Challenges to Freedom: From Nihilism to Anarchist Rebirth

The anarchist

Notes on the Anarchist Impulse and Its Necessary Return to the West

Submitted by ElHeraldoAcrata on May 18, 2024

Iván Fernando Mérida Aguilar*
The irrationality of totalizing delusion, emerging from the authoritarian models of the 20th century, imposed itself as truth through simplifications of the past—argumentum ad antiquitatem—projected into the present. Consequently, there were no rationalized explanations, only simplified and absurd assertions. These assertions were so weak that, in the West, they led to a descent into pessimism, radicalization ad absurdum, and a nihilistic void from the 1960s onward.
From that fall into pessimism, finding breaches of freedom allowed the appreciation of the value of difference, non-conformity, the distinct, and the limited power we exercise in collective relationships. Despite all social conditioning, mental biases, and global forces acting on large social collectives, the search for freedom remained a definitive axis for the existence of humans who still dream and create in the same way their ancestors did 100,000 years ago. This search for freedom through imagination and creation is the anarchist impulse, which opposes the bellum omnium contra omnes and the infinite deconstruction of man.
However, these are hostile times for individual freedom, where revenge and selfishness outweigh creation, imagination, empathy, and compassion. Regarding our human nature, our cognitive biases are deepened under an existential threat. Thus, from extreme selfishness, the will to dominate and its manifestation in cupiditas dominatio [1] leads to the hedonistic ethos that prevails in the fragmented and fluid culture of the West. In this culture, states and nations that were once influential are now patiens, with fragmented identities; hubris or excess prevails in their intention to apply arrogant ideas and deconstructions of themselves against a peripheral and authoritarian global environment that joins forces solidly against all open societies.
Without a society that prevails as a catalyst for strong common bonds, everything becomes a relative discourse where the individual is not truly connected to anything, because their life is an accelerated virtualization, ultimately nullifying their concern for all public and political affairs. Thus, the individual ends up becoming an apolitical subject.
And it is in this apoliticism that lies sufficient acquiescence for a hostile environment to freedom to consolidate, leading to the regression of democracies that are no longer minimal but non-existent; eliminating the small breaches of freedom that anti-authoritarians sought to enhance in defense of the values of an open and free society.
In this regard, contemporary liberal societies, increasingly fragmented and fragile, may claim freedoms and civil rights but do not compensate for the existential void; in these societies, there is no sense of being, only an inclination towards nihilism. Here, cupiditas dominatio and nihilism coexist in individual egos. Thus, for the new postmodern nihilists of the West, if modernity's concepts do not satisfy them, then the social environment must be de-structured and deconstructed; identity, nation, gender, love, knowledge, truth, ethics, history, science, order, and reality, among others, are relativized in uncertainty and non-affirmation. This subjects minds to continuous degradation and confusion of Enlightenment ideals through spectacular immediacy.
Thus, from the uncertainty produced by the growing openness to the infinite, to experimentation, and to the uprooting of all Western values, we return to the certainty pretended by illiberal projects, where the hard truths of hard power in war, fundamentalism, and irrational violence are applied against the soft idealizations of the West.
The United States is an important example demonstrating the extent of postmodern uncertainty, fragmentation, polarization, self-referentiality, and dissolution of collective discourse. Indeed, it was the micro-causes of minorities rescued by modern discourse that were radicalized by postmoderns, undoing the social fabric, nullifying collective identities, and eliminating the idea of self-sacrifice that the Postwar Generations had in the 1950s to rebuild their nations and defend their freedoms.
Today, the new generations do not remember the importance of identity and self-sacrifice for the collective; the new metanarratives, evanescent identities—fluid, hybrid, intersectional, transgressive—and counter-Enlightenment ideas have permeated the elites who defend an anti-politics of simplification, with devastating consequences for their attempt to apply micropolitical theory to macrostructural relations dominated by powers with strong identities completely opposed to all liberal order.
Thus, it must be affirmed that the attack on stability, identity, and the collective is not compatible with the libertarian discourse, which never sought the identity dissolution of man through ultra-individualism based on nihilistic irrationality. On the contrary, anarchists from Enlightenment ideas—e.g., William Godwin, Peter Kropotkin, Rudolf Rocker, Murray Bookchin—had an ethos, the search for an amalgam between collective and individual freedom. For them, there was an obligation to society, to the world, not in fragmentation, but in the recognition of an immanent differentiation, of a human nature with a drive for life and freedom.
Anarchism, more than a fixed and static theoretical corpus, was a principle for life and conduct. Its principle, its axiological ethos was and is freedom. Freedom as the possibility for the individual to develop in their life the faculties, capacities, and innate talents, being in and with society, with their society, not with a State.
Therefore, yesterday the anarchists fostered mutual aid as a ratio contrary to war, but today the relativism of the postmoderns does not affirm, only doubts; it does not build, but deconstructs. In this incapacity to be an alternative to the fictitious validity of the illiberal authoritarian discourse lies the failure not only of the postmoderns but also of the Western Enlightenment thinkers who did not prevent the overflow of doubt over the very foundations of a free society.
Thus, to affirm a ratio contrary to authoritarian mechanisms, a commitment to a cause, to an identity sense that in turn requires time and dedication, is necessary. Therefore, the cause of human freedom in a hostile environment requires recognizing the ethical foundations of its society and the characteristics of human nature, which cannot be relativized under any argument. This is a return of anarchism to the West, to certainties, to great ideas, and to truth; opposing a libertarian and realistic alternative to the totalitarian challenges that seek to reshape history, geopolitics, and the global order, in an attempt to return us to the 15th century of tsars and emperors.
Looking back at anarchist anthropology, the existence of societies without domination is a historical minority antecedent, not implying the idealization of a society without coercion or the relativization of predominant domination in most current societies, because they are human episodes, not generalizable to all. And it is that only in the West could these episodes of history be rescued and appreciated for their value of non-dominion [2]. This does not happen in fundamentalist borders and illiberal peripheries, where the destruction of all breaches of freedom is permanent.
Thus, it is in the West where one can be fully libertarian and critical of their conditioning. Therefore, a realistic praxis of libertarian ethics [3] must be exercised that does not make concessions to any state ideology, being skeptical of any metaphysics, contrary to theoretical orthodoxies, and opposed to political correctness.
It is clear that to this day: the development of artificial intelligence for war, the dissolutive process of the West, and the acceleration of the arms and nuclear race pose insoluble problems through idealization; only understandable from a micro and macro-structural approach to power networks. This means establishing that the theoretical reading of global power excludes all relativism and voiding of human principles. And if power and the state were once thought from micropolitics; today, thinking about power in relation to the international networks of hegemons requires a realistic and pragmatic reading of the constitution of fields of influence exercised through intelligence, propaganda, and deterrent military force.
At this point, it is imperative to defend a centripetal character in open societies, because a centrifugal character is precisely the ratio fostered by anti-Western powers seeking the decomposition of the social organism into detritus. Even more so, when these are times of Western uncertainty, times when man is deconstructed, when the French and the American do not know what identity sense France and the United States have as nations, and when modernity relegates its historical role to the premodern.
And, if moderns have lost our freedom and, moreover, have adopted a desire for submission [4]—whether by imposition or deceit—we should not be surprised that the Enlightenment ideas of freedom are corrupting, first creating theoretically antithetical polarizations and then turning both positions into similarly totalitarian versions of themselves.
This means that in those spaces where radicalism managed to constitute governments, totalizing power legitimized by the masses turns against them by eliminating all decentralized organization through a rationalized power of instrumentalized reason, perfecting the bureaucratic machinery for the benefit of central power, standardizing, educating, structuring, documenting, recording, and formulating the guiding patterns of its forward functioning, never with a perspective of power transfer, but with an indefinite continuity of Orwellian control, exercising total domination over the rest.
Although the anarchism of the anti-authoritarians is an impulse and a realism skeptical of purely good ideologies, it is a realism defeated by the pessimism of a global society that looks towards authoritarian domination based on governance technologies or nuclear catastrophe, not towards freedom. That anarchist impulse of the search for freedom is also an idealization, which requires changes and transformations of subjectivities, from authoritarian subjectivation to an identity and libertarian stability, defending the last breaches of Western freedom.
Finally, the freedom of the modern heirs of the Enlightenment must be defended by returning to their values, principles, and identities that offered stability, and from there, channeling the libertarian project from the construction of realistic alternatives rather than the demolition of truths. Anarchists must return to the West and its Enlightenment values to continue the steps in the progression of human evolution, continuing the project of the 18th century in defense of freedom and respect for the inherent differentiation of human nature. Only then will authoritarianism not mean an option, only a mere fiction, an impossibility, the One will return to being evil.

