Freedom’s Disorder by Massimo Passamani

The state is the supreme expression of institutional order. It is a model of social organization built on hierarchy, control and coercion. According to one view that many anarchists share, institutional order is nothing other than the usurpation of another kind of order that could be described as spontaneous.

The theory is that social life is realized through rules that are intrinsic to it, i.e., rules that tend to occur in all contexts. This self-regulating capacity of the social whole is suffocated by the external intervention of the state (an intervention, that is to say, which corresponds to other rules, precisely those of institutional order). And anarchists have always based their theory and revolutionary projects on this spontaneity. Spontaneity both in the insurrectional clash and in the organization of society from the base when the intervention of the various political and economic activities is suspended by the struggle in course. Where there is a relative absence of power, the exploited tend to satisfy the requirements of production and distribution in a horizontal manner.

Seen in this way, real order is not that of the state which creates inequality, domination and consequently civil war, but precisely that which is spontaneous. This is the idea that Proudhon expressed with the famous phrase: “Freedom is the mother, not the daughter of order.” Order imposed from above ends up suffocating freedom while maintaining and expanding the rigid and increasingly rational organization of techniques of government. On the other hand, the complete expression of freedom would eliminate the reasons for social disorder.

I do not agree with this way of formulating the problem. And it is certainly a problem of considerable importance. What follows should therefore be read as a series of questions, above all for the writer.

It is not possible to make a distinct separation between society and the state. There is no inside or outside. In fact, if it is true that the state transforms what is produced into coercive strength in social relations, it is just as true that the power to alienate, transfer and organize this strength comes from society itself. The state has nothing of its own. And that’s not all. Every social context tends to institutionalize relationships between individuals. When it is the context that conditions relations, these become mere functions of a broader organization. Without the ceaseless will to come together and determine our associations starting from our desires, society becomes a reciprocal belonging, a bond that reproduces and autonomizes the only common element: the absence of freedom.

What I am trying to say is something a bit different from the idea that domination is a product of the dominated. It seems difficult to me to contest that if no one were to obey, no one would be able to command, as Belleguarrigue stated. But that is not what interests me here. To put it another way, I believe that there is a self-regulating spontaneity that the state extorts. Or rather, I believe that power and hierarchy are just as spontaneous as freedom and difference. Furthermore, it may be precisely domination that expresses social spontaneity (without, for this reason, falling into a reverse reading of Rousseau). Moreover, the concept of order has been used far too often as a synonym for the absence, or at least the reasonably containment, of conflict. Since it is the state that creates conflict, a society free of its interference would be ordered. In my opinion, however, authority does not originate in dispute, in the impossibility of harmonizing what is different, but rather in the attempt to impose harmony by force, to resolve, which is to say to annihilate, contraries. Class division and hierarchy are expressions of mutilated difference.

Another conception of order makes difference itself the common element, the space of the interpenetration of opposites. But the only way opposites can be harmonized is by making difference a mere function of something greater. But instead, it should be order that is a function of difference. In other words, the freedom that is tolerated or guaranteed with the aim of creating a harmonious society is not the sort that expresses singularity (that singularis which for the Latins was totally distinct). The space of individuality is a union that is always changeable and can never become a mere container.

Identifying principles of social spontaneity, charging them with a value that goes well beyond the purely descriptive aspect, really means singling out tasks and aims. As I see it, there is no guarantee that society without the state would necessarily have to be free. This is where freedom’s charm originates, precisely from the fact that it is a decision, both in the sense of a stratagem that goes beyond merely spontaneous development, and in the sense of rupture, of differentiation. Relations of mutuality without command can only be realized by constructing something, not by taking something away. If spontaneous forms of order exist, they can at most be a basis from which to start, a mutually anti-social basis.

When we rid ourselves of the destinies of spontaneity as well as the impositions of every institution, the concept of order becomes an area that is more linguistic than real. Perhaps this is how one could explain the profound antipathy that every rebel has always felt towards it. “Free, that is to say ordered,” I have read it so often. Come on, let’s not be silly.

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