The anarchist Prodhoun once famously denounced the state in the following terms: “To be governed is to be at every operation, at every transaction, noted, registered, enrolled, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished. It is, under the pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest to be placed under contribution, trained, ransomed, exploited, monopolized, extorted, squeezed, mystified, robbed; then at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, despised, harassed, tracked, abused, clubbed, disarmed, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed; and to crown all, mocked ridiculed outraged and dishonored. That is government; that is its justice, that is its morality.” In a way, Proudhon captured the aspirations of the state as well as any body, particularly the way it first, epistemically classifies them and then subjects them to its own fancies. Experiencing The State is too bland a title for this interesting and passionate collection of essays. “Experience” is a complicated term. It suggests a volume that delineates what various people feel about the state, the way in which it impinges upon our life worlds and sense of identity, the way it impresses upon us.
October 2006, volume 30, No 10