Libertarian forms of organization have the enormous responsibility of trying to resemble the society they are seeking to develop. Direct action, so integral to the management of a future society, has its parallel in the use of direct action to change society. Communal forms, so integral to the structure of a future society, have their parallel in the use of communal forms-collectives, affinity groups, and the like-to change society. The ecological ethics, con federal relationships, and decentralized structures we would expect to find in a future society, are fostered by the values and networks we try to use in achieving an ecological society. INhile the kinship tie or the blood oath is a more strictly biological basis for association than any form we know, it is patently too parochial and restrictive, in view of our modern commitment to a universal humanitas.
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Both labor and the materials on which it «worked» were coequally creative, innovative, and most assuredly artistic. The notion that labor «appropriates» nature in any way whatever — a notion intrinsic to both Locke’s and Marx’s conceptual framework — would have been utterly alien to the technical imagination of organic society and inconsistent with its compensatory and distributive principles. So crucial was the coequality of substance with labor, in any understanding of this early technical imagination, that work was distinguished by its capacity to discover the «voice» of substance, not simply to fashion an inert «natural resource» into desired objects. Among the old Anvilik Eskimo, ivory carvers «rarely tried to impose a pattern on nature, or their own personalities on matter,» observes Rene Dubas. Holding the «raw ivory» in his hand, the craftsman turned it gently this way and that way, whispering to it, «Who are you? Who hides in you?» The carver rarely set out consciously to shape a particular form.
The conception of individual autonomy had not yet acquired the fictive «sovereignty» it has achieved today. The world was perceived as a composite of many different parts, each indispensable to its unity and harmony. Individuality, to the extent that it did not conflict with the community interest on which the survival of all depended, was seen more in terms of interdependence than independence.
The conflict latent in this dual message of political quietism and messianic activism could hardly be suppressed once the Christian doctrine became increasingly secularized. The Church was the major factor behind its own transformation from an other-worldly into a worldly power — notably by its growing conflict with the temporal power to which Pauline Christianity had entrusted humanity’s worldly destiny. The most explosive of these conflicts developed in the eleventh century, when Pope Gregory VII forbade the lay investiture loveconnectionreviews of bishops and claimed this authority exclusively for the Papacy. The dispute reached its culmination when the Holy See excommunicated the Holy Roman Emperor, Henry IV, for contumaciously resisting the Church’s claims, and called upon Henry’s subjects to deny him fealty. The secularization of the individual and the disenchantment of personality that came with Machiavelli’s emphasis on the amorality of political life and Locke’s notion of the proprietary individual divested the self and humanity of their utopian content.
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So thoroughly does it permeate the «individualistic» philosophies of Hobbes, Locke, and the classical economists that it often remains the unspoken assumption for more debatable social issues. With Hobbes, the «state of nature» is a state of disorder, of the «war of all against all.» The material stinginess of physical nature reappears as the ethical stinginess of human nature in the isolated ego’s ruthless struggle for survival, power, and felicity. The chaotic consequences that the «state of nature» must inevitably yield can only be contained by the ordered universe of the State.
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Plow agriculture, grains, and the elaboration of crafts may have provided the necessary condition for the emergence of cities, classes, and exploitation in many areas of the world, but they never provided sufficient conditions. Accumulated wealth, now conceived as the sum of humanity’s material sacrifices to the deities, was divested of the demonic traits that organic society had imputed to treasure. The wealthy temples that emerged in the Old World and New are testimony to a sacralization of accumulated wealth; later, of booty as the reward of valor; and finally, tribute as the result of political sovereignty.
Initially, what often passes for the State in the sociological literature of our time is a very loose, unstable, indeed, even a fairly democratic ensemble of institutions that have very shallow roots in society. Popular assemblies of citizens are rarely complete State forms, even when their membership is resolutely restricted. Nor are chieftainships and rudimentary kingships easily resolvable into authentic political institutions.
The twentieth century has made a mockery of the word and divested it of much of its idealistic content by attaching it to totalitarian ideologies and countries. To a large extent, freedom can best be explicated as part of a voyage of discovery that begins with its early practice — and limits — in organic society, its negation by hierarchical and class «civilizations,» and its partial realization in early notions of justice. The universalization of ideas acquires its most beguiling intellectual form in the ever-expansive meaning people give to freedom.
Here, Plato notoriously includes Homeric poetry and probably the contemporary drama in his day that he viewed as degrading to humanity’s image of the gods. This imagery is essential in achieving any understanding of how the Greeks — and every European ruling class that was to follow the decline of the polis — were to think about the human condition. Its accolades to balance and equipoise notwithstanding, the predominant note in Hellenic thought was always a hierarchical organization of reality. It was always stated in rational and secular terms, but we cannot forget that chaos had a very mundane and earthy substantiality in the form of a large population of slaves, foreigners, women and potentially unruly freedmen who were placed in an inferior status within the polis or had no status at all. Characteristically, the biblical notion of creation «is not a speculative cosmogony,» Rudolph Bultmann observes, «but a confession of faith in God as Lord. The world belongs to him and he upholds it by his power.» This world is now pervaded by hierarchy, by ruler and ruled, over whom presides that nameless abstraction, the Lord. Man, viewed from the Lord’s eyes, is an utterly abject creature, yet, viewed from ours, a hierarch in his own right.
Such a technology would include small solar and wind installations, organic gardens, and the use of local «natural resources» worked by decentralized communities. This view quickly gave rise to another — the need for direct democracy, for urban decentralization, for a high measure of self-sufficiency, for self-empowerment based on communal forms of social life — in short, the nonauthoritarian Commune composed of communes. These archaisms, with their theological nuances and their tightly formulated teleologies, have been justly viewed as socially reactionary traps.