So when I left Germany that beginning of February full of romantic ideas about a life on the wild European highways with just my thumb and my guitar (and a bankcard for safety) the first lift which took me out of the Berlin periphery was at the same time I think the longest (measured in pure highway kilometres) and also the most interesting. So I stood only 20 minutes at this roadstop called whatever-dorf which was a great feeling because it made my goal seem so much closer, which was to hitch-hike across the Alps and go down to stay at a farm in central Italy somewhere near Monte Cassino (and actually never come back to Germany and live from then on as a hairy farm hopping outlaw without material needs).

Then stopped a big (even for German habits) shiny, silver limousine with a very old man in his 70’s at the steering wheel. Of course I asked him if he could take me and he agreed and was very nice. He even bought me food and drink in a restaurant, then later took me all the way down to the Austrian border. It took us eight hours or so. Only him and I in probably the fanciest car ever to come and stop at this silly clone-roadhouse. He was a manager, he told me, working in an executive floor of one of the biggest German industrial companies (this really happened, by the way); which one he wouldn’t say, so we can only guess, but probably he was a man of not the most popular trade in these times. He said he earned so much and had so much money that he will never ever be able to spend it all due to the bare quantity but also because of lack of imagination, he let me know sadly.

— Young man…I worked all my life since I went to school and I was always running behind my bosses; it was not a job, the company owned and still owns my life. And all the money, all the money, my wife and I …well we only tried to keep it, save it, to quantify it. If we were spending it, it was only on big dinners or rendezvous with people of use to us. The only time in my life, and oh how well I remember that week, was in Italy 34 years ago. We had a job to do down there, with some assistants and some of the department. We were having conversations with partner companies and something in the organization went a little wrong. So it happened we had actually nothing to do for this one week in Italy and we were placed in this hotel on the beachside where we…lay in the sun and…went to the sea…and… yes, that’s what we did and then the week was over and it was such a beautiful time for me. The first time in my life without pressure, enjoying something…really enjoying something. Well now that I’m retiring, my wife and I decided to make our life more simple because there is nothing about these marble covered villas and cars like this if you lack the most important thing which is imagination, will…being a person with dreams and challenges and goals, and that’s why I like what you are doing, and yes I regret I never did something like that, that’s why I took you. Well but one burning passion I have, one interest I came to recently, I converted to the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I read the bible young man, in fact, many, many different bibles.

By this point of the conversation, we had not already got down to Bavaria, no, to tell this to me it took him maybe 25 minutes and we had just left the Berlin ring road and I knew there were about 8 hours more to go.

— You might not be so interested in this but it’s actually very wise what is written in there…

…and so on. Well about his stunning bible knowledge I don’t remember so much any more, this story happened a long time ago, something like before the biblical religions there were only very cruel religions like one very “popular” one where they believed in a god called “Baal” who loved bloody human sacrifices, so that was before Christianity. Of course I was a little terrified having this experience with “witnesses” and their rage- like lust for conversion but I have to say he didn’t really try to convert me so much and I don’t know how but in my memory it was by far not the most awkward or boring ride I had, as I said before actually from a certain view it was one of the most interesting and I liked the old man and felt sad for him. There are people with more existential problems but isn’t his fate one of the most terrible? I would maybe prefer life to end under a bridge than this insane 70 years of emptiness which just appears to me like total hell. Rather than that I would prefer to have myself sacrificed for this “Baal”. Anyway it was dark when he dropped me off close to the Austrian border and when I turned away to the newly arriving cars he was wishing me good luck and told me

– And if on your trip you should happen to find a bible somewhere, take a look inside, it’s worth it, believe me!

Only now do I think that I actually could have given to him as a final completion of his bible collection my very own Kerouac “bible” which my brother gave to me, and perhaps could have helped him. However, we parted ways without exchanging books, as the bible has unfortunately a very joyless image and so till now….no bible for me, sorry.

— R

open road


Economy as an ideology

Doing things, or creating, distributing and consuming objects, services, or ideas does not belong to the sphere of economy per se; they become such only after being subordinated to a certain kind of discipline of economy. In other words, all activities, social relations and their results have to be economized before becoming economic. Economy is an achievement of economization rather than a starting point or a pre-existing reality that can simply be revealed and acted upon(1).

During certain processes — that I shall roughly summarize later — economization has become the biggest ideological and political project of the last two centuries and economy probably the most protected epistemological discipline ever in existence; containing not only the conventional economy; production, distribution, consumption and their practices and institutions, but nature, culture and the subject as well. This more holistic understanding of economy should be taken under special consideration when we are talking about economic crisis, and ask, what exactly is in crisis and what is the role of economy in relation to this?

When we are talking about economy we are never talking only about business as usual. This is just the surface of a more deep-rooted and fundamental philosophical idea. Economy is basically a combination of some abstract ideas like utility, value, exchange and markets, applied to everyday life. By understanding most human actions and social relations within the fields of utility, value, exchange and markets the discipline of economy makes it possible to interpret activities as work (value), things as products (utility), distribution as trade (exchange), cooperation as competition (markets) and so on. Here utility is the fundamental motivation for doing things; value is the measurement of people and things, which are related to each other throughout different transactions and this happens in the sphere of freed or limited — but still — markets. These same abstractions can be found in all modern economic ideas as such or as simple negations, just as they belong to all mainstream political ideologies from left to right.

By reading history one can notice that the idea of economy, as we understand it now, is a relatively new concept. So-called uncivilized cultures did not have anything comparable to our economic conception at all, even though they were definitely doing things we could call, or better economize, as production or work. For ancient Athenians οἰκονομία (oikonomia) was the custom of household maintenance, and had nothing to do with utility, value, exchange, or markets either. Aristotle stated contrary to the contemporary economic belief that value and exchange — if they are necessary — were not formed by nature nor automatically but by law or custom, “and it is in our power to change [them] and make [them] useless”(2).

