Dissociation of ideas

From early in his writings, RAW practised (and recommended) a sort of semantic strategy called “dissociation of ideas”, which originated (under that name – ‘la dissociation des idées’) with the French symbolist writer, Remy de Gourmont. RAW describes this technique, and provides some examples, in his 1980 book, The Illuminati Papers. See image below for RAW’s description of the ‘excercise’ (sic).

(Ezra Pound, incidentally, admired Gourmont, and wrote a couple of pieces in appreciation, published in December 1915 and January 1916, shortly after Gourmont’s death – they’re available here and here).

One of the examples of dissociation provided by RAW is to scrutinise the traditional (and somewhat conformist, mechanical) associations of the political “right” and “left”, when it comes to their own generalised bête noires (eg capitalism for socialists/Marxists and welfare-statism for conservatives/libertarians). He suggests that a way out of the associative dichotomy is to think up alternatives to both capitalism and socialism that aren’t just mixtures of the two. This enables you to consider – somewhat less mechanically than previously – both the defects and the advantages of the two systems you are trying to escape, conceptually, at least. (He suggests the economic ideas of Henry George, C.H. Douglas, Silvio Gesell, Buckminster Fuller, Benjamin Tucker and Peter Maurin).

And what of current political scenarios? What kind of ‘traditional’ associations underlie them, and in what ways are these associations being reinforced, shaped, pushed in new directions to drive the extreme polarities we seem to be witnessing (on Trump, Brexit, rise of European far-right, etc)?

How can the dissociation of ideas be used to counter this tendency? (Assuming that you want it to be countered). Start with your own associations – the ones you take for granted. Who, or what, for example, do you think is trying to manage your allegiances – what do your habitual associations tell you? The ‘MSM’? The ‘neoliberal establishment’? Something more conspiratorial? Or something more mundane and closer to home?

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