The Case for Anarchism, Pt. 1: Social Ontology | Who Shaves the Barber? #14

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Stanford Prison Experiment

What does the Stanford Prison Experiment have to do with a case for anarchism?

In this episode, I argue for a certain view of the state. Piggybacking off Max Weber’s definition of the state as a “human community that successfully claims the monopoly over the use of physical force within a given territory”, I propose a similar but broader definition. Whereas Weber’s definition is a political one, based on power analysis, my definition purports to be sociological, and therefore less morally charged than Weber’s. Crucial to my take on the state is the concept of a Collective Interpretive Framework (CIF) – a shared lens through which we interpret reality. I argue that the state is a function of a particular CIF; in other words, it is a certain CIF we share that causes reality to manifest governments. This view of the state as a “self-fulfilling prophecy” and “shared hallucination” sets the stage for the case for anarchism coming in part 2.



Next week: The Case for Anarchism, Pt. 2: Necessity and Strategy
Special thanks to Jackie Blum for the podcast art, and The Tin Box for the theme music.

Topics discussed

0:20 – What I’m arguing and what I’m not
4:33 – Stanford Prison Experiment
12:04 – Weber’s definition of the state
13:17 – The “human community”
14:14 – Who has the power?
19:10 – The sociological v. political perspectives
21:47 – The correct definition of the state
23:23 – Mafias and cults
25:07 – Collective interpretive framework: necessary, inevitable, legitimate, real
29:05 – Summary so far
29:52 – The state-generating feedback loop
33:04 – Applying the analysis to all social phenomena
34:27 – Stanford Prison Experiment as metaphor
36:49 – Setting up part 2


Stanford Prison Experiment” by Philip Zimbardo (website)
Politics as a Vocation” by Max Weber
Would You Press the Button?” by William Nava

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