Utility, value, exchange and markets were widely included in economic thinking and the European world-view as late as the 17th–18th century soon after the discoveries of new sources of wealth — fossil fuels3 (black coal and oil) and colonialism. According to historians of political economy, this inclusion came about on account of a relatively small minority of people who wished to establish a new foundation of power, against Crown and Church. In practice, this occurred in the realization of large scale land privatizations at home or in recently occupied colonies abroad, bringing about new social structures, means of production, and capitalizing their appropriated wealth. Economy and its philosophical basis did indeed voice some optimism about general prosperity but it was mainly used as a theoretical foundation to legitimate the law and order required for these processes of exploitation. The term political economy was introduced in the 18th century. Very soon after that most of the European states were more or less based upon the theories of economists and similar economic theories were adapted by the critics as well.

brockville-carriage-co-engraving-ca1892It is important to point out that all previously mentioned economic developments happened as a part and continuation of the scientific revolution and followed the tide of a scientific world-view. And indeed in the end of the 19th century the term economics replaced the term political economy and finally became “the recognized name of a science”(4). If post-Newtonian science was all about the creation of harmonious rational systems (like classical mechanics for physics, Kant for ethics or Hegelianism for political history which Marx later economized) based on laws and striving for the truth, so was economics. However, the early modern scientific world-view had some severe problems with handling individuality or exceptions.

At the dawn of the 20th century a few turning-points happened that gave rise to the wider economization of knowledge. First of all, some thinkers started to doubt the unity and harmony of “the reality” early modern science was providing. Sigmund Freud and his psychoanalytic school came up with the theory of the unconscious, formed by each individual’s personal history, as a source of knowledge. Philosophers, sociologists and other humanistic schools also started to shake the unity of scientific world-views and focus upon the particular (the unit, the atom, the subject). This new paradigm divided previously unified knowledge in two: micro and macro. A bunch of new general universal (macro) preconditions were needed to be able to define something that is particular (micro). These theories generated structuralism, that was finally vulgarized into popular post-modernism.

A good and illustrative example of this division of knowledge is macroeconomics which divided the economy in two different spheres. The economy itself was understood as a universal self-sufficient macro phenomenon that functions independently beyond any mortal control, but was constructed from countless micro-economic events of everyday production and consumption. However, these two levels were not connected theoretically. A similar division occurred in the natural sciences as well. Quantum mechanics was able to offer a theory of a general structure of the Universe, but was not combinable with classical natural science.

The philosophy of knowledge (e.g. epistemology) reacted to these developments by concluding that knowledge is formulated in a certain discourse, for example socially. What is revealing here (in the discourse of economization) is that some of the epistemologists proposed that a truth value of scientific theory is evaluated by the success of the theory — in other words how well it succeeds in the markets of knowledge.

I hope this hasty overview contributes to an understanding of how knowledge was liberated (in terms of Liberalism) from a solidified and homogenous classical paradigm, but was paradoxically not freed from a similarly homogenous idea of the new universality: the markets of knowledge. This means that knowledge has became dominated by one epistemological trend — not physics nor philosophy — but economy. One could call this the great economizing process of knowledge. Most notably this has happened in the humanistic sciences and to something we call a ‘human being’, the subject or the self.

Economization of the self

As I argued in the last section, the process of economization proceeds together with an emancipative liberation process where old meanings are re-evaluated and new ones constructed. This kind of liberation process of the western subject has happened on two levels. First, a promise of liberty has been classically granted throughout financial success and consumption — arbeit macht frei. Second, it has happened on the level of identity which the Euro-American intelligentsia has been actively recording since the early 20th century. Paradoxically, the latter has often been theorized by the same thinkers that criticize the former one. In the end these two ideas have very little difference.

Criticism of financial liberty can be summarized as concealing an idea of capitalistic exploitation — like marxists should say; it does not really liberate anyone. But this discussion is overdone and not so important here. What I am more interested in is the liberation process of the human being or the subject, that has been a big project of left and right liberals since the 19th century, which was addressed against all reactionary forces and conservative normativeness. This process has been very important in many senses, but still fundamentally a dramatic failure in terms of constituting the macro-economic idea of humanity that the liberation of science did for knowledge.


By declaring everybody’s equality, the liberation of the subject ended up by assuming universal human worth as a basic value and the idea of equality as a fundamental starting point for normativeness and comparison. This general valorization of the human has separated each subject from all subjective qualities and transformed the idea of the human into something that is comparable to currency. Even every human will wear and erode with time but retain the same value, just like a ten euro bill. To study what the basic unit of human worth is one just need take a brief look at the most bare and unveiled persons of the society, those who have no signification or status other than their species. Combining this notion with an observation that the liberation project developed inside an economizing world, using economic terms and discourses, we can see how good-hearted liberalism created a subject that has to be invested in the market to succeed and gain more value in order to be something. The problem lies in the very idea of liberty itself that is more an operational environment than quality of the self. Even clever thinkers like Michel Foucault could not really avoid this kind of economism, when he said that the modern subject should become un objet d’art(5). Art is definitely a commodity that exists in markets. Also, some early radical nihilists, as Sergej Netjajev, were trapped in the same conception. For Netjajev, a revolutionary should be seen as revolutionary capital that “should, of course, be spent as economically as possible in order to derive from it the greatest possible profit”(6), as he did himself, by telling his comrades to kill Tsar Alexander II of Russia instead of spending their time on trying to free him from prison.

One could ask what is wrong with the liberty of free markets and answer with the criticism that an equal basis for subjects and free markets has never existed. These ideas bring the topic closer to the analysis of the true meaning of the crisis that I will present in the next section.

First of all, it is important to notice that there are some differences between left and right liberalism, but even more important to recognize is that there is also a lot in common. A quarrel about communalizing or freeing the markets is less important, since both of them are trying to establish a freed but economic subject, aiming at universality and productivism. Second, one should not confuse liberal theories with liberalism as a political project. The former is an incompetent salvation doctrine among many others and basically used to legitimate the latter. Practically, the latter does not correspond with liberal theory as it has been historically established through dictatorship (i.e. Pinochet’s Chile and the Soviet Union), a strong bureaucratic state (social democrat Scandinavia) or global authorities like WTO, World Bank, NATO and so on (the governments of Reagan and Thatcher). These political projects have not been free nor liberal, but were certainly economic.
Despite all the great efforts of left wing liberalism, the idea of economy itself has become almost identical to right wing liberalism, as the economic epistemology that the idea implied supports mainly right wing values. This is why strong polarized political divisions in mainstream politics do not really exist anywhere in Europe. The New Left can somehow make it out after a big step towards the liberal right by accepting the same economic discourse. But, in the end, the problem of economization stays more or less the same and seems to work for the right liberals or, alternatively, for neo-fascist ideologies as its defective negation. In spite of the anti-liberal agenda of fascism (that seriously contradicts the liberal theory), fascism seems to benefit pragmatic political liberalism which needs some sort of social Darwinism and totalitarianism to maintain the free market ideology. This explains the close relations of the liberal right and neo-fascists.

