Enough!, enough of your stupid power games, enough of your stupid exploitation, enough of your idiotic playing at soldiers
— John Holloway
I have recently written about the logic of power, barely scratching the surface, addressing only one of the central power issues. To sum up: we cannot create a non-domination society – i.e. an autonomous and cooperative partnership society – by employing domination strategies wielded by groups that know nothing but domination and will perpetuate it if they succeed in reaching the seats of power.
Before launching into further analysis, I want to take the opportunity to suggest the first glimpse of a solution, or at least a path away from this oft-tried and failed strategy. It seems so obvious once we peer though the mind-numbing fog of endless repetitions; people steeped in domination in their everyday and “activist” lives will create more of the same despite dreams and wishes to the contrary. We do what we know. How can we come to know another way? Let’s invert some of the words of John Holloway to see where this play of opposites leads us:
To refuse the ‘conquest of power’ gambit inevitably turns into a refusal of power-over itself. The initiates of non-domination learn the language, logic and calculations of power-with and power-to. Differences within the organisation become an opportunity for practicing collaboration across such differences. Manipulation and manoeuvering for power give way to practicing and embodying the ways of power-with, right there, with one’s colleagues in the struggle. Together we learn the reasoning and habits of power-with. If we want a society in which power relations are dissolved, first we must learn to dissolve them with each other, in our locus vivendi.
As Holloway says: “You cannot build a society of non-power relations by conquering power. Once the logic of power is widely adopted, the struggle against power is already lost.” Inverting this, then, suggests that we can build a society of non-power relations by living non-power, by collaborating with others who live non-power, and by helping spread the ways of non-power. It begins with each one of us, singly and in groups, learning, embodying, living the ways of non-domination. Once the logic of non-domination is widely adopted, the struggle against domination is already won.
That’s all well and good, says the astute devil’s advocate. But even if we live the ways of non-power, how do we take the planet back from those who assiduously practice the ways of power for their gain and our loss? In other words, how do we deal with the problem of power? At least those who propose to unseat the power holders and snatch their reins recognize the problem and have a ready solution: ‘we take that power and then use it for better ends.’ Never mind it does not work; at least it faces the problem! … Shame our prescription has failed so many times, eh? But darn it, we are smarter and wiser now, let’s give it another whirl, maybe it’ll work this time!
But it won’t. One of the main clues to the seduction of power and its perpetuation and corrosive creep lies precisely in this ill-fated pseudo-solution. Let us instead look for another way to crack the problem of power… a way that works within the power-with paradigm, and not against it. A way that leads out from the substrate of non-domination. A way that follows the logic of anti-power.