AGAINST THE LOGIC OF
SUBMISSION: Neither Intellectualism Nor Stupidity
In the struggle against domination and exploitation, each individual needs to take up every tool that she can make her own, every weapon that he can use autonomously to attack this society and take back her life. Of course, which tools particular individuals can use in this way will vary depending on their circumstances, desires, capacities and aspirations, but considering the odds we face, it is ridiculous to refuse a weapon that can be used without compromising autonomy on the basis of ideological conceptions.
The rise of the civilization we live in with its institutions of domination is based on the division of labor, the process by which the activities necessary for living are transformed into specialized roles for the reproduction of society. Such specialization serves to undermine autonomy and reinforce authority because it takes certain tools—certain aspects of a complete individual—from the vast majority and places them in the hands of a few so-called experts.
One of the most fundamental specializations is that which created the role of the intellectual, the specialist in the use of intelligence. But the intellectual is not so much defined by intelligence as by education. In this era of industrial/high technological capitalism, the ruling class has little use for the full develop and exercise of intelligence. Rather it requires expertise, the separation of knowledge into narrow realms connected only by their submission to the logic of the ruling order—the logic of profit and power. Thus, the “intelligence” of the intellectual is a deformed, fragmented intelligence with almost no capability of making connections, understanding relationships or comprehending (let alone challenging) totalities.
The specialization that creates the intellectual is in fact part of the process of stupefaction that the ruling order imposes on those who are ruled. For the intellectual, knowledge is not the qualitative capacity to understand, analyze and reason about one’s own experience or to make use of the strivings of others to achieve such an understanding. The knowledge of intellectuals is completely disconnected from wisdom, which is considered a quaint anachronism. Rather, it is the capacity for remembering unconnected facts, bits of information, that has come to be seen as “knowledge”. Only such a degradation of the conception of intelligence could allow people to talk of the possibility of “artificial intelligence” in relation to those information storage and retrireview units that we call computers.
If we understand that intellectualism is the degradation of intelligence, then we can recognize that the struggle against intellectualism does not consist of the refusal of the capacities of the mind, but rather of the refusal of a deforming specialization. Historically, radical movements have given many examples of this struggle in practice. Renzo Novatore was the son of a peasant who only attended school for six months. Yet he studied the works of Nietzsche, Stirner, Marx, Hegel, ancient philosophers, historians and poets, all of the anarchists writers and those involved in the various newly arising art and literature movements of his time. He was an active participant in anarchist debates on theory and practice as well as debates in radical art movements. And he did all of this in the context of an intense, active insurrectional practice. In a similar vein, Bartolemeo Vanzetti, who started working as an apprentice in early adolescence often for long hours, describes in his brief autobiography how he would spend a good part of his nights reading philosophy, history, radical theory and so on, in order to grasp these tools that the ruling class would deny to him. It was this thirst to grasp the tools of the mind that brought him to his anarchist perspective. In the late 19th century in Florida, cigar-makers forced their bosses to hire readers to read to them as they worked. These readers read the works of Bakunin, Marx and other radical theorists to the workers who would then discuss what was read. And in the early 20th century, radical hoboes and their friends would set up “hobo colleges” where a wide variety of speakers would give talks on social questions, philosophy, revolutionary theory and practice, even science or history, and the hoboes would discuss the questions. In each of these instances, we see the refusal of the exploited to let the tools of intelligence to be taken away from them. And as I see it, this is precisely the nature of a real struggle against intellectualism. It is not a glorification of ignorance, but a defiant refusal to be dispossessed of one’s capacity to learn, think and understand.
The degradation of intelligence that creates intellectualism corresponds to a degradation of the capacity to reason which manifests in the development of rationalism. Rationalism is the ideology that claims that knowledge comes from reason alone. Thus, reason is separated from experience, from passion and so from life. The theoretical formulation of this separation can be traced all the way back to the philosophy of ancient Greece. Already, in this ancient commercial empire, the philosophers were proclaiming the necessity of subjugating desires and passions to a cold, dispassionate reason. Of course, this cold reason promoted moderation—in other words, the acceptance of what is.
Since that time (and probably far earlier since there were well-developed states and empires in Persia, China and India when Greece still consisted of warring city-states), rationalism has played a major role in enforcing domination. Since the rise of the capitalist social order, the process of rationalization has been spreading into all of society throughout the globe. It is therefore understandable that some anarchists would come to oppose rationality.
But that is a mere reaction. On closer examination, it becomes clear that the rationalization imposed by those in power is of a specific sort. It is the quantitative rationality of the economy, the rationality of identity and measurement, the rationality that simultaneously equates and atomizes all things and beings, recognizing no relationships except those of the market. And just as intellectualism is a deformation of intelligence, this quantitative rationality is a deformation of reason, because it is reason separated from life, a reason based on reification.
While those who rule impose this deformed rationality on social relationships, they promote irrationality among those they exploit. In the newspapers and tabloids, on television, in video and computer games, in the movies,…throughout the mass media, we can see religion, superstition, belief in the unprovable and hope in or fear of the so-called supernatural being enforced and skepticism being treated as a cold and passionless refusal of wonder. It is to the benefit of the ruling order for those it exploits to be ignorant, with a limited and decreasing capacity to communicate with each other about anything of significance or to analyze their situation, the social relationships in which they find themselves and the events going on in the world. The process of stupefaction affects memory, language and the capacity to understand relationships between people, things and events on a deep level, and this process penetrates into those areas considered intellectual as well. The inability of post-modern theorists to comprehend any totality can easily be traed to this deformation of intelligence.
It is not enough to oppose the deformed rationality imposed by this society; we must also oppose the stupefaction and irrationality imposed by the ruling class on the rest of us. This struggle requires the reappropriation of our capacity to think, to reason, to analyze our circumstances and to communicate their complexities. It also requires that we integrate this capacity with the totality of our lives, our passions, our desires and our dreams.
The philosophers of ancient Greece lied. And the ideologues who produce the ideas that support domination and exploitation have continued to tell the same lie: that the opposite of intelligence is passion. This lie has played an essential role in the maintenance of domination. It has created a deformed intelligence that depends on quantitative, economic rationality, and it has diminished the capacity of most of the exploited and excluded to understand their condition and fight intelligently against it. But, in fact, the opposite of passion is not intelligence, but indifference, and the opposite of intelligence is not passion, but stupidity.
Because I sincerely want to end all domination and exploitation and to begin opening the possibilities for creating a world where there are neither exploited or exploiters, slaves or masters, I choose to grasp all of my intelligence passionately, using every mental weapon—along with the physical ones—to attack the present social order. I make no apologies for this, nor will I cater to those who out of laziness or ideological conception of the intellectual limits of the exploited classes refuse to use their intelligence. It is not just a revolutionary anarchist project that is at stake in this struggle; it is my completeness as an individual and the fullness of life that I desire.