Like reactionary ideologies, economization is based on an inadequate interpretation of the real world and the subjects, and suggests artificial universalism or naturalism, and needs strong and repressive power mechanisms to exist. This is not only the case with market liberalism but the liberal idea of the self as well — both just use different tactics of power. As Aristotle already noted, markets — even free markets — are based on law and do not function without the classical legislative and repressive powers: state, justice, police, army, and different technologies of control. Consequently, the liberal subject controls itself by self control. To be able to succeed in the market of identities, one has to adapt certain successful presentations and trends of the self — like sexuality, gender, style, diet, ideology, religion, nation, class, and so on, that we better know as identity politics. Liberty surely opens a theoretical path to creativity and real variation, but practically, competition and unavoidable privileges that the system requires to be maintained, seem to restrain the diversity and liberty of each person. Together these two spheres of power — external and internal — constitute something comparable to the Deleuzean concept of control that is all inclusive. This is a fairly good representation of how economic hegemony works, even though I don’t agree with the totality of the idea of Deleuze.

Economy of crises

Now I have defined economy as a comprehensive epistemological system, including not merely business as usual but a great deal of knowledge and the subject as well. I have explained how the project of liberalism has incorporated the whole economic discourse into right-wing ideology and how the economy operates on two different levels of repression: external and internal. From this position we can, finally, make some observations about so-called economic crisis.

monopolyThe first and most prominent note is that economy as an interpretation of reality is not in crisis nor is the process of economization. Economic crisis would literally mean that everyday reality would correspond less and less to economic thinking and this indifference would
derail the idea of economy into crisis. What we have seen in the last century is quite the contrary and the current crisis is just one example of that. By intimidating people with poverty, crisis draws them even closer to utilitarianism, competition and markets in favour of even harsher economization.

So, if the economy still works well, where is the error and what is the source of growing anxiety and suffering? What is the idea that does not correspond anymore with everyday reality? I would say that there is no error. Anxiety and misery are just a result of bad economic success and what does not correspond with reality is the optimistic economic idealism that has become the dominant ideology during the period of economic growth. Financial success created a misconception that surplus and economy are synonyms even though the success is just one side of the coin. Economy as a doctrine of salvation bears fruit only in circumstances of economic growth. This deduction is surely cynical and sad, but it strictly follows the logic of economy. However, it opens an interesting philosophical view that partly explains why the hegemony of economy is so strong and all- inclusive that even the collapse of idealism does not destroy it.

In the crisis, the discipline of economy is able to combine spiritual and material spheres that some philosophies have classically divided. This happens through internal and external power. But, before I go into details the theory needs some preparation.

It seems that there is something specific about the current crisis. It is happening at an historical moment, when the business economy has already consumed a big part of its own material bases — mainly oil and phosphor — and created noteworthy environmental problems that cannot be ignored much longer. There is plenty of discussion about the material imbalance between the demand and supply of fossil fuel and the critical state of climate, soil and water resources as one of the causes of the current global crisis. This was surely to be expected as the essence of economy is unlimited competition and success. Even early economists, as Thomas Malthus, predicted this already at the end of the 18th century. However, this reality gives a special character to this ongoing crisis in comparison to other historical crises. If I’m wrong here and some new resources are found, it does not really matter since the dynamics and direction of economy will explode and consume them anyway. By saying this, I do not mean that we have an economic and environmental imperative to act upon. No, just that these are only the conditions of the economy.

What this means in practice is that some sort of optimistic expansion of wealth has stopped and the invisible hand that was supposed to self-regulate the markets in order to benefit the whole society has become paralyzed — if it ever existed. From now on, surplus is a privilege for fewer and fewer people simply because of material reasons. However, what the crisis is proving against common optimism is that surplus is necessary for creativity and imagination. Day-to-day hunger and the struggle for survival in this economic condition does not leave much space for daydreaming, and creativity has surely become more worldly, purposeful, and economic than ever in modern times. Unemployment does not just mean more free time, like it meant during the times of the wealthy social welfare state.

It is important to make clear that poverty and suffering are not based on real shortages of food, houses and other wealth. It is the economy which establishes the order and controls material resources, human activities and the distribution of things. Under other circumstances there would not be this kind of scarcity.

But let’s go back to the current crisis. What is happening now is that lack of surplus pushes the whole project of economy in a more material direction. This movement — from ideal and theoretical into material and practical — is important here. In other words, during the crisis previously metaphysical economic ideas are clearly becoming hard reality and the situation is forcing people to be truly economic subjects: utilitarian, competitive, calculative and selfish. It does not matter if these qualities describe true human nature or whether economic theory is well argued or not. Economic hegemony does not provide any other choices. This is guaranteed by bureaucrats, tax officers, cops and judges and the little economist inside our heads who commands us to calculate and prioritize. And this is how spiritual and material become one. The tools are repression and violence and the result, the totality of “one truth”.

As we have seen during the crisis, the materialization of the imaginary or of metaphysics enforces economic order and rearranges power relations. The period of financial surplus that started around the 18th century established metaphysical — ethical, idealistic and imaginative — power structures. It surely takes a lot of imagination and idealism to unify a diversity of people into a nation, nation-state or proletariat, and all these entities had a significant share in political power. However, austerity policy shows how old divisions of power (nation-state, voters, labor movements and unions) are losing their share of power to global free market organizations, corporations and supranational powers like WTO, IMF, NATO and EU. The state that used to be sovereign is mainly a tool of governing for the desires of the new sovereignty. Here we should remember the classical anarchist criticism of the nation-state, parliamentarianism, democracy, class division and all other structures and declare that while the new normality is bad the previous was not good either. Despite the materialization of economized “reality” all kinds of philosophy and idealism are still possible, but the important thing is that they have less and less effectivity.

Unfortunately, to establish new epistemologies or even destroy the existing one needs some non-utilitarian creativity, imagination and daydreaming. The alternatives that we now and then hear of are more or less different reproductions of existing economic hegemony. In brief, an economic solution — Marxism, national socialism, Keynesianism, Third Way, Degrowth, Transition Movement, techno utopias or even collectivism, syndicalism or federalism — might rehabilitate the doctrine of salvation for a period but cannot deal with the fundamental question that is not technical but epistemological. It is all about how we understand humanity and the world.

