Intellectual Self Defence

Brains are delicate things…


Experts, as the joke goes, know more and more about less and less until they know everything about nothing. An authority on a subject can cite at very least the agreement of other experts. This can, of course, lead to an ‘echo chamber’ effect, where the great and the good agree that the world is flat, that plate tectonic theory is nonsense, that women are stupid etc etc. So these days, authorities are supposed to cite ‘double blind studies’ and other scientific methods to show that they are not fooling themselves and everyone else.

Some anarchists seem unhappy with idea of expertise [famous exceptions would presumably include Pannekoek, Chomsky, Reclus], for both a good and a bad reason.

1) Because it is so often used as the velvet glove in the iron fist. But it would be an unusual- and probably short-lived- anarchist who chose to have his brain operation done by a well-meaning porter rather than a supercilious but highly skilled surgeon.
It would be a self-contradictory anarchist who felt that the brain surgeon should have a greater say in how a surplus was re-invested for the benefit of society. That is to say, highly trained people often seem to feel they have more of a right to make decisions about other people’s lives well outside their area of expertise.

2) Because expertise requires a long-term focus and dedication that forgoes short-term pleasure and dismisses the hedonistic impulses that anarchism often uses to critique the Protestant Toil Ethic (see distinction between “work and toil” from First Dictionary of Newspeak).

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