the USA, we create a new devolutionary/dynamic Police Force Regime 1 in which no police officers normally carry guns or ever use other violent solutions to policing problems (left to right devolution of the State) and all police officers consistently practice non-violent solutions to policing problems, although they still carry nightsticks and have some training in the martial arts (right to left construction of a non-oppressive condition for young black men, and others, in a post-big-capitalist, post-State, post-State-like institutional world).
Then, as soon as it can be implemented, for each armed police force in the USA, starting with Police Force Regime 1, we create should be a new devolutionary/dynamic Police Force Regime 2 in which no police officers normally carry nightsticks or ever use other violent solutions to policing problems (left to right devolution of the State) and consistently practice non-violent solutions to policing problems, although they still have some training in the martial arts (right to left construction of a non-oppressive condition for young black men, and others, in a post-big-capitalist, post-State, post-State-like institutional world).
86. And so-on, set-by-step, until Police Regime Null is reached, in which there is, in effect, the end of policing in the USA, because whatever social institutional structure remains in place, fully meets or exceeds the minimal demands of sufficient respect for human dignity, in a post-big-capitalist, post-State, post-State-like institutional world.
87. Here are two crucial further points about real-world applications of DDAO.
First, in applying DDAO, we are always drawing directly on fully embedded social know-how about the actual operations of the relevant institutional structures,[vii] and thereby also always using phenomenologically self-evident moral intuition[viii] to guide us in knowing how each new institutional structure simultaneously represents a definite decrease in Statist and State-like institutional coercion and also a definite increase in individual and collective non-oppression.
Second, obviously, no change in institutional structures occurs independently of simultaneous changes in other institutional structures, since there are multiple dependency relations not only within institutional structures but also between and among institutional structures.
So, e.g., in the police oppression example, obviously, in order to make each recursive change in the institutional structures constituting police forces, until, in effect, we reach the end of policing in the USA, we would also simultaneously have to make corresponding, relevant changes in other institutional structures, e.g., in the local government administration regimes that control police forces.
88. In the all-too-real world of May 2019, it is self-evident to any reasonable person that, given Donald Trump’s US presidency in the USA, given Jair Bolsonaro’s presidency in Brazil, and given the recent worldwide trend towards neoliberal, neofascist, democratic populism, it follows that majoritarian representative democracy in general, and big-capitalist neoliberal majoritarian representative democracy in particular, are deeply questionable.
So it is more than merely reasonable to look for radical alternatives to big-capitalist neoliberal majoritarian representative democracy: it is morally and politically imperative to do so.
89. In #84, I defined “institutions” in terms of shared ordered sets of ethical principles and collective aims.
What is a collective aim?
By that, I mean an essentially embodied, action-oriented, desire-based emotive[ix] shared set of basic ideals and values, or what the Brazilians call concordar: a shared heart.
It is also what Samuel Alexander calls “sociality” and what Jan Slaby calls “relational affect.”[x]
The basic idea is that once we realize that, from the standpoint of the philosophy of mind, emotions are neither merely “in the head” nor inherently passive, but on the contrary are essentially embodied, first-person experiences of desiderative caring, directly expressed as dispositions spontaneously and creatively to move one’s body intentionally in various ways, then we can also clearly see that all emotions are immediately manifest in the world and fully shareable with others.
Concordar is vividly obvious in the deeply important yet still everyday human phenomena of love and sexuality, religious rituals, revivalist meetings, team sports, rock music concerts, and all kinds of dancing, for example, hip-hop dancing.
In all of these group activities, concordar exists not only among and between active participants or performers, but also among and between audiences or viewers, and also among and between active participants or performers and audiences or viewers.
These phenomena clearly show that concordar can be the source of tremendous personal and social liberation, intense bodily and spiritual enjoyment, and morally authentic happiness — as well, of course, as considerable amounts of shallow or morally trivial happiness, “just having fun.”
Concordar is equally vividly obvious, however, in the bonding rituals of business corporations, cults, and terrorist oganizations, in angry political demonstrations and protests, in jingoistic political spectacles, in military rituals and spectacles, in mob hysteria, and in mob violence.
The latter phenomena all clearly show that concordar can also be the source of tremendous psychological and social oppression, and evil.
