WAR ON THE STATE:RESISTANCE

THOUGHT

 

 

 

 

 

So for both Stirner and Deleuze, State domination operates through, not only social contract theories and moral and rational discourses, but more fundamentally through humanist desire itself. The question must be how, if we are so intricately tied to the State, do we resist its domination? For Stirner and Deleuze, resistance to the State must take place at the level of our thoughts, ideas and most fundamentally our desires.

 

We must learn to think beyond the paradigm of the State. Revolutionary action in the past has failed because it has remained trapped within this paradigm. Even revolutionary philosophies like anarchism, which have as their aim the destruction of State power, have remain trapped within essentialist concepts and manichean structures which, as Stirner and Deleuze have shown, often end up reaffirming authority. Perhaps the very idea of revolution should be abandoned.

 

Perhaps politics should be about escaping essentialist structures and identities. Stirner argues, for instance, that resistance against the State should take the form, not of revolution, but “insurrection”:

 

Revolution and insurrection must not be looked upon as synonymous. The former consists in an overturning of conditions, of the established condition or status, the State or society, and is accordingly a political or social act; the latter has indeed for its unavoidable consequence a transformation of circumstances, yet does not start from it but from men’s discontent with themselves, is not an armed rising but a rising of individuals, a getting up without regard to the arrangements that spring from it. The Revolution aimed at new arrangements; insurrection leads us no longer to let ourselves be arranged, but to arrange ourselves, and sets no glittering hopes on ‘institutions’.

 

It is not a fight against the established, since, if it prospers, the established collapses of itself; it is only a working forth of me out of the established. (Stirner316)

Insurrection, it may be argued, starts with the individual refusing his enforced identity, the ‘I’ through which power operates: it starts ‘from men’s discontent with themselves.’ Moreover Stirner says that insurrection does not aim at overthrowing political institutions themselves. It is aimed at the individual overthrowing his own identity — the outcome of which is, nevertheless, a change in political arrangements. Insurrection is therefore not about becoming what one ‘is’ according to humanism — becoming human, becoming Man — but about becoming what one is not.

 

Stirner’s notion of rebellion involves a process of becoming — it is about continually reinventing one’s own self. The self is not an essence, a defined set of characteristics, but rather an emptiness, a “creative nothing”, and it is up to the individual to create something out of this and not be limited by essences (Stirner 150).

 

Deleuze as we have seen also rejects the unity and essentialism of subject, seeing it as a structure that constrains desire. He too sees becoming — becoming other than Man, other than human — as a form of resistance. He proposes a notion of subjectivity which privileges multiplicity, plurality and difference over unity, and flux over the stability and essentialism of identity.

The unity of the subject is broken down into a series of flows, connections, and assemblages of heterogeneous parts (Bogue :94). One cannot even think of the body as unified: we are composed of different parts that may function quite independently. What is important is not the subject or the various components themselves, but rather what happens between components: connections, flows, etc (Bogue :91).

 

 

So for Deleuze and Stirner, resistance against the State must involve a rejection of unified and essentialist identities — identities which tie desire, language and thought to the State. Their breaking down of unity into plurality, difference and becoming may be seen as an exercise in anti-authoritarian, anti-State thought. It may be seen as an attempt to go beyond existing political categories and to invent new ones—to expand the field of politics beyond its present limits by unmasking the connections that can be formed between resistance and the power being resisted. As Deleuze says: “You may make a rupture, draw a line of flight, yet there is still a danger that you will restratify everything, formations that restore power to a signifier,. . . ” (Deleuze and Guattari :9).

 

Perhaps one way to think outside this binary, essentialist logic is through the concept of war. Stirner and Deleuze, in different ways, theorise non-essentialist forms of resistance against the State in terms of war. Stirner calls for war to be declared on the very institution and principle of the State. Moreover, he sees society in terms of a war of egos, a kind of Hobbesian war of “all against all” in which there is no appeal to any notion of collectivity or unity (Clark:93). For this he has often been accused of advocating a selfish and extreme individualism in which “might is right” and the individual is entitled to all that he has it within his power to attain. However I would argue that Stirner is not talking here about actual war but rather a struggle at the level of representations which creates radical theoretical openings and in which all essential unities and collectivities are ruptured.

 

War for Stirner is not a State of nature or an essential characteristic. Rather it is a mode of thinking that undermines essence.

It is in the same vein that Deleuze talks about the ‘war machine’ as a figure of resistance against the State. The war machine constitutes an outside to the State. While the State is characterised by interiority, the war machine is characterised by absolute exteriority. While the State is, as we have seen, a coded conceptual plane confining thought within binary structures, the war machine is sheer nomadic movement, non-striated and uncoded. It is a space characterised by pluralities, multiplicities and difference, which escapes Statecoding by eschewing binary structures (Deleuze:141).

 

The war machine is the State’s Outside — whatever escapes the State’s capture: ‘just as Hobbes saw clearly that the State was against war, so war is against the State and makes it impossible’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1359).

 

It is the conceptual absence of essence and central authority. Again I would argue that Deleuze, as was the case with Stirner, is not talking here about actual war, but rather a theoretical terrain characterised by conceptual openness to plurality and difference, which eschews the stable identities, essences and conceptual unities that form part of the assemblage of the State. The idea of war as a radical dislocation and constitutive emptiness may be developed in this way, as a tool of resistance against State power and authority.

 

As we have seen, resistance is a dangerous enterprise: it can always be colonised by the power it opposes. It can no longer be seen as the overthrowing of State power by an essential revolutionary subject. Resistance may now be seen in terms of war: a field of multiple struggles, strategies, localised tactics, temporary setbacks and betrayals — ongoing antagonism without the promise of a final victory.

 

As Deleuze says: “. . . the world and its States are no more masters of their plane than revolutionaries are condemned to a deformation of theirs. Everything is played in uncertain games. . . ” (Deleuze:147).

 

How does this notion of resistance as war, as an uncertain game played between individuals, collectivities and authority differ from the anarchist idea of revolution? For classical anarchists revolution was a grand, dialectical overturning of society, in which structures of power and authority would be overthrown and the last obstacle to the full realisation of the subject’s humanity would be removed. For Deleuze and Stirner, on the other hand, resistance does not have a conclusion or telos in this sense. Resistance is seen as an ongoing confrontation’ a perpetual war of attrition in which the lines of confrontation are never marked out in advance but are rather constantly renegotiated and fought over.

 

Resistance against the State is an uncertain game precisely because State power can longer be circumscribed in a single institution but rather is something that pervades the social fabric, constituting, as we have seen, desires, essences and rational principles. The very notion of the moral and rational human subject which is pitted against State power in anarchist discourse, is constructed, or at least infiltrated, by this very power that it purportedly opposes. So resistance is an uncertain game played by individuals and groups engaged in day to day struggles with multiple forms of domination.

 

 

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