So, let us summarize the previous. The crisis is one convention of economization, a new form of economic control and the new normality. That is why the term ‘economic crisis’ is misleading. Economy of crisis describes the situation best. What happens in the crisis is that the idealistic economy will be violently transformed into pragmatic economy violently through poverty and repression. By doing so economic metaphysics and imagination will become the material, hard reality. This creates a degenerative closed circuit that — as we can see everywhere — wears away knowledge, ethics and environment; in other words, the foundations of all alternatives or change. However, a closed circuit does not provide vitality for life. It needs metaphysics and imagination in order to do so. Any kind of economic reform cannot solve the situation, only reproduce it in other forms. This all sounds very pessimistic, and it seems that we are doomed to ultimate decadence and a dead end. But this is just my use of an old technical trick to build an interesting narrative for a political essay.

Political Nihilism

History has shown that historical knowledge cannot be easily done away with, and personally I do not see any reason for doing so. But what the future can do is to reinterpret old meanings and create new ones. Two recent projects that are active in this field and have challenged economic epistemology are surely radical anarchism and the new nihilism. I do not want to make too strict a conceptual division between them so I will just use the word nihilism, because it sounds more fresh. Also, I do not use the term nihilism as a title. There are rather some things that resemble something we could call nihilism.

However, nihilism could be understood as an unsystematic plurality and self-determinate individuality without any universal, social or atomistic definition of the individual. For example, for a nihilist, a social reality does not need any specific epistemology to exist. Nihilistic thinking cannot claim sociability to be a natural quality of every subject; — but a true anomaly cannot be one either. For nihilism there is no theory, every one is theory — if needed — without artificial causality or interpreted relations imposed from the outside. From this point of view, nihilism has already overstepped universal economic abstractions, like value in a material, spiritual and ethical sense but also the idea of nihil as one undivided nothingness. The nihilist project is not against knowledge itself nor qualities of each individual but authoritarian forms of those.

What I’m going to present next might be a misinterpretation, but as I have come so far with my analysis let me be excused if I’m wrong. The development of new nihilism can be connected to this historical moment we are living now with two points. First, one could even say that nihilism has been finalizing liberal thought by liberating it from liberalism. This could be seen as a Nietzschean antagonistic position against postmodern constructionism (that interprets reality throughout micro and macro divisions), denying it as a false concept. Second, some recent nihilist practices could be seen as opposing the general materialization of economic ideas, with the potential to breathe new life into metaphysics and imagination. However, this hypothesis needs a bit more flesh on the bone.

As I argued in the last section, economic hegemony and especially the imperative of crisis suppress imagination. The power of pragmatic economy (scarcity and cops) has severed all alternative, non-economic world-views and philosophic ideas from everyday reality, condemning them to isolation. Only one philosophy can access reality and that is non-discussable and materialized, vicious, economic metaphysics: utility, value, exchange and markets. If the moment is impossible for theoretical philosophy and life has been materialized, the political conclusion should be that new philosophical arguments have to be presented in pragmatic form as well.

Recent political activities undertaken by nihilists appear to follow this interpretation. Arsons, robberies and other forms of direct action can be seen as pragmatic philosophical arguments. If we read nihilist responsibility claims and other texts, we can find out that there is no reproduction of economic epistemology, nor do they provide new economic systems, any general social theory, universalities or other single-minded “truths”. This distinguishes nihilists from all other political projects. However, nihilist insurrection and destructive actions are surely communicating philosophical meanings and proposing practical approaches to metaphysical questions — what is ultimately there and what it is like — by placing individual ethics above all and opening a sphere of organic social relations and unceasing variation.

We believe that each person makes up, for themselves, an entire universe. From this lens, everything is subjective. Our very life is our personal narrative, through our own eyes. This is why we do not believe in objective conditions that assimilate and accept a single and exclusive objective and revolutionary truth. There is not one reality, but countless realities. We do not accept mass production of revolutionary consciousness, subversive experiences, or liberating gestures.(7)

Thomas Hobbes was partially right by arguing that a “state of men without civil society is nothing else but a mere war of all against all; and in that war all men have equal right unto all things”8. But, one thing he did not get is that ‘war on society’ does not “mean mass death, but the death of social norms”(9). This state of divine violence — that does not constitute power, only dissolves it — is the death of the homogenous universal subject, “the All”, and all other allnesses which try to dominate how brutal or tender we are, where, when and why.

— Anonymous


End notes:

1. Koray Çalışkan and Michel Callon, “Economization, part 1: shifting at- tention from the economy towards processes of economization”, 2009, Economy and Society 38(3): 369 – 398
2. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics
3. Philosphers of the Future, The Barbarian 1/2013, pp. 4-15
4    W. Stanley Jevons, The Theory of Political Economy!, 1871, pp. xiv-xv
5. Michel Foucault, ”Conversation avec Werner Schroeter”, 1982, Werner Schroeter, Paris, Goethe Institute, pp. 39-47
6. Sergei Netjajev, ”The Revolutionaty Catechism”, 1969,
7. Short interview by Contra Info translation counter-information network with Conspiracy of Cells of Fire members, ten comrades currently incarcerated in Greece, April 2013,
8. Thomas Hobbes, ”The Elements of Law, Natural and Politic: Part I, Hu- man nature and De Corpore Politico”, pp. xvii
9. Short interview by Contra Info translation counter-information network with Conspiracy of Cells of Fire members, ten comrades currently incarcerated in Greece, April 2013,

Radical Erotica

(Dedicated to the Lovers of Riot Porn)

The demonstration approaches its desired end. Now the true face of the opposition is revealed, and the throng must come to grips with the brutal force of the law. Metal bars, pistols, shields, emblazoned armour; the sado-masochism of power. But the body of demonstrators vibrates to its own rhythm, writhing and arching with the flexible elegance of a cat, seduced by the will to stand beside their fellow man and love for the beauty of the streets.

The first stone is thrown. Rigid with the craving for resistance, the stone curves through the evening air, heavy with the yearning impulses of a thousand frustrated youths. The stone pounds the earth, raising a soft billow of dust. Heavy boots shudder and evade it only to be concealed by a quick blast of flames. The shattered bottle lies spent as flames lick and tease the softened plastic shield. Gasps echo and are consumed.

