From “Devoke the Apocalypse”
“At Liberty Square we had created a feeling of utopianism. Utopianism as a feeling is hardly about the future; it is something that is felt—often overwhelmingly so—here and now. At Occupy I began to wonder whether participants’ sense of a strong integrated identity was itself the utopia they were after? What if the thing we are missing, the thing we are lacking—the thing we are longing for most—is a sense of an integrated existence in a cohesive community? And what if that longing can be so potent it can eclipse the drive to affect change in the broader world?
I believe that this longing for integrated existence and group identity provides much of the conviction behind prefigurative politics—more so than any stated instrumental goals. So many of us feel alienated and isolated in our everyday lives. Others have already hypothesized that the dispersal of group identities in modern societies—accelerated with the further development of capitalism and corresponding rise of individualism in highly industrialized nations—may be a root cause of many mental illnesses and of anomie. If so, would it not also be the root of our deepest longings? Perhaps this lack, this longing, attaches itself in some people—including many who gravitate to social movements—to issues of injustices, partly from resonance and compassion, but also as fetish objects that stand in for our hope of completion, for the filling of our lack.
“The problem with this arrangement is political. Insofar as participants are motivated by the hope of psychic completion (by community and a strong sense of belonging) as opposed to instrumental political goals (i.e. to concretely change X in the world), their focus will likely shift to deepening group identity over bolstering the group’s external achievements. After all, the sense of utopia-as-group-belonging can be accomplished without ever having to actually win anything. This is how a group’s internal processes can come to stand in for a strategy. Our tactics become valued more for their self-expressive and group-benefiting capacities than for their instrumentality. The participant motivated more by the group itself than by the group’s accomplishments will likely gravitate toward self-referential tactics, rituals, and rhetoric. This, in turn, can lead the core of a potentially popular movement to insularity, isolation, and impotency.”
(Thanks to Sam for the pointer!)