This site contains English translations of articles from the Italian anarchist weekly Canenero, which was publisned from late 1994 until 1997. It is all anti-copyright so please make use of anything you like.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


by Massimo Passamani

The state is the supreme expression of institutional order. It is a model of social organization built on hierarchy, control and coercion. According to one view that many anarchists share, institutional order is nothing other than the usurpation of another kind of order that could be described as spontaneous.

The theory is that social life is realized through rules that are intrinsic to it, i.e., rules that tend to occur in all contexts. This self-regulating capacity of the social whole is suffocated by the external intervention of the state (an intervention, that is to say, which corresponds to other rules, precisely those of institutional order). And anarchists have always based their theory and revolutionary projects on this spontaneity. Spontaneity both in the insurrectional clash and in the organization of society from the base when the intervention of the various political and economic activities is suspended by the struggle in course. Where there is a relative absence of power, the exploited tend to satisfy the requirements of production and distribution in a horizontal manner.

Seen in this way, real order is not that of the state which creates inequality, domination and consequently civil war, but precisely that which is spontaneous. This is the idea that Proudhon expressed with the famous phrase: “Freedom is the mother, not the daughter of order.” Order imposed from above ends up suffocating freedom while maintaining and expanding the rigid and increasingly rational organization of techniques of government. On the other hand, the complete expression of freedom would eliminate the reasons for social disorder.

I do not agree with this way of formulating the problem. And it is certainly a problem of considerable importance. What follows should therefore be read as a series of questions, above all for the writer.

It is not possible to make a distinct separation between society and the state. There is no inside or outside. In fact, if it is true that the state transforms what is produced into coercive strength in social relations, it is just as true that the power to alienate, transfer and organize this strength comes from society itself. The state has nothing of its own. And that’s not all. Every social context tends to institutionalize relationships between individuals. When it is the context that conditions relations, these become mere functions of a broader organization. Without the ceaseless will to come together and determine our associations starting from our desires, society becomes a reciprocal belonging, a bond that reproduces and autonomizes the only common element: the absence of freedom.

What I am trying to say is something a bit different from the idea that domination is a product of the dominated. It seems difficult to me to contest that if no one were to obey, no one would be able to command, as Belleguarrigue stated. But that is not what interests me here. To put it another way, I believe that there is a self-regulating spontaneity that the state extorts. Or rather, I believe that power and hierarchy are just as spontaneous as freedom and difference. Furthermore, it may be precisely domination that expresses social spontaneity (without, for this reason, falling into a reverse reading of Rousseau). Moreover, the concept of order has been used far too often as a synonym for the absence, or at least the reasonably containment, of conflict. Since it is the state that creates conflict, a society free of its interference would be ordered. In my opinion, however, authority does not originate in dispute, in the impossibility of harmonizing what is different, but rather in the attempt to impose harmony by force, to resolve, which is to say to annihilate, contraries. Class division and hierarchy are expressions of mutilated difference.

Another conception of order makes difference itself the common element, the space of the interpenetration of opposites. But the only way opposites can be harmonized is by making difference a mere function of something greater. But instead, it should be order that is a function of difference. In other words, the freedom that is tolerated or guaranteed with the aim of creating a harmonious society is not the sort that expresses singularity (that singularis which for the Latins was totally distinct). The space of individuality is a union that is always changeable and can never become a mere container.

Identifying principles of social spontaneity, charging them with a value that goes well beyond the purely descriptive aspect, really means singling out tasks and aims. As I see it, there is no guarantee that society without the state would necessarily have to be free. This is where freedom’s charm originates, precisely from the fact that it is a decision, both in the sense of a stratagem that goes beyond merely spontaneous development, and in the sense of rupture, of differentiation. Relations of mutuality without command can only be realized by constructing something, not by taking something away. If spontaneous forms of order exist, they can at most be a basis from which to start, a mutually anti-social basis.

When we rid ourselves of the destinies of spontaneity as well as the impositions of every institution, the concept of order becomes an area that is more linguistic than real. Perhaps this is how one could explain the profound antipathy that every rebel has always felt towards it. “Free, that is to say ordered,” I have read it so often. Come on, let’s not be silly.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009



Marco Beaco

I was frightened to find myself

in the void, I myself a void.

I felt like I was suffocating,

considering and feeling

that everything is void,

solid void.”

