Monthly Archives: April 2012
“For traditional marxists, only a fundamental transformation in the economic sphere constitutes a social revolution. A change in ruling class and in the “mode of production” is a social revolution, whereas equally drastic changes in state, cultural, or kinship relations are not. For these marxists, drastic changes in the “superstructure” may contribute to a social revolution, to be sure, but only if they culminate in a change of the mode of production itself. And while feminists, anarchists, and nationalists are slightly less insistent on making analogous claims, in practice they too tend to view “social revolution” as a semantic term to be applied only when there is a fundamental social change in their favored sphere.”
Albert, Michael, et al. Liberating Theory. Boston: South End Pr., 1986.
“…for humans to ask what their “place” in nature may be is to ask whether humanity’s powers will be brought to the service of future evolutionary development or whether they will be used to destroy the biosphere. The extent to which humanity’s powers will be brought to or against the service for future evolutionary development has very much to do with the kind of society or “second nature” human beings will establish: whether society will be a domineering, hierarchical, and exploitative one, or whether it will be a free, egalitarian, and ecologically oriented one.”
Bookchin, Murray. Remaking Society: Pathways to a Green Future. Boston: South End Pr., 1990
“Intersectionality refers to particular forms of intersecting oppressions, for example, intersections of race and gender, or of sexuality and nation. Intersectional paradigms remind us that oppression cannot be reduced to one fundamental type, and that oppressions work together in producing injustice. In contrast, the matrix of domination refers to how these intersecting oppressions are actually organized. Regardless of the particular intersections involved, structural, disciplinary, hegemonic, and interpersonal domains of power reappear across quite different forms of oppression.”
Hill Collins, Patricia. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment (Second Edition). New York: Routledge, 2000.
“Since human beings have a vast array of “purposes,” they have formed an appropriately large number of organizations.But only a few of these purposes and organizations weigh heavily in terms of generating social power. According to Mann’s analysis, Western civilization and the current power configurations within it àre best understood by determining the intertwinings and relative importance at any given time of organizations based in four “overlapping and intersecting sociospatial networks of power”. These networks are labeled ideological, economic, military, and political, and placed in that particular order only because it makes for a handy memory device—IEMP. This lack of concern with order of presentation is possible because no one of these organizational networks is more fundamental than the others.Each one presupposes the existence of the others, which vindicates philosopher Bertrand Russell’s earlier demonstration that power cannot be reduced to one basic form; in that sense, says Russell, power is like the idea of energy in the natural sciences.”
Domhoff, G. William. State Autonomy or Class Dominance? Case Studies on Policy Making in America. New York: Aldine de Gruyter, 1996.
A broad and inclusive methodology of social change will include an analysis of the social systems that structure society, an identification of key agents that either reproduce or transform the systems, and a projection of what sorts of change are possible, desirable, or inevitable. A disinterested social science would refrain from normatively characterizing the desirability of various social changes in keeping with a classic emphasis on objectivity and impartiality. However, it seems inescapable to “take sides” for or against certain types of social change that would at the very least benefit the putative social scientist.
The methodology of integrative social ecology that will be skeletally developed in this essay will therefore also be self-critical and identify the social characteristics of its author in order to enable more transparent critical evaluation of this methodology. Further, this self-disclosure makes it possible to take objectivity seriously, while also admitting a robust commitment to specific desirable outcomes of social change. Rather than offer self-disclosure in the form of biography, the proposed methodology will be used to identify and critique the relevant characteristics of the author. As the goal is a broad inclusive methodology of progressive social transformation, the usual suspects of race, class, gender, as well as other social systems of power and privilege will shape the critique.
From the above quoted selections, a listing can be generated of categories of social and ecological systems, organizations, and spheres of interaction. The listing is generated below in the order of their mention in the above quotes, not in terms of specific priority of influence. For the purposes of this essay, each system will considered to have potentially equal weight, though the possibility of ranking one or more systems as more critically important will be considered a possibility though a full examination of that question lies outside the scope of this initial essay.