A canister rises and covers the space between force and violence; pausing erect in the air it plunges too early, just missing the gathered, swarming mass. Swathed in the veils of Salome, she takes the pulsing canister in hand, hot and hard it bruises her eager palm. She lifts it from below, avoiding the tender spitting head and thrusts it forward. It describes a thin arc of acrid opacity and explodes as it breaks into the ranks.

Another canister penetrates the dark mass, and as pulses of white steam surge it fills the gap. The dense masses surround it and close in upon the fertile throbbing clouds. Deep inside the hooded mass, the last tears trickle and are wasted upon the broken marble. Coursing in their infatuation, the crowd becomes one and absorbs the spectre of inflated capital which sinks below the crest of wave after wave, the damp shards cutting into the fibrous stakes of its neck. The perversive gas is forgotten amid the turbulent rapids which swell and rise, flowing through carved passages and changing course with the ease of a discharged pearl, loose upon the ocean’s floor.

Filled by the pleasure of its own movement the body of demonstrators perforates into a multitude of different sensations, overflowing with the teeming abundance that spreads from core to extremity; finally to dilate and reform into a single entity whose scalding determination challenges the very heat of the stars and can do nothing but press forward… Athens burns.

— Thea (under the influence of Judith)

two people in a cloud


Fascism is the merger of state and corporate power.


Fascism is the power of finance capital itself.

-Communist International, 1935

In the 1970’s Foucault was asked to sign a petition against the recrudescence of West German “fascism”, and the wording of the phrase clearly concerned him. This encouraged him to research, most tellingly, not historical fascism, the beginning of which at that time was only a few decades ago in Europe, but historical Liberalism, which had a much longer history. Famously at around the same time, the neo-liberalism of the Chicago school of Milton Friedman met unrepentant fascism in the coup of Pinochet, and soon, all over dictatorships in Latin America. In a bizarre way the two governing models seemed linked, and also notably, linked with the USA, the primary world power. In our own time, this seems even more the case, since the growing picture in Greece is one of both official neo-liberalism supported by the state and the international community, the refusal of this doctrine by the population, and increasingly authoritarian measures from the state and the growth of the neo-Nazi party.


Fascism has been much discussed within Greece, and presumably within Europe, with the murder of Fyssas. One thing all the discussions so far have missed, and a perspective which was contained in the Greek movement in the past texts of the group Flesh Machine, was the state application of counter-insurrection doctrines in the role of creating Golden Dawn. This is not the spontaneous nationalist movement of ex-soldiers, ruined petit-bourgeois and fringe politicians that was classical fascism in Italy and elsewhere, but rather the propagation of these views in the society by a fraction of the State (designated by the movement with the term para-state). So to counterpoise the too-strong radicalism after December, a spuriously independent extreme right was created by granting media support and territorial protection to Golden Dawn at Agios Panteleimonas, both to reinforce a tottering state with shows of fervent “citizen” obedience, and with the later goal in mind to better present the image of the State as a neutral mediator between the “two extremes”, about which the government has said so much recently. In another sense the idea still is to use and then discard fascism, as was the original plan of the German military aristocrats with the Nazis. However the interesting development is that this fundamental point of state propaganda and counter-insurrection doctrine, “the two extremes”, is basically not believed by most Greeks. Not only because of the all-too obvious collaboration between police and Nazis, ineptly covered up (proving correct the Anarcho- chant “cops, TV, neo-nazis/ all the bastards work together”) but also perhaps because the situation has the lack of sectarian grounding that allowed this doctrine to be somewhat successful elsewhere, for NATO at least, in pacifying Northern Ireland and to save face in exiting Iraq (here the two extremes are naturally present as religious divisions). In Italy in the 70’s the doctrine only worked as it was supported by the political thoughtlessness of hardline Marxism, both unconsciously on the streets and consciously by the establishment PCI trying to gain parliamentary power. These preconditions are lacking today, to the detriment of the doctrine.


There are many terms to describe this new state phenomenon with which we are living. So, from the Greek movement we have modern totalitarianism and democratic dictatorship, elsewhere there is Debord’s integrated spectacle, Agamben’s biopolitical democracy and the state of exception, Negri and Hardt’s Empire, and always popular is the idea of neo-fascism, etc. The precise term is not so important (just as historically, Falangists, Fascists, and Nazis were all lumped together) but the development itself is of the utmost importance, and acknowledging it is equally important. For example with the question of armed struggle, it is getting increasingly impossible to see most of these actions as anything other than a new Resistance, and as justified by the circumstances. Those taken to prison for “terrorism” are not enemies of the people and democracy, but very clearly political prisoners of war, taken hostage by a repressive, corrupt, and delegitimised government run by finance capital and multinational corporations. The final import lies not in some intellectual qualification of a thing, but in the new ethical imperative of action that is being forged, and only Anarchy is doing this. It barely deserves mention, but for the clumsiness of their charade that some kind of legality and democracy remains in the current system, for their hopeless good faith in a bankrupt order, Syriza is only proving the final bankruptcy of Marxism in its impotence. So both the ERT occupation and Villa Amalias squat were lost, for the time being. But Anarchy knows how to defend itself, whereas Syriza held a parliamentary confidence vote that they were bound to lose, and about which no one cared. Incidentally we have gone back to the initial division at the end of the 19th century: Anarchists are self-organized and have no qualms about violence, Marxism is organized as a peaceful parliamentary party.


Today what do we live in Greece? The government is an endless coalition government (European coalition governments are increasingly coming to resemble the Chinese politburo, just as this begins to reform itself). The government is totally dependent on foreign aid to keep functioning, the police are almost completely Nazified, foreigners are being sent in the tens of thousands to newly constructed concentration camps, radical movements are being repressed with ever-expanding exceptional laws, State austerity measures are reducing the population to want and misery, until very recently the government was openly working with a neo-Nazi gang and considering bringing them into government, etc&c. All these abhorrent things tell us, almost instinctively, that something is afoot, and yet to our eyes there is also the presence of a society still apparently normal, without curfews or Nazi flags on every street, having opposition parliamentary parties, various newspapers, and so on. It is clear that the strange and uneasy feeling of tyranny and oppression is there, while we lack the terms to describe it to our own satisfaction. If this is so, presumably it is because we are entering a new historical era, and the foremost of intellectual tasks, is merely to acknowledge this fact, and to begin the first tentatives of understanding the changes underway. This is certainly required by the times, because what we face is no longer the fascism of the past; if anything, the modern neoliberal state in times of austerity, of which Greece is the foremost example in the world, is an enhanced form of the prior fascism.


