Anarchism Climate Change Heroes and Friends Philosophy

Open Societies versus Closed Societies

Let’s assume that a person really wanted to understand a foreign philosophy, a different way of setting up a society. If that was the case, I would recommend listening to Suzanne Guerlac talk about the philosophy of Henri Bergson. Thinking in Time

This is a dense program, but Suzanne is articulate and the interviewer asks probing intelligent questions, so if you have an hour where you really want to listen closely, I heartily recommend this program. It is especially powerful when Suzanne starts talking about how the evolution from a closed society to an open society is not an easy evolutionary transition, that Bergson thought it would take some sort of fundamental change in way of being to occur. Imagining that sort of thing is difficult. Yet those moments occur. Think Solidarity in Poland. Think the fall of the USSR, the sudden destruction of the Berlin Wall. In those moments, I suspect that an open society emerged, however briefly, before a closed society reasserted itself. Fits and starts. Evolution and change may not be orderly.

So, open societies. What would that look like? Listen hard to Guerlac’s discussion of love and livingness as something new, not love that arises with an object that is loved by a subject who loves, but when love arises in reference to all living things. Pretty amorphous stuff. And for those of you who need a lot of structure, this is not going to be your cup of vegan broth. But if you want to stretch a bit, and you want to commit the energy, I think this program will stretch you.

Against the Grain appears to be a wildly intelligent program. My friend Gar Lipow is the latest guest. Gar is talking about climate change and economic exploitation. Suzanne is so last week.

If you make it through the Open Society talk and thinking in time ala Bergson, and you want to think more about open societies, you could check out the mp3s at Audio Anarchy . The Anarchy Tension series is a good place to start if you have an open mind. You may come to the conclusion that this is simple utopian sophistry, that might be true, but it may also be true that if/when an open society emerges, this could be one of the ways that it will happen. This might be the shapeless shape of a certain kind of open society.

See some of you there.



2 Replies to “Open Societies versus Closed Societies

  1. Yes, it relates to your question about which kind of closed society we want to inhabit, a closed society where democratic leaders have opportunity to set some policies or a closed society where republican leaders have opportunity to set some policies. To the extent that some anarchists, some occupiers, some human beings are opting out of the closed society choices and working/living actively to bring an open society into being, then afficionados of the various flavors of closed society may choose to accuse the open society activists of assisting one or another closed society flavors.

    To the extent that an open society activist might see the republican and democrat flavors of closed society as a choice between death penalty by electric chair versus death penalty by a humane lethal injection, and to the extent that a closed society activist might think that humane lethal injections are an important step in the right direction, then those open and closed society activists are not going to be able to be allies at times. Neither of these activists are puppets. Both should be respected. I don’t believe the open society activist should call a demo closed society activist a dupe to a corrupt and savage political system or otherwise denigrate the demo activist. I don’t believe the closed society activist should call the open society activist a utopian dreamer or otherwise denigrate the open society activist.

    I do think that it is much easier to visualize how to operate in a closed society because those are the norm on the planet today. But because this closed society model is certain to drive us into a capitalist nightmare of environmental degradation, resource and class wars, I choose the open society path that is much more difficult to present and understand as a social option. I am working to imagine a post-capitalist, horizontal open society where war and war profits would be less likely and where no one would be able to order a drone strike to kill another person on the planet simply because of their position in a hierarchical political system that relies on the “us and them” format that is a hallmark of the closed society.

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