Anti-Libertarian Criticism

Keeping libertarians in check and exposing it as a bankrupt ideology

The Holy Word of Azathoth


Given that I have put so much time and effort into criticism over advocacy, it is inevitable and familiar for some people to think something along the lines of, “all you do is criticize everyone and everything, don’t you have any real beliefs and principles? Do you stand for anything?”.

Of course, I have always retorted that some beliefs and principles are already implicit and sometimes explicit in my criticism. Indeed, one of my criticisms of Max Stirner has been precisely that his “conscious egoist”, strictly defined, is in a way a fictional impossibility because of the basic nature of human society. No one can truly be free from social construction and the power of ideas. Everyone is influenced by the historical contingency of the entirety of human history before they were born and what their immediate environment is throughout their lives. There is no such thing as one who has “built their cause on nothing”, and I have never had that pretense. Therefore I have no problem roughly outlining my beliefs and principles.

While I use an image of Cthulhu for this blog’s image, it would probably be more representative to have an image of Azathoth (as a non-believer I verily say unto you: if there were a god, it would be Azathoth). Or to use Dungeons and Dragons lingo, the universe is probably best characterized as chaotic neutral, and dogmatic modes of philosophy and politics are essentially an attempt to make it lawful. Social reality is contradictory by nature and non-dogmatic thinking requires one to embrace the encounter of multiple truths that appear to be contradictions on the surface while also overlapping, as well as have awareness of the gap between desire and necessity when it comes to values and practical maneuvering through the world.

This means it would be wise to maintain some individual distance and humbleness, and not just dive head first into a group’s dynamics or become easily seduced by elegant simplicity. And maybe be more hesistant about pulling the trigger on dedication to some guidebook to reality or grand goal. Part of the problem of modernity is that at least for much of the west we’ve killed god and the king only for other ideas to have the same function, without there necessarily being any less pernicious effects. In the name of “progress” and as a way to fill the void, we have enslaved ourselves to money, technology, nations, and popular culture. In this respect, Max Stirner’s infamous manifesto is one of the earliest known proclamations of the problem of modernity.

But to be more relevant to the present, the problem of modernity appears to have also morphed into the problem of hipsterdom. People born into secular, technological capitalist society increasingly encounter existential crisis as they maneuver through culture. And many of them may tend to become the exact opposite of Stirner’s concious egoist – a sponge for identities or one who has been seduced by the image and come to identify it with themselves, the logical end of which is to turn the individual into a living meme in a simulacrum of a world. That helps explain the increase in people I’ve encountered with large numbers of adjectives to attach to themselves, sometimes in contradiction to each other. It also might help explain how so many people can radically flip through political ideologies in a short amount of time. On the flip side, those who are most alienated from culture can experience the most cognitive dissonance and discomfort with consciously encountering a void of meaning.

It is with this understanding in the background that I analyze the political circles of my generation and beyond. I try to be self-aware of how it plays into my own political history and challenge the self-awareness of others. Part of self-awareness is in admitting that you’re not an ubermensch, you’re not a fully realized “concious egoist” and never will be. But with that being said, it’s not just about self-awareness but also about awareness of the world without being too cluttered by ideology and image-seduction. You might not be able to be the ubermesnche, but you can use critical thinking and observation to somewhat de-culturize yourself enough to see how culture subsumes the individual, to get a sense of how ideology functions and to see how constrained people can be by their own apparent freedom. I would like to see more people throwing off the problematic baggage of culture that the market has saturated them with rather than freely playing with it. But I see too many young libertarians as taking on the role of “the last man” who thinks they’re the ubermsenche.

Embracing the chaotic nature of the world means knowing that you probably can’t change society to your liking, taking more genuine responsibility for who you are, and humbling yourself to the fact that you have little choice but to carefully craft your own laws out of an imperfect brew. Or as Zombie Gary Gygax says, “Attempting to be chaotic good in a world that you know is chaotic neutral, with a drift toward chaotic evil caused by humans attempting to make it lawful, is not easy an task.” Azathoth has no real answer for you, but may he serve as a reminder of your condition. It is on you to do your best to responsibly craft who you are while honestly facing the all-pervasive threats of cognitive dissonance and irreducible complexity. You may find that it is ultimately liberating to *not* be so much a part of political community, culture and market in your self-understanding that informs your interactions and decisions. This may require learning how to bite the bullet of alienation.

Libertarians are hardly the only group this issue applies to, as what I’m talking about is really a massive social problem, but it is my experiences with and continued observation of libertarians that most intimately informs my understanding of how this issue plays out, and in a sense libertarianism’s association with capitalism serves to reinforce the kind of problems I observe and makes it especially prone to some of the perversion of meaning and value at the mercy of a technological market-driven society. I criticize libertarianism because I believe in the authenticity and sincerity of human values, cynical realism about the world, and concretely realized social freedom to whatever extent it can be had. I believe in basic social-psychological health to the determent of culture. But I know, without fear, that everything is ultimately consumed by cosmic chaos.

Thus Spake the Apostle of Azathoth

All Hail The Blind Idiot God

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6 responses to “The Holy Word of Azathoth

  1. Sir Einzige August 11, 2014 at 11:38 PM

    I believe you are misunderstanding Stirner to a large degree.

    In that magnum opus of his he actually acknowledges that ‘man is born social’. Der Einzige is an addendum in terms of orientating with the social order and the world as a whole. This becomes pretty clear in the sub chapter ‘A Human Life’.

