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a man slumped on his desk, from 'The Sleep of Reason Produces



the tyranny of structurelessnesslessness

The equivalent of “time to crate” in conversations with me, is the length of time it takes someone — not always me! — to ask “Have you read Seeing Like a State/Tyranny of Structurelessness”? It was IMMORAL to roll one’s eyes at this point, because obviously it is awesome that anarchist (or CIA, depending on who you talk to) anthropologists and seventies feminists are being read these days.

One thing to note is like many books I airily refer to, I’m not sure I have read SLAS ot TOS. At this point, I think I just have absorbed them by osmosis, and they sit undisturbed in the bottom of my mental knapsack — like that the one about the spoons, and the one about, well, knapsacks, and the one about how humans are like the crazies of the Federation, and that speech by the civil rights dreaming guy, and the fight ’em on the beaches fellow. I don’t need to read them! That would be like double-checking to make sure my kidneys are where I thought they were! I’m made of these locally received ideas.

The strange thing, is more than I know these books, I know the context around them. Like, for instance, that CIA throwaway reference, which is a way of book-blocking Scott’s thoughts if you’re a Marxist-Leninist annoyed by having annoying anarchists say “Have you read Seeing Like a State” in their smug “would you like some bread instead of those bombs? I conquered it myself!” way. For every book now, a cloud of well-documented contestation.

For Structurelessness, of course, there’s the contemporary The Tyranny of Tyranny, by Cathy Levine, and a rich trail of commentary across the zine-continuum that I am going to undermine my message by failing to dig out. Freedman’s other relatively well-known essay, Trashing, which I will misscharacterize as a criticism on in-movement cancel-culture, sort of begins to give a trajectory to Freedman’s style, and will draw you more into her positions, or bounce you further away.

As Noisebridge goes through another paroxysm, I think lightly of Tyranny. But then, for different reasons, I’ve been thinking of all the more structured environments I’ve lived in which have just as unjust results — from the top, and from the bottom. No good solutions: therefore, more solutions! Infinite solution creation! Let a million essays bloom, and let us never have to read any of them, because we’re having too much fun!

(400 words)

One Response to “the tyranny of structurelessnesslessness”

  1. Sumana Harihareswara Says:

    I introduced the core ideas from “Tyranny of Structurelessness” at a previous job and a colleague who enjoyed the existing lack-of-clarity responded “there’s also a tyranny of tyranny.” I’m reasonably certain he’d never read the Levine; indeed I hadn’t heard of it and shall read it now!

    I 100% think “Trashing” ought to be read alongside more contemporary critiques of in-movement call-out or cancel culture.


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