RAPP, John A.- Daoism and Post-Anarchism: Similarities and Lessons

A paper presented at the Conference on Postanarchism, Athens, Greece, November 26, 2011

Philosophy. DaoismPhilosophy. Post-anarchisme RAPP, John A. (1952 - )

Elsewhere I have written about the similarities of radical Daoist thinkers in ancient and early imperial China to more modern anarchist thinkers outside of China. In this essay I would like to compare Daoist anarchist themes with major ideas associated with what some leading radical thinkers have termed postanarchism, not only to see similarities of both types of anarchism, but also to see whether or not Daoism has any lessons for that attempted new style of discourse.

I. Key Post-Anarchist Themes

Although I am only a beginning student of the subject and not an expert on postanarchism by any means, my preliminary reading of key postanarchist writings, including some of the works of the very distinguished authors at this conference, leads me to suggest the following themes as key to the concept (and I hope the seminal thinkers of postanarchism present will forgive me for perhaps being too obvious or overly simplistic).
First, although postmodern anarchists would agree with the classical anarchist position that the political oppression of the state is very real and perhaps still at the root of most other oppressions, postanarchists would emphasize that oppression comes not just not just by violence or threats of violence but also by discourses of domination through non overtly political means, including culture, art, and the body. These seemingly non-violent institutions and forms (at least not overtly violent in themselves though they may help justify or disguise violence) may even be more important in the contemporary era in maintaining social control, some postmodernists might suggest, than the state’s monopoly on violence. Classical anarchists at times realized this, as in Bakunin’s opposition to the authority of scientism and Emma Goldman’s opposition to forms of patriarchy in Victorian sexual attitudes. Even in the thought of Proudhon and Kropotkin one can see some themes of oppression through culture, but postanarchists would argue that this stress on oppressive elements beyond pure force must be heightened in any postanarchist discourse.