    What you are doing is overrating societies ordering power. Society is not a notional power point on to itself but a development of language(and when I say language I mean it in the way someone like Lovelock defines it). Language as it filters through humans is nothing more then small mouth noises as Terrence Mckenna points out. It is built around an assumption of the self-same form that is actually inherently heterogeneous. It is based on a fiction that is actually formed from an over all creative void. In that regard Stirner’s concept of the creative nothing is very much on point. The fact that the universe may have been born of void further gives strength to his point.

    If you through in Nietzsche along with Stirner, what both men are doing is crafting out an orientation of solitude and solipsistic insulation. Both men would admit that on a habitual level social forces move them, but they wish to keep that to a bear minimum. I would say overall that social and individual currents influence each other equally seeing as both are born in void and exist inter relationally.

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    • Brainpolice2 August 12, 2014 at 12:05 AM

      I had some concern in the back of my mind that some people would jump on the initial mention of the criticism of Stirner. I believe you’re somewhat pedantically latching on to what I mention early on in the post, but not necessarily addressing the crux of the post. My point was not so much to say that Stirner denies that man is born social as much as to point out that concious egoism is framed in such a way as to basically be a struggle against social forces that is by its very nature impossible to fully realize. My real point in this post is really that if we observe radical political movements and much of society in general, a lot of people are really just tools of culture and in the grips of ideology, and that we can see how much of libertarianism is influenced by the perversion of culture in modernity.

      “Keeping it to a bare minimum” is precisely what I’m advocating. But I’m also simultaneously emphasizing some level of honesty about one’s own cultural embedding, that we can think we’re being “concious egoists” even when we’re really being ideologues. I don’t think I overrate the power of culture so much as diagnose that market and media have saturated culture in a way that Stirner couldn’t have specifically anticipated. If we add the critique of consumerism and the notion of simulacrum to the picture, things get interesting. It places one in a position of irresolvable tension with society, unintentional irony, and cynicism. I would say that the progression of technology and media has created special new problems for anyone who wants to be an authentic and free individual.

      I’m not staking out an anti-Stirner position as much as I would say I think we should temper Stirner with Marx and Foucault.

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      • Sir Einzige August 12, 2014 at 1:32 AM

        Struggles exist against a lot of things in the physical world which is for the most part a world of self overcoming. Nothing is truly realizable in the messianic sense. There will always be things to self overcome. Sure individuals are tools for society but society is just as much a tool for individuals as it does not nearly have the ordering power you think it does. I would say that language uses both individual and society equally.

        Unlike you I actually do think that ideology is avoidable. The Daoists, Buddhists and Zen masters have been doing it for eons via detachment dispositions. That is ultimately what an ethos of individuation attracts to.

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        • Brainpolice2 August 12, 2014 at 1:40 AM

          I still think you’re missing or skipping over the affects of technological society and media, how it’s causing increased generational identity crisis and plays into the problem of nihilism. It doesn’t strike me as especially easy to characterize individuals as simply using tools when their tools have taken on a life of their own in a sense, or in which the technology has evolved far faster than we have as a species and as social creatures. I’d like to emphasize that apparent “progress” and its ideology can be pretentious in how what it takes for granted as part of modern civilization may include things that mirror and sometimes universalize what it wants to lambast as the crude ideological mechanisms of the past.

          I actually agree with a kind of detachment position – indeed it’s something I’ve been advocating for a few years. At least politically, I think it’s valuable for people to step back from the pretense of shared political community and involve themselves less in any notions of formal activism, and to strive to clear one’s mind of teleological junk. My point about ideology isn’t even so much to say that ideology is unavoidable but to point out the presence of ideology in those who think their minds are free – especially the pretentious excesses of libertarian capitalism.

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          • Sir Einzige August 13, 2014 at 5:39 AM

            You don’t have much argument from me when it comes to technological society. My post work/civilized ethos tends to entertain things like green/bioregional anarchy with any technological developments being baseline developments from human scale. In essence this is the approach that the likes of Bob Black, Wolfi Landstreicher, and Peter L Wilson have taken as they have recognized that scaled apparatuses don’t really serve their idea of Der Einzige. I am generally on the anti-progress side of things as I find it rooted in a Messianic finishing line that does not exist. This was a point that Stirner himself understood as opposed to someone like Marx. I don’t think Stirner really has to be tempered if you are an iconoclast or individuated insurgent ala Novetore or some hermit. My preferred social form would be someone like Fourier who strived to make society as scaled and flexible as possible. In essence Black fused Stirner and Fourier.

            No disagreement on the second paragraph.

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  2. Erik October 3, 2014 at 12:15 PM

    How do I follow those comments?

    I’ve always like this:“The real revolution is the enlightenment of the mind and the improvement of character. The only real emancipation is individual…” Will Durant

    The statement is not free of problems, and I’m no Durant devote, but I take it at face value and try to live it. Durant ended it with “… and the only real revolutionaries are philosophers and saints…” I’m not so keen on the ending, but *shrug*…

    My anarcho/libertarian saltation has me milling around the post-anarchism adjective for ‘enlightenment’ at the moment. However, I don’t know that I’d call my ‘anarchopotsto,’ and given the confusion and baggage of the word ‘libertarian’ it pains me to call myself that as well. Just my name will suffice- at least one thing in life is easy.

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