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Order and Anarchy

David Cowles

Mar 21, 2023

“The order that emerges among self-governing entities is the only 'real' order.”

Notice the title, Order and Anarchy. Anarchy is the absence of imposed order, not the absence of order per se. In fact, no one is more invested in the emergence of order than the Anarchist. Anarchism celebrates the spontaneous emergence of order, ‘self-ordering’, aka ‘bootstrapping’.

In fact, to be is precisely to combine an element of inherited order (the actual world) with an element of spontaneous ordering (novelty); every genuine event requires both. 

Every event is both the rejection of order and the appetition of order. Of course, from the perspective of inherited order, emergent order appears as mere discord; and from the perspective of emergent order, inherited order appears as institutionalized resistance to novelty. Yet, every event inherits a settled past and proposes a novel future. That’s exactly what an event is. 

The reaction of the present (event) to the past is never mindless copying or blanket rejection. Something of the past must be conserved to serve as exoskeleton for the present and endoskeleton for the future. Likewise, rejection of inherited order is never blind or capricious. It is always done in the service of a proposition, i.e., a concrete proposal for the future.

Sidebar: Abbie Hoffmann notwithstanding, there is no such thing as a Revolution for the Hell of it…except in book(s). Where is the Youth International Party today? What happened to yesterday’s Yippies? Did they turn into guppies, oops, I mean Yuppies?

Something of the past must be destroyed to ‘make room’ for novelty. New order cannot simply pile-up on top of old order ad infinitum. Such a world cannot exist! (It’s simple ‘math’: Infinite inherited order = no novelty = zero emergent order = no events = no world. QED) 

Sidebar: Gertrude Stein wrote that mortality is nature’s way of making room for the future. James Joyce notwithstanding, Stein’s ability to decipher ‘the signatures of all things’ was unique. She could truly ‘see a world in a grain of sand.’ – William Blake

Philosophical Anarchism is the belief that all true order is sui generis, that it emerges in the course of an event, any event, and that it is conserved as the ground from which all future events emerge. 

Freedom is a prerequisite for true order; imposed order, on the other hand, springs from the desire to preserve what is at the expense of what could be. Reification, stagnation, paralysis are all symptoms of disorder.

Bobby Kennedy said it best: “Some men (sic) see things as they are and ask ‘why’; I dream of things that never were and ask, ‘why not’.”

Inherited order is the exoskeleton that protects embryonic order in utero, but later, as imposed order, it functions as a straightjacket.  

An-arch-ism is the belief that certain entities are capable of self-government, and that part of self-government is the ability to enter into ordered relationships with other entities. At the risk of repeating myself, the order that emerges among self-governing entities is the only real order.

Nor is anarchy synonymous with chaos. In fact, it might be its antonym. 

Chaos, ab initio, appears as disorder, but upon deeper investigation, chaotic systems are shown to be deterministic. Anarchy is neither. Anarchy is emergent order. Every event is the reaction of the present to an ordered past. 

Freedom and order have a dialectical relationship. There is no freedom without order and no order without freedom. Pure order and pure freedom are concepts; neither can be realized alone, by itself, in any actual entity.

Therefore, no event is what was, and every event is what it is not yet. An event is not the actual world it inherited, nor is it yet the objective immortality it will enjoy along with other events.

An event is a double negative: “Not what was, not what will be, I am!” Anarchism then is the gnosis and praxis of Being. 

Likewise, Political Anarchism (PA) does not advocate social disorder; it merely opposes the mirage of order known as the State. But alleged anarchist plots to blow up critical infrastructure have understandably given Political Anarchism a bad name.

We think of order and freedom, past and present, as a continuum, a spectrum ranging from the complete absence of institutional constraints on one end all the way to a full-blown police-state on the other. But even that model may be too restrictive.

It would be more useful and accurate to ‘graph’ the relationship between order and freedom on a plane with order on the X-axis and freedom on the Y. Every possible non-degenerate social structure (event) includes elements of order and elements of freedom in varying proportions. 

Think of an event as a Bach concerto. It is everywhere tightly ordered and everywhere astonishingly novel.  

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