I was listening to NPR they were talking about this picture they have of a room full of lobbyists waiting to take a bite out of the new health care bill. People started calling in and identifying the lobbyists or just disparaging at the lack of representation for ordinary people and the sense of powerlessness that arose form that.
I started thinking about the common understanding of what “the government” represents and what it means for anarchist practice to be “anti-government” or “anti-State.”
While I don’t like using words that are basically synonyms and assigning them different meanings based on my political leaning, I think that there is an interesting distinction to be made between government an State.
Government is a concrete reality, the day-to-day operations of the apparatus of the ruling-class,
The modern bourgeois State is part of a superstructure, a construct and a reflection a bourgeois-dominated relationship of production. While that is absolutely true and succinct, this way of presenting the State hides the actual nature of the State and actually contributes to the enhancing of a critically skewed perception of what the State is as a relationship of power.
However, that explanation can hardly account for the different structures we see forming different States worldwide. What the United States government, the Chavez goverment of Venezuela and the Brazilian goverment have in common is that they are built around a particular mythos, based on a different interpretation of the relationship of power between the State and the civil society. It is paramount to understand the mythos in which the national State operates in order to learn how to be better prepared to wage a war of position for society’s cultural hegemony.
The Brazilian government, for example, is built under a perverse Comte’s positivism, and based on that, a belief that a “scietifically” structure society can guarantee individual rights and collective harmony. A rough sketch of the particular Mythos of the Brazilian government is that it is that scientific society, that it is based on the rights of the individual and in collective harmony, and that its laws are the fruit of such scientific methods. In reality what we see is an extremely manichaeist system of government, in which those that do not conform to the “scientific society” are seen as cancerous to the general harmony and to individual freedoms – and the State as the guardian of that harmony and those freedoms.
Understanding the root mythos of a given State can help us understand deeper the attitudes and the discouse of the government and also of the population of a given country for, as Marx said it, “the ruling ideas of each age have ever been the ideas of its ruling class.” It can also help us develop social movements that can resonate with the true aspirations of people often ebbed inside the oppressive mythos of Statism.
By the way, Upping the Anti #8 ran an delicious editorial on the political implications and opportunities of State mythos. You should check it out.