Economy // Gender // Power/Politics // Race/Culture
Ecology // Sexuality // Military/Police/Martial // Ideological/Religion/Irreligion
Using these categories, the author can be identified as working-poor, male, non-officeholding U.S. citizen, Caucasian, human, monogamous heterosexual, non-military, with a mixture of secular and religious ideology. The question of power and privilege bears on this person’s social interests in differing dimensions according to the specific systemic categories. All of these categories intersect to produce a person with definite interests in each field for either reproduction or transformation of those systems. A multi-systemic awareness can enable the author to question and critique the biases one inherits as part of privileged groups, in this case, Caucasian male monogamous heterosexual U.S. citizen most relevantly. In contrast, someone with very different characteristics such as an African female polyamorous lesbian immigrant would have a very different experience of those same power dynamics and concomitant interests in the transformation and reproduction of them. In addition to privilege and power biases, the author has some distinct interests in transformative change through being working-poor, non-officeholder, effeminate, and a possessor of unorthodox religious views.
As the goal of this essay is to outline an ecology of inequality, a likely question is why frame this methodology as ecological? The author’s life experience supplies part of the answer, with a religious upbringing prophesying a catastrophic end of the world and posing natural disasters as divine punishment for human sinfulness, as well as an early exposure to environmental crises with the 1973 OPEC oil embargo, scenes of waterway & land pollution prominent in 1970s media, smoggy skies, and animal species extinction statistics vividly raising an awareness of both the beauty and the precarity of the natural world in the era of industrial capitalism and nuclear weaponry. Specifically, economic equality as one important desirable social goal of a working-poor person must be situated within an objective evaluation of the earth’s capacity for providing resources for billions of people and non-human species. An equal share of even a lower middle-class lifestyle for every human being may not be feasible nor compatible with the continued flourishing of animal and plant species, ecosystem quality, and sustainable agriculture, though it cannot be ruled out entirely.
The eightfold categorical listing isn’t entirely self-explanatory, so brief definitions seem to be in order. An economic system is the organized dynamics of labor, production, consumption, and exchange. Gender is the biosocial system of male/female/intersex/transgender identity formation, power, and privilege. Political systems generate and sustain effective power for deciding and enforcing decisions of enfranchised agents. Racial systems construct identities based on language, appearance, family descent, geography, and culture to distinguish humans from one another. Ecology includes both the natural species and systems of the planet, and human intervention in either depleting, replenishing, restoring, or enhancing the condition and lives of those species and systems. Sexuality systems construct desire, emotion, and relationships as intimate, familiar, cooperative, distant, aggressive, or dominating with a complex connection to psychosexual embodiment. Organized coercion-using institutions, such as military or police, structure and are structured by a martial (i.e. Mars, god of war) system of conflict initiation/intervention. Finally, ideological forces structure institutions and systems of cultural meaning, ultimate norms, and narrative horizons which have traditionally been manifested in religions, but are also now embodied in more secular forms in many societies.
The intersectionality approach of Hill Collins or the complementary holism model of Albert each assume that these systems are indiscrete, they interact with each other, modifying, reinforcing, and exchanging resources. At the level of a specific person, the entire weight of these systems focus to form identity and agency, modified and elaborated in historically specific conditions, mediated by other persons who directly and indirectly impact human development. It is obvious, for example, that sex and gender identity are interrelated, but also usefully distinguished. Economics and ecology profoundly interact to produce wealth, poverty, health, and dysfunction.
Domhoff’s elaboration of Mann’s four systems of power highlight areas that are treated less directly in the intersectionality approach. However, Domhoff makes little use of sexual/affective dynamics to highlight how ideology comes to hold onto humans with more power than simple intellectual persuasion or external coercion. It seems to be no accident that the ruling forces in the U.S. and its European allies are almost entirely male, Caucasian, and wealthy. The celebrated transformation of Western societies from feudal, Christian, and monarchical to capitalist, secular, and democratic did have the effect of raising the living standards of women in the elite classes, changing the shape of gender in important ways, but still relying on a gendered division of labor, especially in childrearing. Capitalism commodified these functions to enable more women to hire substitute female caregivers, but not to share this work more equally with men. Some changes did occur in childrearing responsibility among some men in the aftermath of the 1960s feminist movement, but not a general transformation of the historical gendered division of labor. The paucity of male caregivers generally reinforces psychodynamic predispositions towards rigid social roles and submission to authority in children on into adulthood.
Social, economic, and other forms of inequality result in human suffering on a large scale and thus social activists throughout the modern era have called for greater equality, especially in economics, race relations, gender, and political power. By framing systemic inequalities within an ecological horizon, this analysis takes on an additional dimension of urgency and value. Some portion of humanity has often acted as if it were an exception to the laws of nature, a dominant species with a divine right to rule the earth, in the process degrading ecosystems and the living conditions of other humans and species deemed less worthy. The ecological and biological reality is that we are physical creatures sharing a limited world with other species whose worth is not reducible to what we can obtain from them. Egalitarian goals must be framed within an objective consideration of the limits of resource usage. Deliberate steps must be taken to preserve unique habitats for endangered species. Animal rights flow “naturally” from this ecological understanding.
