The State and BDSM

April 25th, 2013   Submitted by Sima Qian

BDSM copyThis article is not meant to insult any one’s kink. It may come off as disparaging some one’s kink, which is not my intent, but only to look at the State. I think it’s great that adults can find out what their needs and desires are and meet them in a safe, sane, and consensual way, and I think there is a big, bright red line between the State and kink: consent. Also, I’m rather vanilla, so if I misused any terminology or concepts please forgive me, and let me know so it can be corrected.

I’ve seen rumblings about this on anarchist sites for about a year, but I haven’t seen anyone state it outright and I think it should be: The State is a non-consensual group “BDSM” scene. That’s not an analogy, but an exact description.

There are obvious comparisons between BDSM and the State. BDSM can involve locking people in cages. Statism can involve locking people in cages. BDSM can involve electrocuting people (tasers/violet wand). Statism can involve electrocuting people (tasers/electric chair). BDSM can involve beatings. Statism can involve beatings. BDSM can involve a Dom micro-managing their sub’s life. Statism can involve a legislature micro-managing their citizen’s lives. BDSM can involve sadism, including bringing someone very near death (If the dynamic includes RACK). Statism can involve sadism including outright killing people, even children. BDSM can involve financial domination where someone’s finances are put under the control and supervision of someone else. Statism can involve financial domination where someone’s finances are put under the control and supervision of someone else.

There are similarities between the tools and methods used in BDSM and in Statism

I suspect there may also be similarities in the underlying motivations and emotions in Statism and BDSM. Within the division of labor of the modern State, different desires for domination can be played out only in certain roles. For instance, if someone is a sadist who enjoys hurting people they could join the police or the military. If they want a feeling of control or importance in some one’s life they might join the legislature or become a teacher depending on how they have thought about that desire and the way they want to express it. And then there are different departments for more specific kinks, some of which are only legal in the context of working for the State, like a pedophile working for the TSA. (Clearly not everyone who works in these areas necessarily has the related kink, but these departments give an outlet for people who do poses them. Not all TSA agents are pedophiles or vice-versa, but if someone is a pedophile, they’d have an incentive to join the TSA. Also, these desires are necessarily conscious desires.)

There are also examples of the State providing an outlet for submissive desires. Many submissives talk about liking a feeling of being protected or of security. There’s also the idea of “being contained,” of knowing the boundaries and not having to think so hard. Some submissives work through emotional or physical abuse with their Dominants. In a similar way, many citizens put the same emotions they had for important parental figures in their life onto the State. And many people just want to know they’ll be taken care of. The State may not actually provide these things, and I think most anarchists would argue it does not, but it does seem to fulfill the emotional need and desire to feel like those needs and desires are being met. The State may not actually “protect people from foreign threats” (no protection and no foreign threats) but people feel like there are threats that they need to be protected from. The State puts that fear onto foreigners, and then promises to protect people from those scary foreigners. (Scary because they are a conscious proxy for subconscious fears.)

Different types of governments all have Dominant/submissive positions

Historically, one of the best examples of this dynamic has been feudalism. Under feudalism there is a strict hierarchy of “Dominants” and “submissives” with a king (or Pope, depending on what time period and country) at the top and his vassals, and their vassals etc. down to the peasants, who, though they were almost slaves, had an agreement with their lord who was required to feed them in times of difficulty and protect them from foreign threats. Feudalism, because it was largely based on heredity, was rather ridged and often didn’t allow for different people’s needs and desires to be met. If someone wanted to take on a role with responsibility, but was a serf, they might have a very small field of action to do that in. Of course, this was also true the other way around. If someone were born in a position that made them Dominant, but whose emotional needs were that of a submissive, it could be very hard to get those needs met. (Especially because the society did not allow for experimenting with kink.) There is the story of an emperor who would beat people so they would stop fearing him and love him. Within feudalism there was a vast network of submission and dominance and many people were Dominant in some of their relationships while being submissive in others.

Eventually, with the rise of the market place, feudalism began to breakdown as a system of government. However, though feudalism was breaking down, people still looked to the State to fulfill (often) subconscious emotional needs. People eventually divided into two diametrically opposed camps, each desiring two diametrically opposed systems: people who wanted to be Dominant and people who wanted to be submissive. These different groups wanted democracy and communism respectively. These governmental systems are not opposite for the reasons that the State likes to propose: liberty vs. enslavement, free market vs. planned economy etc. They are opposite in that each sell themselves to different groups. Democracy focuses on dominant personalities, with rhetoric about allowing people to exercise desires for domination through their interactions with other people through the State (voting, running for public office, being a judge, being on a jury or being a police officer etc.). Communism focuses on people’s desire for submission through the interactions with other people through the State (everyone serves everyone else, you will be taken care of and protected, every one’s abilities will be directed to their best use etc.) Both communism and democracy have people in positions of dominance and positions of submission, the difference lies mainly in the way the State sells the dynamic, either focusing on the emotional needs of Dominants or the emotional needs of submissives.