90. What I want to concentrate on is concordar with respect to the Highest Good in the Kantian ethical sense.
As I argue in part 1 of Kant, Agnosticism, and Anarchism,[xi] this is essentially bound up with radically agnostic religious experience or spirituality.
As such, we could also call it solidarity.
The dual conception of social dynamics according to DDOA and concordar or solidarity with respect to the Highest Good, enables me to display a sharp and indeed radical contrast between existential Kantian cosmopolitan social anarchism on the one hand, and both democracy in general and also big-capitalist neoliberal majoritarian representative democracy in particular.
This in turn is deeply important because what social anarchists call direct democracy — that is, collective, face-to-face, participatory decision-making in a non-majoritarian, non-representative framework — is radically distinct from majoritarian representative democracy.[xii]
Majoritarian representative democracy is a form of Statism which says that there should be “majority rule” and “representation.”
This means that the governmental control of coercive power should be vested in a majority of “the people,” that is, of those legally qualified to vote, who then hand over legislative and executive control of coercive power to an elected or appointed minority who actually govern.
But government according to the possession of coercive power is always rationally unjustified and immoral on Kantian anarcho-socialist grounds, no matter how few or how many people have it.
Even 100% of “the people” can be morally wrong.
And if they are wrong, then they are wrong, and their possession of coercive power cannot ever make it right.
Therefore, any version of majoritarian representative democracy is rationally unjustified and immoral on existential Kantian cosmopolitan anarcho-socialist grounds.
91. The truth is, that in its rationally defensible essence, politics is not about who should possess coercive power, especially including the “power vested in the people” and their governments, even despite the 5200+ year old history of States and other State-like institutions, going back to the emergence of the earliest States in Mesopotamia.[xiii]
That politics is about who should possess coercive power is what Statism says.
But as we have seen, Statism is rationally unjustified and immoral on existential Kantian cosmopolitan anarcho-socialist grounds.
On the contrary, in its authentic moral essence, politics is about respect for human dignity, ending/reducing human oppression, mutual aid/kindness, and radical enlightenment, universally and worldwide.
So coercive power “vested in the people” and their governments is no better than any other kind of Statist coercive power.
Moreover, and more specifically, big capitalist neoliberal majoritarian representative democracy essentially requires conformity, consensus, voting, elections, and popular mandates.
Then the elected or appointed mandated minority who actually govern determine the specific character of the use of coercive power.
But the tyranny of the minority is no better than the tyranny of the majority: both are tyranny, hence both are rationally unjustified and immoral.
So any version of democracy that is based on majoritarian representative democracy, at the end of the day, even with total consensus, is merely another form of Statism.
92. In existential Kantian cosmopolitan anarcho-socialism, by sharp contrast, based as it is on DDAO and concordar or solidarity, we share collective basic ideals and values, and yet we also fully allow for a radical multiplicity of human differences in bodily coloration, configuration, and natural operation, language, and ethnicity, and for a radical multiplicity of spontaneous variations of opinion and lifestyle under those basic ideals and values, that I will call creative self-expression.
Hence existential Kantian cosmopolitan anarcho-socialism is directly opposed to the conformity, consensus, voting, elections, and popular mandates that are essentially characteristic of big-capitalist neoliberal majoritarian representative democracy.
All of these treat people like mere factory products or machines; by means of these, they rule and apply coercive power by treating people as sheer aggregates of human bodies more or less accidentally collected inside bordered sub-regions of the Earth — where the borders are very often, actually or operationally, walls with barbed wire on top, and passage across which is highly restricted, and enforced by well-armed, trigger-happy guards — and by monitoring and surveillance systems based on the omnipresence of CCTVs and sheer numbering (for example, social security numbers in the USA, or CPF numbers and Federal Police identity cards in Brazil), alone; and they suppress or even kill creative self-expression.
By means of post-big-capitalist, post-State, post-Statelike institutional, and therefore post-majoritarian-representative-democratic existential Kantian cosmopolitan anarcho- socialist dynamics, the big-capitalist neoliberal majoritarian representative democratic mechanisms of conformity, consensus, voting, elections, and popular mandates will all be gradually devolved out of existence and simultaneously dynamically replaced by an indefinitely large number of partially overlapping, shared human sentimental journeys, that is, by an indefinitely large number of partially overlapping, shared human non-oppressive, freely-chosen, yet collective DDAO-guided processes of forming and acting on the basis of concordar or solidarity.