The economic, political, gender, and racial inequalities of human society are reproduced in every generation, but also generate resistance. In the latter 19th century, the rise of capitalism generated the Marxian proposal of a working-class struggle for the revolutionary emancipation of humanity, an epochal shift that was predicted to overturn not only existing social domination, but produce a human society that was finally and truly free for everyone. This revolutionary idea mobilized powerful movements that won some success in a few nations of the world, at one point claiming the allegiance of dozens of nations. However, the political and economic practices of most of these nations, as well as the persistent opposition by capitalist nations, led to their collapse in all but a few nations today.
Many partisans of the Marxist philosophy have rejected the Communist governments as either outright betrayals of Marx’s actual principles or in some sense anomalous developments. Marx himself seemed to believe that the first working-class revolutions should occur in modern industrial core capitalist nations, not in more underdeveloped nations such as Russia or China. Given our integrative proposal, there is also some sense that the singular focus of Marxism on the “working-class” was too narrow. The stunning power of movements for racial or gender equality in the 1960s contrasted quite sharply with the dominant character of the then-existing working-class organizations as composed primarily by white males.
Nevertheless, a renewed interest in class struggle has been forming since the economic crisis of 2008, with a significant peak in 2011 with the Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill protests in which state employees were targeted by austerity cuts. Similar mobilizations occurred in other U.S. states facing similar situations. An even more widespread economic protest mobilization kicked off with the “Occupy Wall Street” movement in late 2011. For months, an encampment was set up in the shadow of the world’s most powerful financial district protesting rule by the “1% over the 99%.” While OWS has seemed at times to be dominated by whites, on the ground significant racial diversity is present. Gender balance is also the norm. However, in contrast to Marxist orthodoxy, OWS operates with a more egalitarian structure drawn from anarchist and liberal practices of general assemblies and consensus seeking. What further developments OWS or other economic protest movements can bring about is unknown, but egalitarian partisans certainly can afford to invest some optimism in these developments.
Is human society unalterably fated to reproduce in each generation inequalities, hierarchies, and domination? Is there a drive within each of us to both be dominated and to dominate others? On this most basic question, the radical left has tended to assert that “human nature” is not inherently competitive, aggressive, or domineering. Such traits are considered by many to be constructed by social processes or conditioning.
I’m currently taking a course on the sociology of inequality and the readings so far have focused on social class as a political, economic, and cultural category. Humans are sorted into various niches in society that either give us advantages or disadvantages, usually some mixture of both. Wealth, politics, race, and other systems confine most of humanity into conditions of subordination.
Throughout modern history especially, a recurring resistance and challenge to existing power-structures has emerged, most effectively in the overthrow of monarchies during the Western Enlightenment. The “Divine Right of Kings” was rejected forcefully after ages of some form of unaccountable political power ruling nearly all humanity. Democracy, the rule of the people, became the new standard of political authority.
However, this victory over monarchy and feudalism seems incomplete. It has only succeeded in a limited range of nations, notably Europe, North America, and a few other places. Even where democracy is in force, the social order still depends on a strict division of power between the electorate and the government. Democracy does not mean direct empowerment in contemporary politics. Further, in most democratic nations, the economic system is still very undemocratic with a clear top-down polity. Why can workers not vote together to fire their bosses?
While I am passionately committed to overcoming political and economic domination, there seems to me not enough commitment on the left to overcoming gender hierarchies. Look at a list of speakers for political panel discussions arranged by left-wing organizations, nearly every panelist is male. The most common exception to this pattern is when the panel topic is on women’s issues. Having to point this out in 2012 after decades of feminist agitation on the left seems ludicrous. Women are fifty percent of the population, they should be fifty percent of the panelists for any public forum on politics.
Some may raise the concern that setting a 50% standard for women’s participation will result in tokenism. I would prefer to risk tokenism than to keep attending male-dominated left events. Michael Albert in his 2006 memoir, Remembering Tomorrow, worries out loud about the lack of submissions to his Z Magazine and Znet sites from minorities and women. He points out that law school admissions are now very close to equality by gender, yet month after month as Z Magazine decides on its articles, women and non-whites submit only a fraction of the article volume that white males do. I admit that I have had to make a deliberate effort to include women’s voices in my political reading.