One of the most common clichés the media uses when talking about Greece is the label ‘birthplace of democracy’. Along with reminders that words like tragedy and crisis are Greek after all, the cliche is repeated without any context. There’s rarely a mention of what this historic label refers to and it can be used to give a hint of historical legitimacy to the current system of government. As we’re all told the ancient Greeks were the smartest, most intelligent group of people which ever existed, so if our political system can trace itself back to those clever folks it must be good, right?

If we take a quick look at the historical events to which the cliché refers it’s hard to see any connection spanning the millennia. The word democracy of course, like so many others, comes from Greek. But the demokratia (δημοκρατία) of the ancient world had a completely different origin, theory, and practice to what is called democracy today. Demokratia as it was lived in the Athens of the 5th and 4th centuries BC has very few similarities with modern parliamentary systems. When speaking of ancient Athens I will retain the word demokratia to distinguish it from modern democracy.

In a demokratia the poor should have more power than the rich, being the greater number; for this is one aspect of freedom which all framers of demokratia lay down as a criterion of that state; another is, to live as every one likes”(1)

Ancient Athenian demokratia was born out of a revolution after a long period of social tension. This Athenian model required the active participation of each of its members rather than the passive placing of periodic Xs on a piece of paper. An open hill top where any could speak was the main site of action instead of a fence-ringed and police-garrisoned palace. Whilst I’ve no intention of praising the society of classical Athens a brief look at its history and idea of democracy would be useful.

Of course I’m not about to say that ancient Athens was some sort of glorious example to emulate. For all that classical Athens had a radical political structure it was an extremely conservative and restrictive society. The demokratia was open only to citizens and to be a citizen you had to be a male pure- born Athenian. Foreigners were excluded and a mass of slaves exploited. For women Athens was one of the most repressive places to live in the ancient world, even oligarchic and fanatically militaristic Sparta was a better place for women. Athens was imperialist and terrorised the Aegean world in order to impose its own interests.

At no point during the centuries of demokratia was private property or the privileges of the rich elite challenged. The rich and aristocratic had their political power curtailed but were left to live a life of luxury. Whilst the aristocrat lounged on couches at lavish dinner parties and discussed love and the good life the poor built their wealth. In many ways ancient Athens is an example which shows that a radical political organisation will not necessarily lead to radical social changes for the poor and oppressed.

In short the Athenian demokratia was an attempt to organise the political life of the territory along direct democratic lines. This experiment functioned successfully from 508/7 BC until the 320s BC. For almost two hundred years the largest territory in the Greek world had no continuous representative leaders and no judicial or bureaucratic class. It was remarkably stable at a time when the rest of the Greek city-states frequently underwent dramatic and bloody social conflicts. Only twice in its lifetime was the demokratia overthrown. In 411/10 under the pressure of a brutal war and after a huge military disaster an oligarchic coup briefly dissolved the demokratia. The only other break was in 404/3 when after defeat in war a brief foreign backed aristocratic regime was imposed. It was only the rise of the despotic Macedonian monarchy and the superpower politics of the post-Alexander the Great world that finally crushed demokratia in Athens.

The demokratia of Athens was born out of the world of the Greek Polis. What is now the territory of the Greek state was divided into a myriad of city-states. Each city was self-governing and fiercely independent. The 7th and 6th centuries BC were times of great change in these city-states. Social life was growing and so were social tensions. With Greece being a predominately agricultural society land was of paramount importance but with the territory being largely mountainous good land was limited. The tension between those who had land and those who didn’t led to conflict within the city-states. One consequence of this was emigration, landless Greeks set up colonies all across the Mediterranean. Another consequence was political strife. Often one man was able to use the discontent of the disadvantaged to set himself up as a tyrant. In other cities the rich ruled as an oligarchy.

Toward the end of the sixth century the family of tyrants which had ruled Athens for two generations was overthrown by a mixture of internal agitation and foreign intervention. Two aristocratic factions rose to prominence in the wake of the tyranny. After a few years of political strife between these aristocratic factions the people of Athens rose up supported by the aristocrat Kleisthenes. They surrounded the partisans of Isagoras and the Spartan troops on the acropolis before forcing them out. At this point the Athenian people set out a new way of governing which would become the demokratia. The ‘constitution’ which followed is sometimes referred to as Kleisthenic due to the fact that the uprising was in support of Kleisthenes. However this leader of the people quickly disappears from the historical record and very little is known about him.

The demokratia has made itself master of everything and administers everything by its votes in the assembly and by the law- courts”(2)

The constitution which the Athenians created and evolved after the revolution in 508/7 BC was based on the idea that the people were sovereign and this sovereignty was expressed through the mass participation of the citizen body in a popular assembly and the law courts.

The assembly (ekklesia/ἐκκλησία) was the physical gathering of the citizen body in one place in order to debate and vote. All citizens had the right to attend the assembly which took place on the hill of the Pynx close to the Athenian acropolis and met roughly every ten days. Payment was introduced to encourage participation in the assembly. In this open space thousands gathered(estimates range from 6-13,000) and all decrees of the state had to be ratified here. In addition to voting on public policy the citizens of the assembly also elected the generals and could act as a law court.

Meetings of the assembly would begin with the question ‘who wishes to speak?’ and anyone in attendance had the right to address the crowd. Debates were held on policies which had been proposed by citizens and after listening to speeches for and against, those assembled would vote. Whilst confident and articulate speakers held an advantage in the assembly no political parties as we have them today were formed. The Athenians voted for policies not parties. For the citizen of the demokratia the possibility existed that their voice and opinion could be heard on a regular basis.

