WORK IN PROGRESS
Drawing the Line. Establishing the Limit.
Paul Goodman, Albert Camus and the Notion of Rebellious Border
The American Paul Goodman (1911-1972) and the French-Algerian Albert Camus (1913-1960), almost peers, were many-sided authors, novelists, playwrights, essayists, social critics and political activists, but also important figures in the post-war resurgence of anarchist philosophy. They both warned against the revolutionary coup, calling for a spontaneous insurrection/rebellion employing nonviolent methods. Albert Camus described a slave’s sudden decision not to obey new commands. The Camusian rebel said to his master: "So far but no farther", "You are going too far", "There are certain limits beyond which you shall not go" (The Rebel, 1951). In Goodman’s vision for a better life, rebels drew the line against amoral social orders: "Drawing the Line, beyond which [we] cannot cooperate" (Drawing the Line, 1962).
In my essay, I would like to compare Camus’ and Goodman’s notion of drawing the line and establishing the limit. What does it mean for them that "no" firmly spoken by the rebel against those exerting their authority beyond a limit affirms the existence of a borderline? In what sense drawing the line and establishing the limit are the key steps in any action aimed at solidary arrangements?
Alex Comfort, Albert Camus
and Anarchist Narratives of Health
Alex Comfort is mostly remembered for his pioneering work in changing the attitudes of doctors on sex education. His humanistic vision informed by anarchist ideas to remove public anxiety about sex and human aging retains its potential relevance for addressing the present health problems. But he was also an innovator in his application of the findings of psychiatry and psychology to twentieth-century politics, an innovator who believed that Albert Camus’s novels were the examples of the direct translation of modern psychology, including social psychology, into fiction. According to Comfort, Camus’s novels were terrifying clinical pictures of the main psychiatric problem of the century, a lack of empathy and sociality.
Inspired, among others, by Camus’s novels, The Plague and The Stranger, Comfort analyzed the social causes of ill-health, the relationship between psychopathology and power, or the social psychiatry of communism and capitalism. In his 1950 essay on the psychopathology and criminology of government Comfort argued that the modern state is a perfect and dangerous outlet for people with sociopathic personalities. His and Camus’s narratives of health combine the critique of war, state violence, centralized social administration, and tedious, routine conventions. The key anarchist message of Comfort’s novels, as well as his psychological and sociological works, was: „There is a growing body of evidence to show that the desire to govern by coercion, to control or rely upon the state machinery is in itself an abnormal impulse, an outcome of personality deviation” (The Individual and World Peace, 1954); „Anti-social conduct and delinquency, in the sense of action and attitude prejudicial to the welfare of others, are psychiatric entities” (Authority and Delinquency in the Modern State, 1950).
My article will provide an account of the historical context that gave rise to the emergence of Comfort’s radical understanding of anarchism as social health. Drawing on Comfort’s fiction and nonfiction works, I will present the main features of his humanist, romantic, anti-militarist notion of freedom as mental health, influenced by the anarchist political and philosophical tradition. In my essay I would like to present Comfort’s radical stance on the question of who defies the notion of a healthy life – according to him, political forces not only influence our definitions of health but are themselves an anti-thesis of it. Comfort, an anarchist doctor, believed that his understanding of health and medical profession had been expressed by characters of Camus’s novels. I will try to explain why Comfort included Camus’s writings into the Kropotkin tradition of the psychology of health, focused primarily on the problem of freedom from power? Should not the doctor be a relentless rebel in the defense of responsible humanity? Is a coercive society capable of health? Are not its pathologies and diseases inherent? I will seek to show that both for Comfort and Camus writing about health meant writing against power and death.