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Notes Toward a New Analysis of Institutions of Domination – By Wolfi Landstreicher

What follows is a piece by Wolfi Landstreicher: “Notes Toward a New Analysis of Institutions of Domination” which was originally published in Killing King Abacus #2 (Spring 2001).

Originally published in Killing King Abacus #2 (Spring 2001).

As recently as 65 years ago, it was common to find analyses in anarchist literature of the institutions in which the various forms of domination were manifested. If one wrote of the oppression of women, the family and marriage would be examined and exposed. If the repression of pleasure and the joy of life was the question under discussion, religion and law would be put under the gun. The institutional framework upon which this society has been built was recognized as the source of exploitation, domination and alienation.

It seems that in recent times this institutional framework has been largely forgotten. Of the various institutions into which our alienated creative potential has been accumulated to our detriment, only the state and capital (and occasionally technology) seem to get mentioned to any significant extent any more and even these are frequently treated more as states of mind than as concrete social institutions. Thus, we discover that anarchists are against statism (whatever that is) rather than the state. So Bookchin can claim to be anti-statist while promoting the ancient Greek city-state as a model for his democratic version of “anarchy” .

Every other form of oppression also becomes an “ism” (racism, sexism, etc.) or worse (homophobia implies a psychological disorder needing therapy, not a form of social repression calling for revolt). Of course, we do not deny the reality of the ideologies of bigotry and their penetration into the thoughts and feelings of the exploited and oppressed. But without an understanding of the institutional framework of oppression and domination, it is not possible to understand how the ruling class uses these ideologies to divide those they exploit.

Even the seemingly most radical (because their rhetoric is most extreme) in the anarchist milieu do not escape this. The critique coming from primitivist and anti-civilization circles far too often aims its verbal attack at a nebulous, poorly defined civilization. Certainly, “for the destruction of civilization” sounds radical. On my own terms, I even agree with it. But on my terms, civilization is not some nebulous, largely mental, category springing from rationalism or the western mindset or whatever undesirable way of thinking; it is a network of concrete social institutions that I confront in my daily life: the state, the economy, religion, the family, technological systems, and so on, all very real entities that no mind games will eradicate.

And here is where the current tendency falls short. When an analy sis of the institutional framework of oppression, exploitation, domination and alienation are forgotten, therapy replaces revolution. We are forced to deal with the pathetic, whining confessions of a Chris Crass or the bad pop psychology of the writers of “Stick it to the Manarchy” [1](using terms like “manarchy” is a sure sign that someone is saying nothing worth hearing) as they try to work out their insipient “sexism”, “racism”, “homophobia” and “classism” which are no longer ideologies of bigotry, but low-level mental illnesses suffered by the self-proclaimed “privileged” of all classes.

Any serious revolutionary anarchist has to see all of this as just another ploy by the cowardly and by those who still have some stake in the present order to put off the real decision about which side they are on in the struggle against this society. Those of us who are serious about destroying the present world in order to create our lives as our own have no time for these self-indulgent mind-games reminiscent of 12-step groups (“My name is … and I am an addict of my own repression” ). Our task is before us: to expose and attack the institutions that have stolen our lives from us and, in the process, to reappropriate our lives. Whatever small bits of oppressive mentality might survive this process can be dealt with when we’ve accomplished this task.

Wolfi Landstreicher


[1] Manarchy is an ideology that claims resistance to systemic oppression, but is blinded by its own privilege; largely the domain of young, straight, white, able-bodied, cisgendered college educated men. A portmanteau of “man” and “anarchy”

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1 thought on “Notes Toward a New Analysis of Institutions of Domination – By Wolfi Landstreicher

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