Citizens came together in a mass to form the Athenian court system also. There were no judges or lawyers in these courts. The prosecutor and defendant put their respective cases directly to their fellow citizens gathered as a jury. Juries were made up of a randomly selected group of citizens with numbers varying from a low of 201 to a high of 2,500 depending on the type and severity of the case. As with the assembly payment for participation on the juries was introduced to support those who participated. These juries listened to both sides and then voted yes or no to a guilty verdict. If the vote was guilty then the defendant and prosecutor came back and each suggested a suitable punishment which the jury then voted on. There was never a detailed law code in Athens and the juries were expected to apply general laws in specific cases in line with the best interests of the Athenian people. To the Athenians “complete articulation of the law was a denial of the collective wisdom of the masses”(3). In the law courts we can see again the idea of the people as sovereign.

athens ruins riotThese two institutions, assembly and courts, were the methods the Athenians used to make group decisions. The day to day administration of Athenian territory was also handled by the citizen body. Councils and committees were formed to handle all the needs of the largest city in Greece. The poorest Athenians were initially barred from some of these positions but it seems this rule was later ignored and participation was thrown open to all. These committees and councils were manned by a randomly selected group of citizens. A council (Boule/βουλή) of 500 randomly chosen citizens oversaw much of the administration and prepared legislation for the assembly to debate. Since citizens were chosen at random and the membership changed every year there was a good chance that most citizens served on this council at some point in their life.

Other committees were created to run the infrastructure of the city. From the council of 500 down to the committees, participation of a maximum number of citizens was ensured by having term limits for office holders and random selection by lot. For only a few posts would there be a direct vote for one particular person, the most important of these posts being the ten generals. As elections favour the rich the Athenians generally avoided them. Since membership of the councils and committees was decided by random lot no professional civil service or bureaucracy developed in Athens. The largest of the ancient Greek cities and the largest city in Europe at the time was essentially run by amateurs.

Demokratia extended beyond the city of Athens to be practised across the whole of Attika. Athenian territory was divided into demes which were essentially small villages. Physical distance from the assembly and law-courts in the city could be compensated for by local demokratia. Indeed “democracy at deme level was an important feature of Athenian life”(4). Selection for membership of the council took place in the demes and each had its own assembly as well as a political officer chosen by lot. Law courts also existed at local level.

Whilst Athens had no continuous official leaders individuals did rise to prominence. Often these prominent individuals were from the rich elite. With their abundant leisure time and access to education and military experience the wealthy retained a favoured position which they could turn into influence. There has been a tendency to view the history of the demokratia through the histories of these prominent aristocratic individuals. In part this is a result of the historical record. Even modern histories can read as a succession of (aristocratic)leaders Kleisthenes-Kimon-Perikles-Demosthenes. The historians of ancient Athens, and historians in general, were themselves from the wealthy elite and so they focused their studies around members of their own class and ignored the rest. When a non- aristocratic citizen rose to prominence the historians and philosophers despised them as demagogues who had let the idea of democracy go to their heads and forgotten their proper station in life.

If an aristocrat could train themselves to speak well in the assembly and had a level of military experience they could gain a position of influence. However no individual was able to transform this influence into outright authority as there were no political positions which could give them control of the city. At each turn an individual had to persuade the assembly or law- courts to back their ideas. Even the most influential of these individuals, Perikles, at times found himself unceremoniously ignored when his advice and policies had failed. The demokratia also had a built-in safe guard should any individual get too powerful. Every year the Athenians held a vote for ostracism. If any one individual was deemed too dangerous they could be exiled from the city for ten years by popular vote.

Athens is an example of a direct democracy that achieved genuine, long term, stable methods of decision making by the masses and that was not co-opted by the growth of an internal ruling elite”(5)

The basic practical principal of the demokratia was participation. At every level a citizen was expected to participate in the organisation of the city. They made the major decisions collectively in the assembly. Those decisions were interpreted and acted on by the citizens making up the juries in the law courts. Athenians from all walks of life carried out the administration of the city on a day to day basis and many would for a day even have been the titular head of state. At some point in their life, and for many on a constant basis, an Athenian citizen would have played a direct role in the political life of their community whether by debating in the assembly, sitting in the law courts or involvement in an administrative committee. To the Athenians demokratia meant “the regime in which the demos [the people] gains a collective capacity to effect change in the public realm”(6).

This collective and participatory nature is distinctly different from the reality of modern democracy. If the original concept of democracy was that the public has the ability to debate, decideandmakethingshappen(7) then clearly modern parliamentary systems fall far short of this. For the vast majority of modern populations the only political participation in their life is a simple vote in an election, they are asked only who will do their talking for them not whether they wish to speak themselves. Political parties and professional politicians as well as a professional bureaucracy and judiciary were completely absent from the demokratia.

If we look at the foundation myth of modern democracy the difference between ancient and modern becomes clear. The foundation myth of modern democracy took place in an unremarkable spot called Runnymede. Parliamentary democracy, in its English variant at least, traces its historic roots to the signing of the Magna Carta back in 1215. Supposedly this document marked the point when the English rejected the unlimited power of the king and demanded a say in their community. In reality the Magna Carta was a deal exacted out of the king by his rebellious aristocrat nobles desperate to secure their own privileges. The document itself was written in Latin so was doubly distanced from the illiterate English speaking person. As representative democracy started so it continued. Parliaments started and evolved as an act of negotiation and power sharing amongst the elite which gradually broadened out. The people, once fully enfranchised, were to have a say in who governs but were never to govern for themselves.

Modern democracy did not develop out of admiration for Athenian democracy”(8)

As parliaments and representative democracy developed from the 18th century the example of the Athenian demokratia was not in the minds of the ruling classes. After the revolution of 508/7BC the Athenians stripped power from individual positions of authority, gave the administration to the citizen body and attempted to include all citizens in the decision making process. Representative democracy vests the majority of power in the hands of a small group with minimal participation of the rest of society. When a small proportion of the citizen body has the power to direct society the ancient Greeks called this oligarchy. Indeed for many of the founders of modern democracies the oligarchic regime of Sparta was a more likely source of inspiration than Athens.

“parliament and representative government are, in democracies, merely executive organs of the bourgeoisie”(9)

The gap between modern and ancient democracy is not just a matter of time. The two systems are different concepts of society. In the modern world democracy means, at best, the people having some limited say in who exercises political power. The levers of power are still retained by an elite and only by working with or joining that elite can a citizen play a role in politics.

