pierre clastres on states, ethnocide

The following comes from Pierre Clastres, Archeology of Violence, Semiotext(e), 2010 (originally published in 1980 as Recherches d’anthropologie Politique)

[Clastres: French anthropologist, student of stateless societies]

pg. 103 – “Ethnocide is […] the systematic destruction of ways of living and thinking of people different from those who lead this venture of destruction. In sum, genocide assassinates people in their bodies, ethnocide kills them in their minds… Ethnocide shares with genocide an identical vision of the Other; the Other is difference, certainly but it is especially wrong difference… Others are exterminated because they are absolutely evil. Ethnocide, on the other hand, admits the relativity of evil difference: others are evil, but we can improve them by making them transform themselves until they are identical, preferably to the model we propose and impose. The ethnocidal negation of the Other leads to self-identification.”

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pgs. 104-105: “Who, moreover, are the practitioners of ethnocide? Who attacks people’s souls? First in rank are the missionaries, in South America but also in other regions. Militant propagators of Christian faith, they strove to substitute the pagan’s barbarous beliefs with the religion of the western world. The evangelical process implies two certainties: first, that different – paganism – is unacceptable and must be refused; secondly, that the evil of this wrong difference can be attenuated, indeed, abolished… Secular discourse says the same thing when it announces, for example, the official doctrine of the Brazilian government regarding indigenous policies. ‘Our Indians,’ proclaim the administrators, ‘are human beings like anyone else. But the savage life they lead in the forests condemns them to poverty and misery. It is our duty to help them to emancipate themselves from servitude…’ The spirituality of ethnocide is the ethics of humanism.

pg. 108 – “Ethnocide, it is said, is the suppression of cultural differences deemed inferior or bad; it is the putting into effect of principles of identification, a project of reducing the Other to the Same (the Amazonian Indian suppressed as Other and reduced to the Same as the Brazilian citizen). In other words, ethnocide results in the dissolution of the multiple into One. Now what about the state? It is, in essence, a putting into play of centripetal force, which, when circumstances demand it, tends towards crushing the opposite, centrifugal forces. The State considers itself and proclaims itself the center of society, the whole of the social body, the absolute master of this body’s various organs. Thus we discover at the very heart of the State’s substances the active power of One, the inclination to refuse the multiple, the fear and horror of difference. At this formal level we see that ethnocidal practice and the State machine function in the same way and produce the same effects: the will to reduce difference and alterity, a sense and taste for the identical and the One can still be detected in the forms of western civilization and the State.”

pg. 111 – “Ethnocidal violence, like the negation of difference, is clearly part of the essence of the State in barbarous empires as well as in the civilized societies of the West: all state organizations are ethnocidal, ethnocide is the normal mode of existence of the State.”

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1 Response to pierre clastres on states, ethnocide

  1. noir-realism says:

    Yes, exactly! I like this quote: “Ethnocidal violence, like the negation of difference, is clearly part of the essence of the State in barbarous empires as well as in the civilized societies of the West: all state organizations are ethnocidal, ethnocide is the normal mode of existence of the State.” One could also say that the neoliberal thought collective’s whole goal has been to destroy all Left opposition through something like Ethnocidal violence, but what term would we use for political genocide rather than cultural? Politicide?

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