I suspect that any governmental system will have elements of dominance and submission, and will do things that, if they were consensual, could be part of a BDSM scene. The existence of prisons, locking people in cages, is a form of bondage and domination. To the extent that the State regulates how people live their lives there is a slave/Master dynamic. And to the extent people are punished with physical or emotional abuse for breaking the government’s rules there is a sadism/masochism dynamic, and the more authoritarian the regime the more pronounced the s/M and S/m dynamic will be. I even suspect that some forms of governance for an anarchist society that have been proposed would, in practice, include elements of BDSM, though perhaps with some element of consent, which is the main problem that statist BDSM has: there’s no room and no possibility for consent.

Huge, bright line between BDSM and Statism: consent

Despite some outward, superficial similarities between BDSM and the State there is a huge, bright red line between them: consent.
BDSM is play, but without consent it can be abuse, or rape, or worse. When two people feel comfortable with each other, have talked before hand, have a safe word, etc. and one of them ties up and punches and beats the other person, that’s play. When a police officer handcuffs and beats someone that’s abuse. When a Dominant orders a willing submissive to strip naked and plays with their genitalia that’s play. When a police officer searches a woman and orders her to strip in front of her children and removes her tampon as part of the “search,” that’s rape. When two (or more) people enjoy playing with pain and decide to tase each other, that’s play. When a police officer tases someone that’s torture.

It may be useful to compare the State’s lack of consent with the things people who practice BDSM do to ensure consent to find things that may be good to have in an anarchist legal system, like a system of safe words. Currently, when a cop pulls you over they have a lot of discretion about what they do, which can often lead to terrible results, especially if they set off a trigger that someone has. An excellent example of this is Linda A. from “The Stranger in the Mirror.” Linda was pulled over by the police, who used racial slurs against her, had her partially strip, and do a side-of-the-road alcohol test. The police officer decided to arrest her. When the officer went to handcuff Linda she asked him to handcuff her in the front instead of the back. The officer ignored this and handcuffed her in the back which Marlene Steinberg, the author of “The Stranger in the Mirror,” believes caused a disassociative event and Linda tried to defend herself. Things really went downhill. Linda wound up bound with her hands cuffed above her head being maced. Even if an anarchist legal system had some form of arrest it would be essential to have a mechanism that allowed people to communicate their needs.

Another aspect of BDSM that doesn’t exist with the State that anarchists should consider is two concepts that are closely linked: an intimate relationship and trust. One of the biggest problems with Statism is that it attempts to legislate for a wide variety of people, and judges a huge number of cases with little or no knowledge about the people involved in any given case. With BDSM people will tend to get together with people they know and who know them. This allows for much, better, more personalized treatment. An example of this is law in Somalia where the patriarch/council has seen the perpetrator grow up and so knows them and has much more of a vested interest in their welfare than a judge who has never seen or known the defendant before the trial.

Conclusion

The State seems to have some similarities with BDSM. It is almost as if the State is just a massive BDSM scene, except that it isn’t consensual. An excellent example of this is Feudalism. After the fall of feudalism, the two main contenders as replacement organizations of the State: democracy and communism , which appealed to different general groups. Democracy’s ideology seems to be mainly geared towards people with Dominants while communism’s ideology seems mainly geared toward submissives. It may be true that any governmental system will have BDSM-like interactions. The State seems to encourage people to get their kinky desires met through the State while discouraging people from doing kinky things outside of the Statist avenues. There is, however, a huge, bright line between Statism and BDSM, and that is consent. Looking at how Statism differs from BDSM suggests some things that anarchist legal systems might incorporate, like safe words and judgments made by people who know the parties in the dispute.

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33 Responses to “The State and BDSM”

  1. sincityvoluntaryistNo Gravatar says:

    You know, as bad as this is going to sound, I have this unshakable feeling that someone, located somewhere on this planet, got a kinky boner from reading this article. Not saying that’s it’s any of my business, but I just thought I’d point out what may already be obvious to many.