In the ancient world democracy meant the people exercising political power through mass participation in the executive, legislative and judicial organisation of the society. The people of Athens took control of their society from the elite through revolution. Whilst an elite still retained its wealth privileges it lost its ability to control the society for its own benefit. Decisions regarding the life of the community and the day to day management of a large city were carried out collectively with the active participation of each citizen. With its mixture of open assemblies and rotating randomly selected councils Athens offers an example of how a large group of people can organise without needing leadership or full-time bureaucracy.

a demokratia is a government in the hands of men of no birth, poor circumstances and mechanical employments”(10)

The clichés about Greece as the birthplace of democracy hide the origins of the current system of government dominant in the western world. A look at the historical example behind the cliché has shown that these current governmental systems do not fit with the original meaning of democracy. Democracy should be used to describe a situation in which a person actively takes part in the life of their community. The members of a democracy will each have an equal position in their society and will reach decisions together with the day to day administration and justice managed collectively. When viewed as a whole society (not just the exclusive citizen body) ancient Athens failed to live up to its ideals. That doesn’t mean we should ignore their attempt to create something new. For those not happy with the current state of affairs the experiences of past generations may be useful.

— Κανένας



End notes:

1. Aristotle, Politics
2. Aristotle, The Athenian Constitution
3. J.Ober, Mass and Elite in Democratic Athens, Princeton University Press, 1989
4. J.Thorley, Athenian Democracy, Routledge, 2004
5. J.Ober, Mass and Elite in Democratic Athens, Princeton University Press, 1989
6. J.Ober, The Original Meaning of Democracy, Stanford University, 2007
7. J.Ober, The Original Meaning of Democracy, Stanford University, 2007
8. J.Thorley, Athenian Democracy, Routledge, 2004
9. Organisational platform of the General Union of Anarchists, ‘Delo Truda’ group, 1926
10. Aristotle Politics, 1928

Negative Theology

angels of doom

Greek Anarchy…
the end result of millenia of negative theology, hovering like a dark, baneful star over the horizon of the West. A void in place of the arch’s keystone, uncovered emptiness at the top of the cathedral spire of universal history, only waiting for the flame of consciousness to crumble this cracked and ruined edifice constructed with the sadness of a thousand generations. Our time has its finger on the detonation switch, waiting for the signal to detonate the final implosion at the end of our journey. Nothingness will be revealed as the ground for essential richness.


The dazzling obscurity of the secret Silence, outshining all brilliance with the intensity of their Darkness, and surcharging our blinded intellects with the utterly impalpable and invisible fairness of glories surpassing all beauty.


In order to arrive at knowing everything, desire to know Nothing.

– Saint John of the Cross

Only revolution brings nothingness, and that is its excellence, which its vandalism makes good again, or rather, makes complete.

-Edgar Bauer

The break with the sacred, or rather of the sacred, may become general. A revolution never returns, but mighty, reckless, shameless, conscienceless, proud — crime, does it not rumble in distant thunders, and do you not see how the sky grows presciently silent and gloomy?

– Max Stirner


the death of humanism

The concept ‘crisis’ has indeed become a motto of modern politics, and for a long time it has been part of normality in any segment of social life. The very word expresses two semantic roots: the medical one, referring to the course of an illness, and the theological one of the Last Judgement. Both meanings, however, have undergone a transformation today, taking away their relation to time. ‘Crisis’ in ancient medicine meant a judgement, when the doctor noted at the decisive moment whether the sick person would survive or die. The present understanding of crisis, on the other hand, refers to an enduring state. So this uncertainty is extended into the future, indefinitely. It is exactly the same with the theological sense; the Last Judgement was inseparable from the end of time…Today crisis has become an instrument of rule. It serves to legitimize political and economic decisions that in fact dispossess citizens and deprive them of any possibility of decision…We must start by restoring the original meaning of the word ‘crisis’, as a moment of judgement and choice.



I would like to speak more of the theological version of crisis, revolt, and their connection. The original Christian idea tells us that the destruction of the world, and immense unhappiness, are in fact good things, since they lead to a decisive historic change. The resentful Christians are wishing for horrific events to happen, and they have valued this unprecedented suffering as good, since with it Jesus returns a second time to end the world. So they found the sack of Rome, in fact, not so bad, and in this curious way defended the destruction of their world; hence Augustine’s position was a strange justification of the sack of Rome in City of God. Later in the Reformation it was quite easy for things to get out of control, and for wandering sects or preachers to announce it was the end of the world (once again), and to attack the foundation of their society. Marxism only changed from the unhappy end of the world to its continuance in a heavenly state, from bourgeois crisis to communism, all taking place in a thoroughly desacralized world (here, the world doesn’t materially end, nor does God act). This is the revolutionary heritage, such as it has been.

I submit we should take upon ourselves the idea of revolution as a thunderbolt from the heavens of philosophy that punishes a wicked and depraved world, that is to say, the labour of the negative. To the world it destroys, the higher truth and philosophy seems always barbaric and admittedly enters in material form amid much chaos. However the final point to conclude the drama of revolution is that negativity negates itself and makes a new spiritual entity, so that all our violence is only changing the world back to its fundamental permanence of impermanence. Crisis, economic or spiritual, the concept itself in its political-theological designation as “good”, “imperative”, or “historically necessary”, is in crisis. Our revolt is the last one that can relate to this tradition, as revolution, too, faces revolution inside its own borders (Anarchy is the only viable revolutionary tradition left, and the farthest away possible from Christianity and Marxism). Assuredly, this is a contradiction, but History advances by contradiction; the dialectic exists, not in materialistic social classes, but in ideas. The contradiction in our present moment is that of prior social revolution and its end as an historical entity. The truth of our moment exists precisely as divided: revolution conditioned by recent social history, and revolution as ending in its epochal significance. Neither side is any more correct than the other, but both express the divided unity of our current truth.

For us the world itself doesn’t end, but a shape of a world ends, and otherworldly happiness (which has made the world hellish for almost two millenia) doesn’t enter into the world and this does not sadden us as it was never our purpose. Only bare life, such as it has always been, mixing happiness and unhappiness, permanence with instability, the one and the many, with Love as the child of Poverty and Resource. This new revolution we hope for would best fulfill the millenial idea that the world after the messianic historical advent is fundamentally changed, and yet, most curiously and beautifully of all, fundamentally unchanged, since our world is only a material shell for Ideas of Beauty, Love, and Truth, which themselves are eternal and unchanging, even as they endlessly appear in different phenomenal shapes. And if the realm of undying Ideas has survived Christian disfiguration, then, too, our material world, will also in time redeem itself, not as something changed or improved, but as something that never was truly evil or wrong. This last revolution is the ultimate crisis, revolt against the concept of crisis, and against traditional Marxist and Christian revolution: this is the only possible position today, and is the only possible meaning to give to these terms in the present context.

Hand crenade