George Walford: Persistence

Ideological development is a many-sided process displaying, as one of its main features, the persistence of the modes of behaviour characteristic of the earlier ideologies. As these are transcended modes come to be disvalued and disavowed, but they do not thereby cease to influence action. The person developing the ideology of domination is likely to adhere to one or another authoritarian religion, striving to comply with its prescriptions. These can be extremely detailed, as in Judaism, yet while careful to use different saucepans for meat and for milk orthodox Jews will still pick up each of them in the way that happens to be most convenient, thus showing themselves still identified with the ideology of Expediency. This identification persists along the whole range, anarchists travelling to their meetings by the method they find, all things considered, the least troublesome. All the groups holding ideologies beyond that of Expediency continue to act expediently.

In the same way, all those beyond Domination continue to display behaviour characteristic of the ideology of Domination, and so on along the range, until those identified with the ideology of Repudiation display the distinguishing features of all preceding ideologies. Setting themselves in opposition to the state, anarchists yet comply with its demands so far as they must in order to survive; this constitutes Expediency. Claiming to operate as a number of free individuals, all thinking for themselves, anarchists none the less accept the obligations to behave in a principled way, to speak and think as accurately as they can, and to seek the common good rather than personal advantage in material affairs. Each of these tendencies is characteristic of one of the ideologies preceding their own in the series; one would often need to observe anarchists for a considerable period before seeing them do anything not done by adherents of any other movement. They pay taxes and comply with most of the requirements of authority; nearly always they behave in non-anarchist ways.

Only the Expedients, holding no theory to come into conflict with their practice, completely escape self-contradiction. First appearing with the ideology of Domination, carrying a commitment to principled behaviour incapable of complete fulfillment, it worsens along the range as theory comes to reject increasingly wide swathes of previous practice, reaching its culmination in the ideology of Repudiation, where practically all practice gets repudiated. Significantly, anarchism is the only one of the main-sequence movements to have selected a negative name for itself. One further step remains: the repudiation of repudiation, negativity, itself, constituting the transition to the Ideology of Ideologies.

At first this takes place only in theory, consisting only of a recognition that repudiation is to be repudiated. Development beyond that point consists of progressive concretisation of this abstraction, positivisation of this double negation, by acceptance of the material repressed in the progression to the level of Repudiation. Entailing the conscious understanding of all this material in all its endlessly complex interrelations, this is not only a strenuous task but also an endless one.

The society implied by realisation in practice of the Ideology of Ideologies would be one affording full expression, both in theory and in practice, for all the major ideologies. Not for any one of them exclusively, or in independence of the others, but for all of them, in all their interaction, their reciprocal inhibitions, their conflicts and cooperation. This is, of course, what we have now, to the extent that the ideologies have developed.

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Deconstruction, academic flavour of the decade, hardly meets the implications of its name. Taken literally, deconstruction leaves (at most) a collection of unorganized components, while the activity carried on under that title leads to conclusions full of meaning, though different from the original ones. Re-construction would be a more accurate title.

from Ideological Commentary 62, November 1993.