    • Sima QianNo Gravatar says:

      Which is totally fine. I think that may even go back to what Hannah at Becoming Who You Are talks about with All feelings being rational , or at least, coming from a rational place. And really, if someone considered themselves an anarchist, and was into domination, exploring those feelings and that apparent contradiction could be a very useful way to develop anarchist theory. I mean, that could go to some very fundamental questions in anarchism, like the disagreement between Proudhon, and other anarchists who believe hierarchical families can still exist in an anarchist environment and many anarcha-feminists who see the the family as integral to the continuance and existence of the state.

  2. Sima QianNo Gravatar says:

    A Huge thanks to Stephanie Murphy of porc therapy for pointing me to her interview with Anarchy Gumbo, which helped me refine this post.

  3. JamesNo Gravatar says:

    I think this post turned me completely asexual. I hope you are happy.

  4. Mistress ElizaNo Gravatar says:

    You say “but I haven’t seen anyone state it outright and I think it should be: The State is a non-consensual group ‘BDSM’ scene.”

    The Freedom Feens have done that about every third episode for years. They even had an episode called “Libido Dominandi” that explored it in depth. Apparently one of the Feens is a lifestyle kinkster and also took Stefan Molyneaux to task in an interview for “getting it wrong” and making a bunch of silly assumptions.

    As a lifestyle BDSM dominant woman, I would argue that it’s not really a good analogy. I understand what the Feens are doing, because they get it, but I still don’t think it’s an apt comparison. And I think Sima Qian (a non-practitioner of kink) is really reaching here. Kink is, by definition, consensual. So saying the State is like BDSM is like saying “the State is sexy because they commit rape, and rape involves sex.”

    Non-practitioners writing articles about what they THINK kink is ALWAYS get it wrong, to the core. Adam Kokesh really screwed it up when he did a similarly toned video about the State. (Again, Sima Qian, you’re not the first to do come up with this wrong analogy.)

    Sima Qian, your article reminds me of articles about how guns are bad written by people who’ve never held a gun.

    -E

    • Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

      I disagree. If you look up the definitions of each B, D, & S you’ll find that their meanings are not qualified as being strictly consensual. I think if anything the vast majority of cases involving bondage and sadism are strictly non-consensual. Discipline can go either way. Only masochism lends itself towards voluntarism, but even then I think Stephan Molyneux does make a great point that a lot of masochistic behavior in society is a result of lack of freedom/self-empowerment in the world.

      • Sima QianNo Gravatar says:

        Hey Seth, if you want to explore consent/non-consent without having to nec. engage in a dangerous relationship, I’d suggest you check out the power exchange it’s written by a woman who was in an abusive “kinky” relationship who is now in a consensual 24/7 power exchange relationship.

      • Mistress ElizaNo Gravatar says:

        Seth King said: “If you look up the definitions of each B, D, & S you’ll find that their meanings are not qualified as being strictly consensual.”

        That’s if you look up the definition in a dictionary written by someone who isn’t in that world. And I guarantee that same dictionary will define “Anarchy” as “Chaos and violence.”

        Practitioners of BDSM generally define it as including “safe, sane and consensual.”

        So, do you want to go by what outsiders say it is, or by what people who DO it define it as? (And “what people who DO it define it as” really does become the de facto “what it is” of anything.)

        If you’re arguing semantics, there really is no absolute inclusion of The Non-Aggression Principle in Anarchy. But I’ll bet you’d be upset if I said something about “violent anarchists” because we agree through use that the meaning of “anarchist”, to us, the practitioners, includes The Non-Aggression Principle. That becomes the definition, through use, by practitioners.

        Defining the State as anything *related* to kink is as misguided as saying, “Guns owners are violent – just look at what happened in Sandy Hook.”

        -E

        • Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

          You’re making false assumptions. Your first assumption is that I am an outsider of BDSM.

          Your second assumption is that the same dictionary that I used to look up the meanings of BDSM would define anarchy as violence and chaos.

          I used thefreedictionary.com to look up my definitions. And if you look up the definition of anarchy there you’ll see they define it as:

          1. Absence of any form of political authority.
          2. Political disorder and confusion.
          3. Absence of any cohesive principle, such as a common standard or purpose.

          You’ll notice the words chaos and violence aren’t used even once in any of those definitions.

          http://www.thefreedictionary.com/anarchy

      • Mistress ElizaNo Gravatar says:

        Seth King says ” I think if anything the vast majority of cases involving bondage and sadism are strictly non-consensual.”

        What the fuck are you BASING this on, seth? What empirical evidence do you have? Watching “Law and Order SVU”??