Giacomo Leopardi

The metaphor of “mental illness” dispossesses the individual of whatever is most unique and personal in her way of life, in his method of perceiving reality and herself in it; this is one of the most dangerous attacks against the singular, because through it the individual is always brought back to the social, the collective, the only “healthy” dimension in existence.

The behavioral norms that regulate the human mass become absolute, the “deviant” act that follows a different logic is tolerated only when stripped of its peculiar “meaning”, of the particular “rationality” that underlies it. Reasons connect only to collective acts, which can be brought back, if not to the codes of the dominant culture, to those of various ethnic, antagonist and criminal subcultures that exist. The sharing of meanings, symbols and interpretations of reality thus appears as the best antidote to madness.

Thus if one who suddenly kills his family is a lunatic, or better, a “monster”, one who sets fire to a refuge for foreigners appears as a xenophobe (at most, from the method, a bit hasty, but still within reason) and one who slaughters in the situation of a declared war is nothing but a “good soldier”.

Thus, according to the classifying generalization that makes them all alike, expropriating them of their lived singularity, lunatics are “ dangerous to society”. Truthfully, one can only agree with this, certainly not because of the supposed and pretextual aggressiveness and violence attributed to those who suffer psychiatric diagnosis (the psychiatrists and educators of every sort are undoubtedly much more dangerous), but because they have violated, knowingly or not, the essentially quantitative codes that constitute normality. What is surprising is that after long years of domestication there is anybody who does not respond to cultural stimuli, if not quite automatically, at least in a highly predictable manner. Unpredictability is the source of the greatest anxiety for every society and its guardians, since it is often the quality of the individual; no motive, no value, no purpose that is socially comprehensible, only an individual logic, necessarily abnormal.

Defense from this danger is entrusted to the proclamations of science. In other words, the “unhealthy” gesture, the creator of which is not responsible, remains as a consequence of an external misfortune that could strike and give rise to thousands of people like him. The mechanism is therefore well contrived, a gesture deprived of meaning, of an underlying will, becomes innocuous, and it is easy to neutralize it, along with its creator, behind the alibi, which is “social” as well, of the cure.

The psychiatric diagnosis comes down on the individual like an axe, amputating her language, his meaning, her life paths; it claims to eliminate them as irrational, senseless; the psychiatrist behaves before them with the liquidating attitude of one who transforms the experiences of life into malfunctions of the psyche, the emotions into a malignant tumor to be removed.

Psychiatrists, as technicians of certainty, are the most efficient police of the social order. Reality, like the meaning of existence, has clear and unequivocal boundaries for these priests in white shirts; their mission: to “return” those who have gotten lost venturing onto the winding paths of nonsense “to their senses”.

If the police are limited, as is claimed, to beating you, the psychiatrist demands to hear you say, “Thank you, I am well now” as well.

The focal point in the discussion is not in the four walls and the bars of the asylum, nor in the electroshock and constraint beds, nor in bad as opposed to good psychiatry, but in “psychiatric thought” itself, in the form of thinking of anyone who addresses himself to different subjects with the clinical eye of diagnosis, always looking for the symptoms of a pathology in them, in order to annul the difference with a “therapy” that brings them back to being more like us.

If the real purpose of the “new places” of psychiatry was that of stimulating creativity, individual growth, liberating communication and developing the capacity for relations, they would not be “psychiatric” or “therapeutic/rehabilitative” places, but probably ideal places for everyone, places of freedom. The problem is that these places are nothing but ghettoes in which one does not find individuals interacting on the level of mutuality, but rather two “categories” of persons in asymmetrical positions: the professionals and the clients , the healthy and the diseased, those who help and those who are helped; in these places, the healthy try to persuade the diseased that what they did and thought up to that time was wrong, or rather “unhealthy”, and through the “joyful” method of the encounter group, of dance, theatre and music…lead them toward the binaries of normality.

The “autonomy” and “self-realization” about which these democratic operators flap their tongues are exclusively their own and, to them, it is necessary to conform in order to be able to leave the healing enclosure. Psychiatric medicine itself, as analgesic (anesthetic) for the mind, is the sign of the attempt to block every development, every pathway however painful at times, that an individual puts into action as a reaction to that which oppresses her. Without mystifying this process, this moment of “crisis”, that is not necessarily a pathway to liberation, the fact of the matter remains that the answer of power is generalized narcosis, collective stupefaction, that renders us static and tranquil, anchored to our placid misery.