Incitement to Self-Defense

By Michel Bounan


The title of this work, which is unequivocal, has often been badly read and, due to this fact, one can say that its content has been badly understood. It is not principally a question of an individual appeal. Its ambitions are quite different: to propose to the reader a model of self-defense that efficaciously responds to the habitual offensive that our current world leads against those who recognize neither its categories nor its legitimacy.

The discourses that our social organization conduct about itself for the last 150 years are coherent, not only in their overtly eulogistic content, but also in the species of self-critique that it always adds and that only serves to reinforce it. This pseudo-critique can easily be recognized in that it noisily denounces the ravages of our economic, political, social, industrial or ideological systems, or even those more serious ravages that risk subsequently coming to pass, thus accrediting -- for a large public -- its image as authentic critique, but it does so by leaning upon the conceptual foundations or the moral imperatives that are, themselves, products of our current social organization, that appeared with it, that can only maintain themselves with it, and that will disappear with it. To justify itself, such a pseudo-critique thus requires the support of the system that it claims it wants to bring down.

The philanthropic movement of the 19th century that, in the name of moral imperatives and a progressive ideology, denounced the living conditions of the workers during the Industrial Revolution, in the same way that the Leftist university critique of the 1960s critiqued the new forms of alienation in the name of the same imperatives and the same ideology, have best illustrated the nature and role of this pro domo[1] critique.

Pseudo-critique has a triple function:

1) It occupies the terrain of social critique at the historical moments when an authentic critique begins to make itself known.

2) It attempts to impose the ideological forms that are the foundations of the system on those who want to have done with that very system.

3) Finally, it denounces all real social critique that aims at the abolition such foundations by at least accusing it of "nihilism," "visionary idealism" or "apocalyptic prophetism." Sometimes the calumnies are more serious, and any person who contests the system will see him/herself denounced -- according to the times -- as an agent of Prussian imperialism, the STASI or crypto-revisionism. More crudely, he or she will see him/herself labeled as a papist, a pornographer or a Guenonian.

The model of self-defense proposed here presents itself under the form of a general plan in seven parts, arranged according to what, in music, one calls a "bridge" structure; and this plan is the real object of the book. It will be necessary to consider its contents as a simple illustration of this method.

The first three chapters concern the particular calumnies directed against authentic social critique that appears in current society. It is above all a question of recognizing the nature of these calumnies and their origin across the apparent diversity of their origins and forms (chapter 1). It is then a matter of showing that the crimes imputed to this critique are not only foreign to it but fundamentally opposed to it, to the extent that they are the very crimes that this critique denounces (chapter II). It is then fitting to indicate that such crimes only continue to exist today because they are forged and encouraged by the system itself; that they permit the isolation of its victims, the setting of them against each other (chapter III). Such a self-defense will always remain prohibited to the police or negationist forgers.

The central chapter (chapter IV), which concerns any current or future self-defense, exposes how -- since the beginning of our modern society -- a deluge of calumnies of the same fabrication and the same intention has always been orchestrated against the real critiques that this society has had to confront.

The last three chapters correspond to the first three and lead back to the point of departure. The damage, more and more serious -- social, ecological, psychological, and morbid damage -- created by the current mode of market production causes defensive reactions and demands that the system oppose the ones to the others, thanks to the categorical determinations that the system distributes to each according to his needs (chapter V). Authentic critique must not only tie all the sufferings of the era to the market roots of our social organization, it must also denounce all the individual or collective determinations produced by this organization and only recognize as the subject of its critique the living roots of man, the living subject without qualities (chapter VI). But, to the extent that today it claims to be opposed to market organization, the living subject is simultaneously accused of "paranoia" because it declares itself to be persecuted, of "mysticism" because it believes excessively in itself when confronted with a world that denies it, and "autism" because it claims to found its cause on itself alone (chapter VII).

But authentic social critique does not recognize the validity of such determinations. It still and always recognizes as its own only the living root of man from which it edifies itself and destroys all the circumstantial historical systems, and of which each can have the experience at the moment in which he/she takes exception to all the rest -- this root that one more generally calls liberty, and that pseudo-critique does not know at the point that it sometimes wonders if it is not a question of a mystical, hermetic (or perhaps neo-Platonic?) deus ex machina.[2]

The refusal of all the ideological appearances that our social organization produces and distributes to all according to his/her needs thus brings each to recognize him/herself in absolute despoilment, in scandalous banality and, at the the same time, to recognize the other in his/her identical poverty. In the current social war, one easily distinguishes one's ally in his/her nudity or in the tears in his/her squalid livery; one identifies one's enemy by his/her uniform and the care that each takes to conserve his/her haughty bearing. Thus, the new contesters, by conspicuously showing that they have nothing to defend that is their own, are the poles of attraction of the new identity. And this is the only meeting place of those who want to have done with the current world.

September 2004

[1] Latin: "for home." Pro domo et mundo ("For home and for the world") is the name of a work by Karl Krauss (1912).

[2] Bounan is referring to a remark made by Donald Nicholson-Smith, who wrote a reader's report Bounan's The Time of AIDS for Verso Books.

(New revised edition, published by Editions Allia, 2005. First edition published in 1995. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! October 2007. All footnotes by the translator.)

To Contact NOT BORED!
ISSN 1084-7340.
Snail mail: POB 1115, Stuyvesant Station, New York City 10009-9998