The Ancient Origins Of Biopower, Part II: The Affect of the Polis

ImageThat hiding is essentially socializing seems contradictory, but only later in the adult mind do retreat and hiding suggest the hermit. The landscape to the child is animated. Loneliness is to be without a place to hide. The rhythm of being with and being apart from, coming and going, joining and separation in games is a dynamic recognition of the livingness of nature.

Paul Shepard, Man in the Landscape

The idea that our alienation isn’t so much the physical atomization of our bodies and activities, but instead the flood of our bodies and activities, to the point where there is no silence, nowhere to be or to escape, hits close to home for many. Vacations and spa retreats deceive the body into a feeling of temporary relief from such a social and physical tension, but fail to bring about an actual release through which our collective stress can be dumped and learned from. To this extent we are caught in a prison society where life is work and leisure is recovery from work. There is no fulfilling activity, just physical and mental stress matched with instant gratification, at a cost, of course; these exist as forms of recouping in order to endure an ever-amounting strain.

Additionally, the phrase without a place to hide is an interesting one if looked at as an extension of without a place. To make a slight nod back to the removal of humans from the natural world, the common estrangement from any place, any anchor connecting one to the land that supports them, enlivened by generations past, generates an indescribable loneliness common to citizens of industrial society. The placeholder of the city acts then as a non-place, a void within which bodies float. Continue reading


Spanish Civil WarexecutionIn every age the form in which the proletariat appears is redefined according to the overall configuration of hostilities. The most regrettable confusion in this regard concerns the ‘working class’. As such, the working class has always been hostile to the revolutionary movement, to communism. […] The worker’s movement has throughout its existence coincided with the progressive elements of capitalism. […] [It] has only demanded, for its most radical elements, the right of the working-class to manage Capital for itself. In reality, the proletariat has only ever worked for the expansion of the human basis of Capital. The so-called ‘socialist’ regimes have carried out its program perfectly: integrating everyone into capitalist relations of production and incorporating each person into the process of valorization.

— Tiqqun, “This is Not a Program”

The Ancient Origins of Biopower, Part I: Phenomenology and Perception

ImageEvery sound was a voice, every scrape or blunder was a meeting – with Thunder, with Oak, with Dragonfly. And from all of these relationships our sensibilities were nourished.

– David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous

Phenomenology is the study of direct experience. Edmund Husserl articulated that “unlike the mathematics-based sciences, phenomenology would seek not to explain the world, but to describe as closely as possible the way the world makes itself evident to awareness, the way things first arise in our direct, sensorial experience”. When trying to understand the lives of people in other times and places, and to draw any conclusions therefrom, we cannot simply make observations scientifically. The scientific method provides a vessel to understanding quantities, whereas the understanding of qualities requires something more nuanced: experience. Experience itself is beyond the quantitative, invisible through the lens of science. The feeling of gravity, the smell of a flower, and the overwhelming sensation of affection are all things that do not exist by measurement alone. Continue reading

lions in the jungle

tumblr_miyixfxER91qij426o1_500And the bourgeoisie– there are many kinds of bourgeois individuals and they are in many places– wove ceaselessly with the threads of calumny the evil slanders with which we have been regaled, because they, and they alone, have been injured and are capable of being injured by our activities, by our rebelliousness, and by the wildly irrepressible desires we carry in our hearts to be free like the eagles on the highest mountain peaks, like the lions in the jungle.

–from A Day Mournful and Overcast, by an “Uncontrollable” from the Iron Column.

The Iron Column was an autonomous, decentralized and volunteer militia in the Spanish Revolution of 1936, which was composed almost entirely of ex-prisoners rather than members of revolutionary trade unions or radical political groups.  Under their banner, 6,000 men and women fought most tenaciously for generalized social liberation.  But early in the Civil War, what had been a struggle for a free society was limited solely to the fight against fascism.  The treachery of Stalinists, Republicans and other leftists, was to impose rank, hierarchy, and strict martial culture on all the militias, stabbing them in the back and reducing them, in the words of this same writer, to the status of “domestic animals.”  In 1939, the Civil War was lost to the fascists, but long before that the Uncontrollables lost to the Stalinists.  The Iron Column disbanded in 1937.

