[eDebate] No, Really... Topic Anarchy

Eli Brennan elibrennan
Thu Jun 21 20:18:04 CDT 2007

I can't help but disagree with Trond.  Especially since he implies he won't

Here is the quick and dirty web entry for "anarchy":
an?ar?chy (nr-k)*n.* *pl.* *an?ar?chies* *1. * Absence of any form of
political authority.
*2. * Political disorder and confusion.
*3. * Absence of any cohesive principle, such as a common standard or
[New Latin anarchia, from Greek anarkhi, from anarkhos, *without a ruler* :
an-, *without*; see * a-*1 + arkhos, *ruler*; see * -arch*.]

I don't know how good a source "the free dictionary" is... but until I take
the time to look at the OED, it will do nicely.

The greek root is what interests me... If we are drawing on a tradition of
thinking about social/political forms whose character manifests as
resistance to, or absence of, a Ruler, or more or less centralized political
authority... then an outright resistance to the Topic on the grounds of
"self determination" seems an apt instance for the term.

What seems to be in question is the vulgar association of the word with
negative imagery... it's sloppy appropriation.  These things ought to be
remedied in their own right, I think, rather than bowing to them by policing
the word itself.  We should be in for a revaluation... a reclamation of a
heritage, rather than a somewhat prim renunciation of its use.

This word rides on a long stream of thought... and it's heritage is proud.
I see no reason to abandon it.  The fit in this instance isn't perfectly
precise.  We're not talking about The State, of course.  But the model of
the committee, its "democratic" constitution, it's authority, are all
instances of a metaphor at work... and it is this metaphor that serves as
the impetus for the use of the word.

Maybe the reasons for it being inapt are just more  nuanced than i
suppose... but I haven't seen them yet.
All the best.
Eli Brennan
The Golden Gophers

On 6/21/07, Trond E. Jacobsen <Trond at umich.edu> wrote:
> Can we please dispense with the enthymeme that this topicality good/bad
> debate, or whatever it is, has anything to do with anarchy?
> Topic anarchy?  Please.
> At least clarify your use because anarchy has a rich tradition with
> many successes, failures, variants, and adherents.  If you mean 'I want
> to argue whatever I want', say so.  If you mean 'being forced to
> advocate X' is oppressive, say so.  If you mean 'violating social norms
> is bad', say so.  If you mean 'breaking rules' creates chaos, say so.
> All these things have been said, making gratuitous the thread title.
> To me it unfairly continues the propagandistic framing that anarchy is
> so terrible to contemplate it becomes short hand for something,
> anything, we don't like and from which we must intellectually flee
> without so much as firing up another synapse:
> "I am NOT advocating anarchy/chaos!" or "You ARE advocating
> anarchy/chaos".
> Nobody is advocating either and they are not the same.
> I do have one general question that is not meant to be accusatory or
> dismissive of anyone and the hard work they do.
> Do we need a topic committee?
> If 'yes', why?
> If 'no', why not?
> If 'yes, but a different process', which one and why?
> I've tried to ask a neutral question and I do not have a strong,
> pre-formed view, but I would tend toward the third and need to think
> about the changes I would propose.
> Please note that this is a different issue than whether or not the
> current system is democratic and sidesteps questions about whether it
> is a just democracy.  Also note it is not really a question about
> whether we need a topic or what responsibilities community members bear
> in relation to that topic.  At least that is not what I have in mind in
> asking the question.  I more have in mind: "To get to a good/adequate
> topic, must we have a topic committee or can alternative configurations
> better achieve that end at lesser 'cost'?"
> No, I will not engage in a debate about anarchy, I am only suggesting
> it is not an appropriate term to bandy about to refer to the issues
> under discussion, with the (small) disadvantage that it further
> infantilizes political theorizing and discourse.
> Trond E. Jacobsen
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Eli Brennan

"So it goes." - Vonnegut
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