        Jesus, seth….. How can someone who is so right on so many other things be so wrong on this? That is SUCH a bent, outside and WRONG view. It reminds me of people who say “Homosexuals should not be allowed around children because most of them are child molesters.”

        Sima’s reading recommendation of the blog ” the power exchange ” is good.

        Here’s more in-depth reading (books! actual books!) if you want some non-BS inside info on what you are talking about, that you currently know nothing about:

        http://www.kittyfeet.com/2012/03/31/stefan-molyneux-freaks-out-on -the-gumbo/#comment-34

        -E

        • Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

          Bondage:

          1. The state of one who is bound as a slave or serf.
          2. A state of subjection to a force, power, or influence.
          3. The practice of being physically restrained, as with cords or handcuffs, as a means of attaining sexual gratification.

          How many prisoners are there in the world right now? I know there are at least 3 million people in the U.S. that are right now, at this very moment, in non-consensual bondage.

          I doubt very much that there are 3 million people right now in the U.S. that are, at this very moment, in consensual bondage.

          The same goes with every other country. I could also go on with the Dominance/Discipline and Sadism parts as well.

        • Sima QianNo Gravatar says:

          /Sima’s reading recommendation of the blog ” the power exchange ” is good.

          lulz. Thank you Ms., “Sima’s knowledge of BDSM obviously comes from the mainstream media’s depiction of it as the realm of serial killers and torturers. Sima is looking at the superficial outside appearance, and a distorted view of that appearance at that.” xD

          (np. I think dialogue (like, almost any dialogue) is good stuff.)

    • Sima QianNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you for your feedback! 🙂

      And thank you for pointing me me toward The Freedom Feens. I hadn’t heard of them and I’ll check it out.

      “Kink is, by definition, consensual.”

      Exactly. My drawing on kink to help with this was intended to create and highlight the contrast between an abusive relationship and a consensual one, and to point out that the things that the state does are fine, except that it’s not consensual. If you punch a willing partner that’s kinky. If you punch someone who doesn’t want to be punched, even if you’re in a relationship with them (and have been your whole life, say a mother punching a child) that’s abuse.

      I actually didn’t mean to make an analogy in this article. It’s very common for anarchists to say, “The state is abusive” and it is. I wanted to extend the idea of what “abusive” in the context of statism means to actual abuse in a relationship, and show that abuse in a relationship is not just analogous to, but identical to the abuse by the state, and to use kink to make a contrast between non-consensual interactions and consensual interactions.

      /Sima Qian, your article reminds me of articles about how guns are bad written by people who’ve never held a gun.

      I get the impression that you read this article as saying kink is bad, which was not my intent, quite the opposite actually. It’s fine that you’re reading it that way, and thank you for pointing that out. It could be that my own hangups made me write with a negative connotation where I did not intend to.

      I meant this to contrast the state and BDSM, feelings and desires and needs are what they are. We can’t wish them away, the question is then what to do with them, and I think it’s awesome that people can find play partners and life partners with whom they can get their needs met. I do believe that some people, and especially people who repress their desires and needs, use the state to get those needs met (I also think people often turn to religion). I think we’d agree that turning to the state is bad in that it’s aggression against other people, and to the extent that kink allow people to get their needs met in mutually fulfilling, consensual ways it’s really, really awesome.

  5. DarrenNo Gravatar says:

    Not bad but your whip missed the target. I often use a sexual analogy with rights when talking to people about consent. For example, the argument is often made that one has consented to being taxed by entering or remaining in a country. I point out that a man couldn’t put a sign over his front door that read “All women entering this house are consenting to have sex” then proceed to force himself on any woman who entered. This would be rape, sign or no sign just as taxation is theft, warning or no warning that the govt intends to take your money. Governments fail the voluntary interaction test that good people apply to their sexual relationships. This, IMHO, is a better analogy than the BDSM one.

    Sima, make this the subject of your next article or I’ll send mistress Eliza over to spank you. 🙂

    • Sima QianNo Gravatar says:

      /I often use a sexual analogy with rights when talking to people about consent.

      Hey Darren! Yeah, I generally agree analogies can be super useful when trying to explain a position. In this article I wasn’t trying to make an analogy. I think the state is abusive in exactly the same ways and for exactly the same reasons an abusive relationship is abusive. (And by extension I suspect people stay in an abusive relationship [both as the abuser and the person abused] for exactly the same [emotional] reasons they support the state.)

