Anarchism & Horizontal Identifications

Thomas Svolos makes a point that I think is particularly relevant for American anarchists. After all, there is a reason the logic of affinity, the groundless solidarity networks, consensus decision making, etc., take flight in anarchist circles within this continent. Freud, in his “Civilization and its Discontents, actually identified “horizontal identification” as a unique aspect of American civilization and its ego relations. Svolos continues, “[t]his sharp observation has many ramifications, including its impact on the very formation of Lacanian psychoanalysis and its institutions in the United States, where the levelling aspect of American equality identified by de Tocqueville — with its horizontal identifications — is more challenging terrain to the development of psychoanalysis with its focus on singularity — in contrast to any identification — than the hierarchical, vertically identified, social structures of Europe, more conducive to the establishment of the psychoanalytic transference (Svolos, 2005).

Does this not explain, among other things, why post-anarchism has become more popular in Anglo-American circles, despite the fact that it draws heavily from the continental French tradition of philosophy? But why? It is because the Anglo-American anarchist has found in French continental philosophy something that is missing within French continental philosophy: anarchism. The accentuation, then, is on the horizontal identifications of groups, etc., rather than, for example, the radically individualist – if I may put it like that – characterization of French continental philosophy.


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