I am convinced that a critical component of the reproduction of social domination is the suppression of women. While Marx favored the working-class as the revolutionary agent to go beyond capitalist democracy, I believe that women play perhaps an even more crucial role in transforming society. We’ve had almost two centuries of fomenting workers’ revolutions and precious little has come of it, in my estimation.
That said, I do not take a radical feminist view that all men are oppressors or exploiters. A socialist-feminist merger of class struggle with gender struggle seems a most promising political strategy and analysis. This gives a somewhat elevated role to working-class women as leaders of revolutionary struggle over either bourgeois women or working-class men. Ideally, a partnership of equals is the goal, yet the means to the end seems to me to explicitly favor working-class women’s revolutionary leadership.
The socialist-feminist analysis of the opening question, “are human beings inherently aggressive and competitive?” takes on a different answer than the conventional wisdom. From socialism, the analysis is that competitiveness and aggression are responses to economic class struggle. From feminism, male competitiveness is also about maintaining control of women’s lives for male advantage. For the wealthy to maintain social and economic dominance they must restrict resources and encourage competition among the workers, often using race and gender to divide workers.
Going even further, the reproduction of social domination seems intimately bound up with the way children are raised in our society. From birth to early childhood, both boys and girls are primarily cared for by women. Men put in far fewer hours of effort and care for small children. This division of labor isn’t lost on the children’s formative experiences. Females are caregivers, males are distant in the experience of children. This lack of emotional intimacy provokes an identity crisis in boys especially. They generally lack a rich interaction with a male that can flesh out male identity for them. Male inattentiveness to children’s early lives results in boys who repress their early sense of intimacy and fusion with their female caregivers. This repression works itself out as aggression, reinforced both by the unsatisfied desire for an older male’s affirmation and caring, and from the sheer difficulty of repressing one’s feminine identification.
Most adult men interact at a very externalized level. They don’t talk about how much they desire to be loved, to be affirmed, to feel safe in the arms of a woman. The male “world” is harsh and unsafe, while retreat to the arms of a female lover provides a singular solace to most men. When men do discuss “love” it is almost entirely in terms of lust and sexual conquest.
This hyper-masculine pathology isn’t uniform for all men, certainly not along the divides of class and other privileges. Some few men did have caring involved men in their early childhoods and later on that have mitigated the damage that the exploitation of women’s childcare work typically does. In some liberal subcultures, such as Quakers, feminism has penetrated deeply and an equality in childcare duties is almost commonplace. Quaker youth typically grow up with much more accepting and flexible gender identities.
Even if a man didn’t grow up with an involved healthy adult male caregiver, simply recognizing that this is part of what one really desires is a major realization. Every male I’ve ever known can recount stories of their father or other older male wounding their ego. Rather than attend to such wounding and healing it, most men “shake it off” and put forward their chins to face more male aggression and to give as good as they’ve gotten.
Healing masculine wounding isn’t easy work. I spent years in psychotherapy working on my father issues and in some sense am still working on them. However, I wouldn’t trade all those years of work for living the unhappy and confused life I lived before feminism and psychotherapy began to heal me.
That we live in a male-dominated competitive and aggressive social system is undeniable. Transforming society involves first of all empowering women to share power with men in all arenas of life. It also involves men doing the hard work of recovery and healing from the effects of male domination.
The Trouble With Marxism
Though I am profoundly influenced by Marx & Marxists, I also have serious reservations about calling myself a Marxist. I also wish to address a wider public which often finds Marxism itself too horrible to ever consider embracing. Therefore, I have to address that horror first of all.
Like nearly every Marxist I have had the pleasure to know, I reject Stalin’s rule of the Soviet Union as an almost wholesale catastrophe. I do have a few friends who have a more positive view of the Stalin period. There are probably important things to learn from Stalinism, and of course Western capitalism has been a disaster for the vast majority of humanity. To state it simply, let me just say that I would never support a one-party state or state censorship, ever. Democracy demands no less.
Then there is Lenin, of course. Lenin’s Bolshevik revolution may have had some admirable features, but without giving too much cumbersome detail, I’ve come to view whatever advances Lenin’s government introduced in Russia as very quickly eclipsed by a dangerous anti-democratic politics. Even allowing for the unique conditions of 1917 Russia, there is very little in the Bolshevik Revolution that can be applied directly to our political situation in the US today.