      /Sima, make this the subject of your next article or I’ll send mistress Eliza over to spank you. 🙂

      This is not funny on any level and I would appreciate an apology.

  6. Mistress ElizaNo Gravatar says:

    “Sima, make this the subject of your next article or I’ll send mistress Eliza over to spank you.”

    No thank you. NOT interested. And you cannot “send” a dominant woman to do anything!

    Sima’s knowledge of BDSM obviously comes from the mainstream media’s depiction of it as the realm of serial killers and torturers. Sima is looking at the superficial outside appearance, and a distorted view of that appearance at that.

    This article misses its mark as much as an article that says “without the government, who would build the roads?” misses its mark.

    Darren is correct: Comparing government to straight-up RAPE makes much more sense than comparing it to BDSM.

    -E

    • Sima QianNo Gravatar says:

      /Darren is correct: Comparing government to straight-up RAPE makes much more sense than comparing it to BDSM.

      I completely agree. If what I wrote didn’t convey that you are absolutely right to be angry about it. I was calling on kink to try to create a contrast, especially in this paragraph:

      “BDSM is play, but without consent it can be abuse, or rape, or worse. When two people feel comfortable with each other, have talked before hand, have a safe word, etc. and one of them ties up and punches and beats the other person, that’s play. When a police officer handcuffs and beats someone that’s abuse. When a Dominant orders a willing submissive to strip naked and plays with their genitalia that’s play. When a police officer searches a woman and orders her to strip in front of her children and removes her tampon as part of the “search,” that’s rape. When two (or more) people enjoy playing with pain and decide to tase each other, that’s play. When a police officer tases someone that’s torture.”

      If I didn’t make that contrast clear in this article please accept my apologies.

  7. DarrenNo Gravatar says:

    I think I just got spanked!

  8. Zell FazeNo Gravatar says:

    Aaaaah. Forgive my frequent gripe, but Communism != USSR/PRC.

    That is not communism. In fact, the whole thing that degraded in the USSR and PRC is that the “Dictatorship of the proletariat” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dictatorship_of_the_proletariat) did not go away. The original objective, or so it is said, was that it was to be used as an intermediary stage until “Pure Communism” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pure_communism) could arise.

    Actual Pure Communism, by definition, doesn’t involve the state. As an anarchist communist (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarchist_communism), I find that people very frequently make this mistake.

    The communism that you mention in the article is no more real communism than Crony Capitalism (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crony_capitalism) is real capitalism.

    • Davi BarkerNo Gravatar says:

      I’ve never understood why anyone imagined that the proletariat would voluntary relinquish the reigns of power and the bourgeoisie and elites would not. But if the AnComs have abandoned the temporary dictatorship strategy, but retained the ultimate objective of Stateless communism, than it seems the natural alternative strategy is gradual individual adoption, which to me seems to betray the communist preference for collectivism, and it actually a hat tip to individualist anarchists.

    • Sima QianNo Gravatar says:

      I assume you’re referring to his arguments about power being diffused throughout discourse, regimes of truth, and the ‘battle for truth’, and suggesting that the difference between the coercive, centralized power of the state and other forms of power are immaterial/unimportant. If I’ve taken your short statement and interpreted it as not what you’re referring to, or you think that in that short blurb I’m misrepresenting Foucault please correct me. 🙂 (And no worries. I’m in the process of writing a much longer response, though it’ll be written from within a pluralistic framework, which might or might not be useful for discussion, and either way is fine.)

      • Great summation of Foucault. Yes, seemingly unrelated areas such as hospitals, schools, and government bureaucracies are all connected by ways of understanding things and ourselves, by ideas and technologies developed for another unrelated field– the prison. Same goes for sexuality and power, something Foucault explores in depth.

        • Sima QianNo Gravatar says:

          So I’m going to post what I have so far because the next part is going to be a doozy. Apologies for the rather blasé tone of this, I was trying to get it out rather than to be formal. It talks mostly about pluralism, which, if you’re already aware of it, will be redundant, but if you’re not, it’s some cool stuff. It’s a bit like a language game before the language game. If it seems like I’m side-stepping Foucault’s arguments that’s probably because I kinda am, and I hope to treat them more seriously when comparing him (Foucault) to Mill and Hegel.