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The Incomplete, True, Authentic, and Terrible History of Social Control in the Western World

tumblr_midlcjXZTx1qc0cxpo1_500The truth ignored, misunderstood, or intentionally hidden by the Left and Right wings of capital alike is that repression is not solely, or even predominantly, a political phenomenon.  The political manifestations of state repression are a kind of superstructure that is built on a bedrock of constant and diffuse repression that marks our whole lives and has metabolized in our bodies and our psyches. In fact, we could not even bring ourselves to submit to the paralyzing terror of a grand jury or any other of the more extreme tools of repression were it not for the thousand little humiliations that make up daily life in this society. The very  Continue reading

The Question Of Escape

ImageSo many activists, anarchists and counter-cultural types resort to escapist tendencies. Moving to the woods, buying land or traveling often come to mind, but when facing the problem of civilization, there is no escape. There is no territory, landbase, or commune to run to. As a solution, the consideration of these options assumes that such existences can survive or even enmesh themselves alongside a culture built upon runaway growth and the systematic control of all life. Alternatively, political and cultural reform lead to yet more efficient states and systems of control. Contentedness gets conflated with liberation as every food co-op, non-profit organization, or piece of welfare legislation diverts our despair and paralyzes us into inaction. Civilization absorbs every unique creation, commodifies every being, and feeds upon them, reaching every corner of the globe. Every being, human and nonhuman, who stands as a barrier to the State must either be recuperated or destroyed, as the history of colonialism cogently reveals. Continue reading

excerpts from “Unchaining Human Ecology,” part two

tumblr_mhvlo9PcWR1rt8oemo1_500Nature and Madness contains the most thorough fleshing out of Paul Shepard’s theory of normative human psychological development and its centrality to human ecology.  In it, he argues that our material disconnection from the natural world ensures that all of the inhabitants of industrial civilization are in some way sick.  The pathological tendencies induced by civilized life are expressed as arrested development at various stages of immaturity, whether displaying warped holdovers of infantile or adolescent behavior.  Particularly troubled individuals may succumb to behavior destructive of self and others as an attempt to block the awareness of feelings of disorder and fear resulting from an insufficient guidance by culture.  Shepard’s paradigm names features Continue reading



But the general movement of isolation, which is the reality of urbanism, must also include a controlled reintegration of workers depending on the needs of production and consumption that can be planned. Integration into the system requires that isolated individuals be recaptured and isolated together; factories and halls of culture, tourist resorts and housing developments are expressly organized to serve this pseudo-community that follows the isolated individual right into the family cell. The widespread use of receivers of the spectacular message enables the individual to fill his isolation with the dominant images– images which derive their power precisely from this isolation.”

–Guy Debord, “Society of the Spectacle”

Aspects of a Pleistocene Paradigm


Aspects of a Pleistocene Paradigm

Despite the rapacious work of the nineteenth-century lumber barons and the twentieth-century corporate energy moguls in homogenizing the continent, much wildness remains, and the fluidity of society is itself perhaps a doorway to the realization of Roxy Gordon’s statement that “real revolution is born from genetic memories of ancient reality.”

— Paul Shepard, from “Place and Human Development”

This is a link to a list that first appeared in the book Coming Home to the Pleistocene by Paul Shepard.  It enumerates the many elements of an optimally free and healthy life for human animals.  A minimum of coherence would require that any effort to tangibly eradicate domination, exploitation and alienation from our lives, as is the stated goal of anarchism, would not only aim to destroy capitalism and the state, but also all those institutions which prevent the access of all members of our species to these realities.

…in reality environmental requirements are greater and more exacting for human beings than for most other species.  Men [sic] need, in their non-human environment, open country with occasional cover, labyrinthine play areas, a rich variety of plants, animals, rocks, stars; structures and forms numbering into the thousands; initiation solitude, transitional and holy places, a wide variety of food organisms and diversity of stone and wood, nearby fresh water, large mammalian herds, cave and other habitation sites, and so on.  Beyond the ecological and psychological constants needed for normal human health there must be an environmental margin of security to allow choice and to contribute to the individuality of experience and learned behavior.

–Paul Shepard, from The Tender Carnivore and the Sacred Game

Review of Paul Shepard’s “Nature and Madness”

tumblr_mj66z1qd3y1qc0cxpo1_500Nature and Madness
Paul Shepard
San Francisco:  Sierra Club Books, 1982.

Paul Shepard considered this his most important book, and it’s easy to see why.  It is the most nuanced theory I could personally imagine coming from ecology, or any of the sciences, about how and why humans participate in our own exploitation, succumb to our own domination, and perpetuate or at least ignore the destruction of the land on which we live.

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