* Iván Fernando Mérida Aguilar is an international lawyer, master in International Relations and Diplomacy, and a doctoral student in Political Science and International Relations at the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés. His research field is Soft Power and authoritarian processes.

1. From Latin, Cupiditas: Desire and passion; Dominatio: Dominion. Pierre Clastres (1981), following Etienne de La Boétie's reasoning, tells us about power: "(...) first, that power exists only in its effective exercise; secondly, that the desire for power cannot be realized if it does not succeed in eliciting a favorable echo from its necessary complement, the desire for submission."
2. Power is not only the relationship dominated/dominant, its complexity is greater if we consider the existence of human environments that did not erect the domination of the One. In those societies, power did exist, but not in a form of domination; therefore, human freedom has always been an aberration of any absolutist order.
3. "(...) anarchism is above all an ethical project that directly engages, even in its smallest practice, a judgment on the value of relationships and situations. (...) Libertarian ethics are constituted within the very things, situations, and relationships lived by different collective beings. It depends entirely on the quality of these situations and relationships, on their ability to increase or not the strength and autonomy of the beings of which it is the cause or effect." (Colson, 2003)
4. "It is true that, at first, one serves because one is compelled by force. But those who come after become accustomed and willingly do what their predecessors had done out of obligation. Thus, men who are born under the yoke, educated and raised in servitude, without looking further, content themselves with living as they were born and, without thinking of having any other good or right than what they found, accept as natural the state in which they were born." (de la Boétie, 2008)

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