Review: ‘Worshipping Power: an anarchist view of early state formation’ written by Peter Gelderloos.


This book unapologetically does away with many tired myths about the origin of states, their alleged utility and the so-called social contract. For far too long these myths have led many to accept authoritarian institutions as necessary for the coexistence of human beings in large scale societies, allowing a tiny minority to enslave exploit and murder in plain sight, under the protection of a legitimizing discourse. But that shit is going away.

Rather than providing a full description, below are listed some of the many things this book taught me:
- All states are founded on a patriarchal culture. Patriarchy seems to be a necessary precondition for any state to emerge.
- All states, whether democratic or tyrannical exist to coercively reproduce the power of a ruling class through slavery, colonization, genocide and war.
- Democracy and dictatorship are not two different systems, but two phases of the same system, the latter ensuring the continuity of the former in times of political crisis.
- In their efforts to consolidate their power and control the population that they exist to exploit, states routinely engage in ecocidal practices.
- Agriculture doesn’t automatically lead to state formation, nor is its practice an irreversible step in the history of a society. Some societies have moved away from agriculture because the disadvantages can outweigh the advantages it provides depending on the context.
- States have been resisted everywhere and at every epoch, they have arisen and been overthrown. States are not a necessary stage in the history of a society.
- large Stateless egalitarian societies endowed with grand-scale infrastructures have existed. They aren’t a mere fantasy that exists only in the heads of starry-eyed utopians.
- Anti-authoritarian cultures are often characterised by multilateral kinship systems tracing lineage in as many directions as possible, across as many ethnicities as possible, and not restricted to merely genetic kinship
- Religion often reflects the organisation of society, Anti-authoritarian cultures tend to have either a spirituality that is non-religious, or a religion that doesn’t rank divinities, doesn’t view divinities as superior beings, and isn’t monotheistic. These societies also tend to have an egalitarian access to spiritual production (they don’t professionalise the practice of rituals or gatekeep divine experiences)
- Anti-authoritarian cultures tend to not rank skills and recognise a multiplicity of skills in every individual. This emphasises interdependence, prevent the emergence of hierarchies, and allows to oppose the power of certain people to determine how and when other people’s skills are put to use.
- peaceful coexistence with states isn’t possible, states must be destroyed, and our cooperation with their institutions should be minimal.