          Foucault is awesome and a lot of fun, but if we take a pluralist approach, his arguments, while not less convincing and interesting, can be put into a box and used when they’re useful rather than taking over and dominating any field of discussion. Pluralism assumes that before discussion can even take place we must first have a thought worth saying, and our thoughts will necessarily have certain characteristics, and make certain assumptions. For Walter Watson’s formula laid out in “The Architectonics of Meaning” (Which I selected totally arbitrarily based on the fact that it’s the book I have with me. [and these categories, as Mr. Watson admits, are totally arbitrary based on this own arbitrarily chosen archic variables.]) there are four different categories of archic variables: perspective, reality, method, and principle. I’m only going to discuss perspective, Foucault’s perspective, and how that influences his philosophy in this short reply. And then argue for the usefulness of objective truth, and then hopefully suggest that a category of thought about action, “coercion,” (separate from other types of actions that are not “coercive”) may be important.

          Every text is the work of some author; however, we can consider the author as separate to the text. The way in which the text presents its own authorship is the perspective of the text. (all tstatements that argue about the meaning of a word are not definitive but definitional. Feel free to use the same word in a different way in your response, but please note if when you do, and possibly give some word or phrase for the concept I was trying to portray with my definitions.) Watson, which again, I’m using because it’s here and if you have a favorite pluralist dude we can totally use his defs/system, defines four different perspectives each of which is reciprocally prior to the others. (Reciprocally prior in that it ‘contains,’ can consider, each of the others within its own framework) These are personal perspectives, objective perspectives, diaphanic perspectives, and disciplinary perspectives. Personal and objective perspectives aren’t relevant to what I want to say about Foucault, but are probs important for understanding of diaphanic and disciplinary perspectives.

          Personal perspective assumes that each of us has their own perspective. “There are individual or personal perspectives.” Personal perspective is the view that we cannot escape from the limitations of our own perspective, and “everyone sees things in their own way.” Personal perspective can also include the perspective of some group. (Xenophanes, Protagoras, Montaign, Descartes, Kierkegaard, Nietzche, etc. all used personal perspective) Objective perspective, on the other hand, “endeavors to eliminate all that is merely subjective and personal in order to see things objectively.” Lots of science attempts to take this perspective. (Democritus, Bacon, Spinoza, Newton, Hume, Darwin, Freud, Weber etc. all used objective perspective) In Watson’s system the two remaining perspectives, diaphanic and disciplinary. Diaphanic perspectives assume that the personal is objective while disciplinary perspectives assume that the objective is personal.

          Within a diaphanic perspective, instead of attempting to eliminate subjectivity, the author subordinates their own subjective perspective within a higher more inclusive personal perspective up until the point where the author is not speaking for himself but revealing truth as spoken to them, the truth revealing itself through them. This is very common in religious texts. Parmenides, Plato, Augustine, Leibniz, Hegel, Schopenhaur, Heidigger, Tolstoy, and Lao Tsu (among others) all adopt a diaphanic perspective. For a disciplinary perspective, suppose an author “Doesn’t want to attach his text to an individual perspective, does not think it possible to eliminate the knower from his perspective, and questions the availability to us of divine perspective?” It is possible that, “The knower constitutes his own perspective, but does so in a way that is valid for all knowers.” This results in “a multiplicity of independent and impersonal disciplines.” Aristotle is an obvious example of this perspective. Thomas Aquinas, Kant, Dewey, Jane Austen and… Foucault (among others) all adopt this perspective.

          Foucault’s understanding comes from this assumption, and that’s not a slight at Foucault, that will be true for all authors. Foucault assumes that the proper and “true” perspective is that each discipline will create knowledge that is true within its own discipline, but not “objectively” true. That knowledge will not just the the “personal” thought of an individual within that discipline, but will be appropriate for the functioning of that discipline. No one’s knowledge is a pure representation of some divine “Truth” being spoken through the speaker, nor could it be, but all knowledge exists within a certain context of knowledge, some discipline.

          I, admittedly arbitrarily, adopt a diaphanic perspective. I like the way in which, when it groks the other perspectives, it retains and cherishes them, accepting them as true, wonderful, and “honest.” (Which I can define if you want) To see how perspective influences the end result of a thought, let’s compare how Foucault’s notion of a “battle for truth” is different from within a disciplinary perspective and a diaphanic perspective.

          So, Foucault on truth:

          ‘Truth is a thing of this world: it is produced only by virtue of multiple forms of constraint. And it induces regular effects of power. Each society has its regime of truth, its “general politics” of truth: that is, the types of discourse which it accepts and makes function as true; the mechanisms and instances which enable one to distinguish true and false statements, the means by which each is sanctioned; the techniques and procedures accorded value in the acquisition of truth; the status of those who are charged with saying what counts as true’ (Foucault, in Rabinow 1991).

