Emmanuel Terray: No to the State


Unplanned obsolescence

Another for my collection of those who want to think politics without the State: Emmanuel Terray, from The Idea of Communism 2.  He joins Deleuze and Guattari, Lefebvre, Badiou, Virno, Balso, Illuminati, Negri, and more.  Here is Terray:

The strategy of the Communist Parties, as we know, consisted of trying to seize state power in order to then put it to use as a lever for carrying out social transformation and securing the victory of the emancipation project.  This strategy thus relies on the all-decisive hypothesis that the state is an instrument adequate to this project — and it is precisely on this point that we might question it.  There can be no doubt that the state is an effective instrument for carrying out certain social transformations: in particular we might recall the role that it played in the period of primitive accumulation laying the ground for the advent of capitalist society.  But when the transformation we have in mind is that of collective emancipation, the generalization of freedom and equality across all domains of social life, is the state still the appropriate tool?  This is doubtful: by definition, the state is an authority separated from, exterior to, and above society; its very existence relies on the opposition between those who govern and those who are governed, between those who rule and those who are ruled.  Since communism must necessarily advance by way of the abolition of this opposition, we can say that there exists a manifest contradiction between the goal pursued — communism — and the means employed — the state and the party that mirrors it.

His understanding of communism fits almost exactly with my understanding of democracy, as that form of political life in which the opposition between rulers are ruled is abolished.  And so the project of becoming democratic that I advocate would mean a struggle on the part of everyone to become ruler, and to thereby make our present rulers obsolete.


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