So, what about Marx himself? Marx actually found the idea of “Marxism” troubling and stated at one point, “I am no Marxist!” Similarly, one can say that Jesus was not a Christian. Perhaps more relevant, scientists who study evolution regard it is axiomatic that they not be bound by some “Darwinian ” theory.
If we are committed to the goal of overcoming capitalism to bring about socialism, an egalitarian democratic order of economic and political justice, then we cannot be bound by one man’s philosophy. Marx considered his socialist theory to be scientific, and that means it must be open to evidence and new knowledge. While I agree that much of Marx’s work is critically important, even necessarily part of a socialist politics, I still doubt that this use of Marx’s work is best called “Marxism.”
One might consider the example of scientific physics. The first complete physical theory was created by Isaac Newton and is still called “Newtonian.” However, Albert Einstein demonstrated that Newton’s theory failed to adequately model and explain important physical phenomena. His proposed reconstruction of scientific physics has been called “Einsteinian” by some, but more commonly General Relativity. Today’s theories have even more abstract names like “loop quantum gravity” or “M-theory.” If hard sciences have largely abandoned the practice of naming their theories after individuals, how much more so should a contemporary socialist politics do without such a limiting practice?
That said, I do not want to deny any of my good friends the freedom to call themselves Marxists. I may even do so on occasions when it will not cause confusion. However, a contemporary socialist politics has to move beyond the failures of Marxist movements since the 1800s when socialism was founded. One symbolic step to take is to reconsider what message we are giving the wider public by using a term like “Marxism.”
The Necessity of Marxist Analysis
Beyond the symbolic distancing from Marxism, I next want to praise the contributions of Karl Marx to socialism. No socialist politics today is complete if it does not draw on his work. Just as Darwin blazed the evolutionary trails followed by so many of his scientific descendants, so Marx forged radically new and revolutionary understandings of our modern world, its economics, and politics.
Parenthetically, if one were to give Marx’s own body of work a single label, I suspect Marx himself would call it “communist.” Why name his first mature statement “The Communist Manifesto” in 1848? In 1875, almost 3 decades later, Marx’s “Critique of the Gotha Programme” repeatedly uses the term “communist” to describe the post-capitalist social order.
In this fairly limited essay, I can’t possibly pull out and describe every important aspect of Marx’s work. However to illustrate in a broad way what I see as Marx’s overall contribution, I will quote from his long-time collaborator and popularizer, Friedrich Engels:The materialist conception of history starts from the proposition that the production of the means to support human life and, next to production, the exchange of things produced, is the basis of all social structure; that in every society that has appeared in history, the manner in which wealth is distributed and society divided into classes or orders is dependent upon what is produced, how it is produced, and how the products are exchanged. From this point of view, the final causes of all social changes and political revolutions are to be sought, not in men’s brains, not in men’s better insights into eternal truth and justice, but in changes in the modes of production and exchange. They are to be sought, not in the philosophy, but in the economics of each particular epoch. The growing perception that existing social institutions are unreasonable and unjust, that reason has become unreason, and right wrong, is only proof that in the modes of production and exchange changes have silently taken place with which the social order, adapted to earlier economic conditions, is no longer in keeping. From this it also follows that the means of getting rid of the incongruities that have been brought to light must also be present, in a more or less developed condition, within the changed modes of production themselves. These means are not to be invented by deduction from fundamental principles, but are to be discovered in the stubborn facts of the existing system of production. Socialism: Utopian and Scientific
This quote details with masterful concision many of the elements that were summarized in the Communist Manifesto‘s classic phrase, “All hitherto existing history is the history of class struggle.” While Marx was more than generous in giving credit for Socialist and Communist ideas to many of his forerunners, his singular passion in much of his early work was elaborating the utter dependence of any true socialist success on a widespread class struggle. A social movement can imagine all sorts of variations on an ideal economy, but such ideas have no real power if they are not embraced and carried into reality by a potent, mass-based revolution.
However, Marx’s mature theory was not merely a theory of class struggle, but of fetishized commodity production. Class struggle does occur, but to understand that struggle as in itself constituting the struggle for socialism is mistaken. Class struggle in itself is not the means for overcoming capitalism, as the working class actually has regressive tendencies within itself, and, perhaps most un-Marxist to state, the capitalist class actually has some progressive tendencies. Marx did recognize this latter fact in the Manifesto, “when the class struggle nears the decisive hour…a portion of the bourgeoisie goes over to the proletariat.”
