Thursday, July 04, 2013


This year Independence Day comes at a moment when I am in something of a liminal state in respect of my professional life. I’m not becoming independent, but may be switching masters. The best I can do at this point in my life is throw off one set of chains and immediately strap on another. I do admire those who can be free agents rather than employees; the latter always has a feeling of serfdom. But unless you really have fuck-you money you always are serving somebody. And that’s not entirely a bad thing, god knows. I am rather bad at serving, and at this point I am starting to actually feel somewhat sorry for all the bosses who’ve had the unenviable job of trying to manage me. 

All normal people learn how to submit, how to take up a place in a hierarchy, how to serve. That’s what keeps society running. But what an enormous strain on the soul it is. No wonder people turn to anarchism, music, drugs and other forms of rebellion. My own rebelliousness feels like a leftover adolescent quality, and I am way past the age where it is seemly to act like an adolescdent. But without it I am quite literally nothing, I can’t accomplish much unless I am in some way doing it against the grain, on my own terms. If that sounds like bragging, it isn’t meant to be, just an accurate statement of how things are with me. A successful rebellion might be worth boasting about, but rebelliousness is just a pain in the ass for everyone.

I hasten to add that I don’t have that much personal grounds for complaint. My working conditions and rewards are pretty damn good compared to the bulk of mankind. And the new job is quite promising along several dimensions. But work, workplaces, commerce, and money remain what they are.

Previous Independence Day posts: hereherehere


TGGP said...

My current boss is problematic enough to drive the team leads who created everything they had at the time I arrived to quit some months later. But I don't have the same urge to be independent. I don't really have plans for an independent project right now. And I like having someone more experienced above me to learn from. That was the best part of my current job until, as I mentioned, that lead/mentor quit.

TGGP said...

That reminds me of a bit from "Eight Ways to Run the Country" (a book I haven't read). The author distinguishes between "anarchism", the rejection of any sort of authority/hierarchy, and akratism which rejects only the subset based on violence rather than consent. I'm much closer to akratism than anarchism. A person willingly putting themselves in a subordinate position to someone they recognize as having better capacity to lead simply seems beneficial in many situations. It's also the basis for guild/apprentice and student/teacher relationships. I think it would still be sort of compatible with the sort of "left" anarchism which rejects wage labor of David Ellerman. That just requires all corporations to be organized as worker-owned co-ops in which employees receive stock instead of currency. I think the revealed preference for most workers is a paycheck.

mtraven said...

Never heard of “akratism”, although it has an obvious shared root with akrasia. Most left-anarchist groups constantlly grapple with the conflict between anti-leadership ideology and the plain fact that getting anything done requires some kind of coordination, which almost always equates to somebody leading and others following (see here for an example). Someday someone will solve this problem and take gently but firmly take over the world from rulership by hierarchies, or so goes the dream.