          The stipulation of society makes this at first seem like it may be a personal perspective (and people who adopt a persona perspective probably would argue that it is. xD) however, the discussion of, “ the mechanisms and instances which enable one to distinguish true and false statements, the means by which each is sanctioned; the techniques and procedures accorded value in the acquisition of truth” Points to how the different ways knowledge is treated as being fundamental in “knowing” for the author (Foucault). This suggests a disciplinary perspective as different disciplines will treat knowledge very differently, for instance, an abstract mathematician will treat knowledge about a chair very differently from the way a chemist or the way a physicist or an anthropologist would treat the chair. Because these different treatments of the chair are all “true” and none can “cross over” to the other disciplines without changing the nature treatment of their knowledge of the chair, ie being within the other disciplines’ specific politics, to the extent that a general definition of the “chair” is “important” the only way in which the chair can be defined is by adopting one of the discipline’s politics and treatment of knowledge of the chair, and hence, there must be a “battle for truth.” Which is not a battle to define the ultimate “truth” of the chair, but a battle for the power to define the chair from within the discipline. (I hope we’re all on the same page because things are about to get screwy as we consider the same scenario from a diaphanic perspective.)

          So: a chair, a theoretical mathematician, a chemist, a physicist, and an anthropologist are all in a room. What is the nature of “truth?” (Watson [arbitrarily] assumes four methods of organizing information: Agonistic (this is true so that can’t be true) Logistic (if this and that then such and such) Dialectical (These things can be synthesized into that.) and Problematic (That implies these things.) I will be using a dialectical method because that’s what makes sense to me, and that choice is totally arbitrary, and, in the long run, will not change the nature of the analysis, but only the form in which it’s argued. Hopefully this will get into why.)

          Within a diaphanic perspective, each one of these experts, through their experience and expertise, knows the nature of truth, of absolute divine truth, which I think we can agree, if true (and by an assumption that is reciprocally prior to any argument [which will also be arbitrary and whose archic variables {assumptions about the nature of perspective, reality, method, and principle} will be reciprocally prior] you can present against it, it is), is awesome.

          Now, the way in which they think they know that divine truth may not be identical to the actual divine truth they know (It is like emotions being rational, they may not seem rational from what you consciously understand to be influencing them, but they are perfectly rational in that something true and rational is causing them), but even there, the experts’ mis understanding of the truth they know is itself a reflection of some truth.

          So an apothecary in 1400’s England, when he seriously discusses the humours, is reflecting the truth of his understanding, and also the truth of his ignorance, both of which are (necessarily) reflected in his statements and actions. In the same way our mathematician etc., even if they don’t have the tools they’d need to study the chair up to the standards of their Foucaultian discipline, have some of the tools they would need to express some truth about the chair, and all of their different understandings of the chair will be an exact representation of the truth, including the circumstance in which the chair was inspected. Also, because each of their expressions of what they know is an expression of divine truth, it is possible for that divine truth to be compared to itself to attain a deeper, higher, or further understanding of the truth of the chair. For instance, the mathematician can prove that if they split up the chair into various rectangular prisms, assuming the chair exists in a euclidean space, it will be possible to determine the volume of the chair. The physicist can inspect the mass of the chair (suppose, create a balance and weigh the chair in terms of some measurement), and the chemist can synthesize these two pieces of knowledge into the “density” of the chair, which may be useful to some biologist down the line studying something about the nature of trees. And during all of this the anthropologist can describe the process and culture underlying these investigations, which may help refine, for future investigations and investigators, what are useful methods and strategies within different social contexts. Within this, of these “different” truths about the chair are merely particular aspects about the universal truth of the chair, and whether through co-operation or conflict (the dialectic) all of these particular truths will be used to find the universal truth of the chair and an even more universal concept, the nature of the expert’s relationship to the chair.

          None of this is contrary to Foucault, and is merely a different perspective on the same process. To see this, let’s analyze all that from within a Foucaultian analysis. This is actually pretty straight forward, all the same stuff, except when two different experts work together they create a new discipline that treats knowledge differently from the way either of the two constituting disciplines did, and to the extent that the two constituting disciplines still exist there is now a battle for truth between three disciplines (The two constituting and the new constituted) rather than a battle for truth between two. This isn’t a “Bad” thing, and of course, the power structure of the two constituting disciplines allowed for the creation of the constituted discipline. It is probably important for me to stress that (I see that) within a Foucaultian analysis the new constituted discipline is not a “Higher” discipline or the “Universal” of the particularity of the two constituting disciplines, but is essentially on a sort of equal footing with them, and if eventually the two constituting disciplines “die out” in favor of the new constituted discipline, it is not because the constituted discipline reflected some objective “truth” better than the two constituting disciplines, but that power structures favored the constituted discipline at the “expense” of the constituting disciplines.