However, I would go beyond this assertion of Marx and argue that significant sectors of the bourgeoisie have common interests with workers. In fact, class structure appears to me far more complex than many Marxists have recognized. Rather than the Manifesto’s simplification of social classes into two opposing united forces, the ruling classes have exercised their power in such a way as to perpetually fragment and subdivide the workers through differential wages, educational opportunities, more or less leisure, and many other practices.
As capitalism has evolved, some privileged sectors become disenfranchised, others are elevated into new status, all in the name of enhancing the profitability and efficiency of capitalism. This has meant historic sequences of reversals and renewals in class-struggle alliances.
In short, I do not view class-struggle as a fixed, di-polar affair with a simple bourgeois vs. proletariat antagonism. The situation is dynamic, ever-changing. The key commitment of a socialist politics is not to an uncritical subordination to the immediate politics of the working class. Rather, socialists are committed to an egalitarian transformation of society against the power of the ruling class and the systems of racism, capitalism, sexism, and domination.
Beyond Marxism to A Revolutionary EcologyLabor is not the source of all wealth. Nature is just as much the source of use values (and it is surely of such that material wealth consists!) as labor, which itself is only the manifestation of a force of nature, human labor power. Marx, Critique of the Gotha Program ———
Readers of my blog at radicalprogress.info will have seen my thematic title, “towards an integrative revolutionary social ecology.” My approach to the question of social and economic revolution is to situate the social dynamics within the science of ecology. A major motivating factor in this decision are the looming global environmental crises, which decisively delimit economic systems.
Just as in Marx’s day it was the science of economics that formed the pivotal frame for grasping massive social forces, in our day, ecology on a global scale reveals that economics (and all social and human sciences) subsist within a planetary system of natural forces. An integrative ecology is committed to the conviction that we live in an interconnected world and that understanding it requires integrating vastly divergent domains of knowledge.
“When we look at societies via any monist theory, most dimensions of differences among people are reduced to peripheral concern.”
Albert, Michael, et al. Liberating Therory
I’ve been a pacifist since a child. I remember discussing the Vietnam War with my Pentecostal father during the election of 1972, when I was 9 years old. As an adult, I deepened my commitment to Christian pacifism through the incomparable theology of John Howard Yoder and joined a Mennonite church.
My initial religious pacifism led me to question the legitimacy of all systems of violence, whether economic, gendered, racial, or political; thus my first political philosophy was anarchist. This leap from opposing violence to using violence as the foundation for an entire system of political philosophy is the exact logic that the book Liberating Theory identifies as “monism.” The concern with violence reduced other dimensions of social problems to secondary concerns.
This way of thinking seems to me very widespread among pacifists. Recently, during a planning meeting with some Quakers around the Occupy Chicago Spring April 7th events, one member of the group objected to the word “struggle” as potentially violent language. I insisted that some of us do embrace the “struggle.” It never got heated in this instance, but this sort of thing happens on a regular enough basis in Quaker and pacifist circles to be troubling. Words like “impact,” or “confront” become suspect. Tinkering with language somehow becomes viewed as reducing actual violence.
Although in some respects organizations like the Center for Nonviolent Communication do good work in many settings, I am concerned that focusing on communication and “the ability to translate from a language of criticism, blame, and demand into a language of human needs” begs the question of whether criticism, blame, and demand is often an appropriate response to systemic human injustices.
The cure for monistic philosophies is to develop what Albert calls “holistic theory” or what I term on this blog as “integrative methodology.” To focus on the question of violence as systemic – and it absolutely is – to the exclusion of other systems of domination leads to tunnel vision. Instead of viewing capitalism as a complex system of economic exploitation, the vulgar pacifist will narrowly focus on violence and seek to eliminate the violence of capitalism, but leave unexamined and “uncriticized” important features of the capitalist system.
Integrative methodology begins by identifying multiple interconnected social systems. Violence pervades all of society institutionally and culturally, but focusing on violence to the exclusion of other seemingly non-violent yet exploitative and oppressive systemic dynamics is a constant pitfall for many pacifists. I propose eight categories of social systems including economics, politics, gender, sexuality, race, community, violence, and ecology as each having both their own internal structure that must be understood on their own terms, and also interconnections to the other systems that must be taken into account.