So, given DDAO and concordar or solidarity, since we share collective basic ideals and values in our collective creation of a better world, and since we also fully allow for a radical multiplicity of human differences in bodily coloration, configuration, and natural operation, language, and ethnicity, as well as a multiplicity of spontaneous variations of opinion and life style under those aims, aka creative self-expression, then this sentimental journey will be like free-style collective dancing combined with wholehearted respect for all humanity: that is, it will be like Brazilian carnaval at its very best–as vividly imagined, e.g., in Marcel Camus’s stunning 1959 movie Black Orpheus.[xiv]
[i] Wikipedia, “Bertrand Russell” (2019), available online at URL = <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bertrand_Russell>.
[ii] See S. Michaels, “Sir Paul McCartney: I Politicised The Beatles,” The Guardian (15 December 2008), available online at URL = <https://www.theguardian.com/music/2008/dec/15/paulmccartney-thebeatles>, and also this interview with McCartney, available online at URL= <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3m2r0Ln0rU>.
[iii] B. Russell, Autobiography (London: Unwin, 1975), ch. 8.
[iv] See R. Hanna, Kant, Agnosticism, and Anarchism: A Theological-Political Treatise (THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION, Vol. 4) (New York: Nova Science, 2018), PREVIEW, esp. parts 2 and 3.
[v] A recursive principle is a principle that, starting with a “ground level” or “zero” case as input, is successively applied to the result of each prior application until a certain desired output is constructed. So, e.g., the arithmetic principle that determines counting to ten in the natural number series is a recursive principle.
[vi] A. Vitale, The End of Policing (London: Verso, 2017).
[vii] This is also what J.C. Scott, borrowing the Greek term for Odysseus’s non-discursive social and political insight in the Odyssey and the Iliad, calls “metis” in Seeing Like a State (New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press, 1998).
[viii] See, e.g., R. Hanna, Kantian Ethics and Human Existence: A Study in Moral Philosophy (THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION, Vol. 3)(New York: Nova Science, 2018), PREVIEW, esp. ch. 2.
[ix] See R. Hanna and M. Maiese, Embodied Minds in Action (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2009), ch. 5; and M. Maiese, Embodiment, Emotion, and Cognition (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).
[x] See S. Alexander, Space, Time, and Deity (2 vols., London: Macmillan, 1920), vol. 2, pp. 31–37, available online at URL = <https://brocku.ca/MeadProject/Alexander/Alexander_toc.html>; and J. Slaby, “Relational Affect,” Academia.edu, available online at URL = <https://www.academia.edu/25728787/Relational_Affect>.
[xi] See note [iv] above.
[xii] See, e.g., M. Bookchin, Post-Scarcity Anarchism (2nd edn., Montreal, CA: Black Rose Books, 1986), available online at URL = <https://libcom.org/files/Post-Scarcity%20Anarchism%20-%20Murray%20Bookchin.pdf>; and M. Bookchin, Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism, available online at URL = <http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/Anarchist_Archives/bookchin/soclife.html>.
[xiii] See J.C Scott, Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States (New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press, 2017), chs. 4–7.
[xiv] I’m fully aware of the identitarian, “cultural appropriation” critique of Black Orpheus: the director, Marcel Camus, is French; one of the leads, Marpessa Dawn, is American; etc., etc.; therefore it’s not authentically Brazilian, and morally bad. But quite apart from the obviously fallacious character of the cultural appropriation argument–it’s just an identitarian sub-species of cultural relativism, which says (i) different cultures have different moral beliefs and identities (true), (ii) therefore there are no universal moral principles and every culture has special moral virtues just by virtue of having its own identity (doubly false, non sequitur), (iii) therefore any representation of that culture from outside it is inauthentic and morally bad (false again, and another non sequitur)–I’ve chosen Black Orpheus as an image/symbol precisely for its cosmopolitan representation of carnaval.
AGAINST PROFESSIONAL PHILOSOPHY REDUX 270
Mr Nemo, W, X, Y, & Z, Thursday 9 May 2019
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