          Let’s consider these perspectives within a historical context that is applicable to anarchism, the fight for the advancement of liberty. A rather clear example of a Foucaultian fight for control of the conversation was present in the early feminist movement, and especially the anarcha-feminist part of that movement. The anarcha-feminists were publicly discussing contraception, which the “law” considered obscene. Fortunately, through their engagement, they were able to change the regime of truth to allow for the discussion of “Obscene” topics and liberty (eventually) won the battle. It is also possible to view this process as diaphanic (again using a dialectical method, which is not necessary, but totally arbitrary and easy). The “authorities” reflected their particular truth, that of the existing power structure, while the feminists reflected their particular truth, that of the availability of (relatively, and relatively newly available) inexpensive birth control and their willingness to risk imprisonment to help people learn about it and gain access to it. Through a dialectical process, the interplay between both these particularities (the fact that the “authorities” were willing to imprison and the fact that the feminists were willing to risk imprisonment) a universal that reflected both these particularities came into being, which exists today as the “Authorities” maintaining control by paying for birth control products. Foucault highlights the power struggle between the state and the feminists where eventually they reach some temporary regime of truth, that neither “wants” and merely reflects the prevailing power structure, so the battle continues. A diaphanic perspective (with a dialectical method) highlights the initial struggle followed by co-operation between the state and the feminists as they approach and reach some universal that incorporates both particularities that (though to the extent it seems “wrong” to someone, it does not incorporate all particularities and the dialectic continues. Same stuff, different perspective.).

          So much for how Foucault’s archic variables (or, one of them, his perspective) influence the form of his arguments. Now to argue for objective truth. 😀 And, if I can, I’d like to show that Foucault is saying the same stuff as Hegel said, but with different archic variables, and that Hegel said the same stuff as JS Mill (even though he really, really didn’t want to xD), but again, with different archic variables. (And though they’re saying [basically] the same thing, the ways in which they’re different say important things about the society in which they were writing.) Unfortunately, this will have to be much better organized than this reply, and so will take longer. And that’s especially unfortunate because it’s probably the crux of how I think Foucault relates to this article on the relationship between BDSM and the state re: consent. But anyway, Foucault is interesting, and his work can be used to usefully analyze almost anything, but it can be usefully analyzed itself. In the next part I’d like to do that in a way that will be hopefully more directly applicable to the state.

          • Sima QianNo Gravatar says:

            The executive summary of the next part is that JS Mill argued for individual liberty. Hegel tried to argue against liberalism, but to the extent that the dialectic “should” be allowed to function and reflect the universality of the universal as expressed by different particularities, he’s saying basically the same thing as Mill. And then Foucault’s battle for truth is similar to Hegel’s dialectic, but with different archic variables.

          • Thanks for taking the time to write this! At the repeated public recommendations of Cody Wilson (Defense Distributed) and a few mentions of Foucault by the anonymous author of TheLastPsychiatrist.com, I’ve been digging into Foucault lately, so any help in understanding his ideas and putting them in context with the work of other thinkers is greatly appreciated!

      • Sima QianNo Gravatar says:

        2500 words into a response. Have to pause. Going to continue working on it tonight. 🙂

  9. ikallicratesNo Gravatar says:

    I have always assumed that the minority of people who think about politics (most don’t) realize sooner or later that the relationship between rulers and ruled is a BDSM relationship. I’m not suggesting it is LIKE a BDSM relationship; it IS a BDSM relationship.

    Is it consensual or non-consensual? Hard to say. The rulers are always a minority, vastly outnumbered by the ruled, so why do the ruled tolerate the abuse?

    Subjects who are loyal to rulers who abuse them are suffering from what psychiatrists call ‘Stockholm Syndrome’. They persuade themselves that the criminals who’ve taken them captive are actually taking care of them.

    I used to compare government to a protection racket, in which one gang of Mafiosi demand payment from people for ‘protecting’ them from a rival gang, until it became obvious to me that the ‘enforcers’ enjoyed breaking skulls far
    too much for them to be doing it just for the money. Like soldiers who have been at war so long that they learn to love killing, our ‘rulers’ learn to love abusing us, enjoy reminding us that they are strong and powerful and we must submit to them.