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One basic question raised by the existence and spread of nuclear technology is that of how far the state should be seen as the basic and central organ of social control, and of how far other factors of power and social control are involved in its explanation. So I want to look at the role of the state and of some other factors in the development of nuclear technology and try and see what conclusions about the centrality of the state are suggested by this. Nuclear technology is a particularly favourable example for a view which treats the state as the central organ of social control to which all other factors may be reduced or are subsidiary. But I want to argue that even in this most favourable case we need to look beyond state structures for an adequate explanation of the kind of social control involved in nuclear technology.

The question of how fundamental the role of the state has been in effecting the social control represented by nuclear technology is of course not independent of how both the state itself and social control are characterised. Social control can be viewed, as in traditional liberal theory, as exercised through the application or threat of application of a negative, external coercive force, or as a more complex mechanism of channelling, controlling or failing to provide opportunities for self- development or self-expression, a kind of impoverishment or denial of potential rather than positive repression. This corresponds of course to the distinction between negative conception of freedom as the absence of coercion versus the positive conception of it as autonomy or unfolding of s elf- development. A similar problem invades the conceptualisation of the state itself. The modem state operates of course not just as a negative or coercive force - the big NO of liberal theory, with the emphasis falling just on the operation of its coercive arms of the police and military - but also operates as a positive producer, as a controlling, channelling, centralising and ultimately often an impoverishing and potentialdenying force, through its other aspect of bureaucracy, which replaces potential decentralised and non-hierarchical forms of social development and expression with alternative forms. If both the state and social control itself are conceptualised in this way, a much more complex analysis of the mechanisms of social control will certainly be needed. Social control will not just be seen in terms of coercive force, but then neither will the state be seen in this way, so the progression to a more complex analysis of power and social control does not necessarily rule out the view of the state as the basic organ of social control. This issue still has to be examined in particular cases. In the case of nuclear technology it seems that the state has operated to effect social control in both ways, both coercively through association with its coercive force of the military and through direct repression of opposition, and in a centralising fashion through failing to provide conditions for autonomous alternative social development, through bureaucratic control of choices and promotion and production of centralised options.

It is beyond question that the state has played a major role in the development of nuclear technology. It is in turn a technology which favours and increases state control and seems to threaten a whole new quantum leap in the degree of social and technological centralisation, surveillance and the curtailment of civil liberties. If it does become a major or the major source of engergy, it does threaten the creation of a new, much more powerful and repressive state, with much closer links between 'civilian' and 'military' aspects of the state. The nuclear society seems likely to be quite close in some respect to Orwell's 1984, not only in terms of the increase in state power and centralisation, in repression and surveillance (already of course under way in the U.S.A.) but also in terms of the disregard for health, environment and the dominance of militaristic styles and priorities.

Nuclear power's close connection with the state (here I'm going to recoup some data that will be familiar to a number of you) began of course with the development of the nuclear bomb. The bomb and the Manhattan Project was the result of the great mobilisation by the state of scientific expertise for the purposes of war. The development of nuclear weapons continued unabated after Wold War II however, fuelled by cold war rivalry. But the military program needed a 'peaceful', 'civilian' front, and civilian nuclear power in the Atoms for Peace program was developed in the' 1950s, with the first reactor beginning operation in 1955.

There has been not only an initial but a continuing close link between the state military nuclear program and the civilian nuclear power industry. The technological basis - the equipment, skills and knowledge - used for the development of nuclear power is the same as that developed for nuclear weapons. Thus numerous countries, eg. Pakistan and India in 1974, have been able to develop nuclear weapons on the basis of a so-called 'civilian' program, and others eg. Argentina, Israel and now even Australia, are considering taking the same route. Civilian reactors have supplied plutonium for the weapons program (eg. Calder Hall, in Great Britain), and the Hanford reactor in the U.S. is intended not only for power production but for plutonium production for the weapons program. Since plutonium for the stepped-up U.S. weapons program is in short supply this trend is likely to remain, and new technologies such as Laser Isotope Technology will make the links between civilian and nuclear programs even closer. Thus the first report of the Ranger Inquiry wrote:

All the main nuclear weapons states attained their supplies by means of special projects in military nuclear technology. The first nuclear reactors were built solely to produce weaponsgrade plutonium, and the first enrichment plants were constructed to produce very highly enriched uranium for bombs. The nuclear power industry developed from these projects; indeed even today commercial enrichment capacity consists largely of plants originally built to produce highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons' (p. 116, First Report, Ranger Uranium Enquiry).

Not only are the historical links with the military. and hence the state very close, but the state has continually and very vigorously promoted nuclear power over rivals which are often more 'economic'. This has been done through a variety of techniques including:

Elsewhere, in France, Japan, the Soviet Union, West Germany and Britain for example, the state has played an even larger role in the development and promotion of nuclear power in relation to capital, and the industry is outright state-controlled. In Australia the state has played a heavy role in fostering and subsidising uranium mining, sometimes in the face of some reluctance from corporations. The proposed enrichment facility, the Lucas Heights reactor, and research programs oriented to a uranium industry are all heavily statesupported rather than promoted by the private sector.

The nuclear industry then has been largely state-developed, owned and promoted. We can't explain the phenomenon of its development, in the face of apparently major problems, risks and disadvantages, without seeing the state as having a crucial and largely independent role, independent that is of its more conventionally- attributed role of protecting long-term capitalist interests.

Nuclear technology is not obviously in the interests of capital, although it does have numerous features which make it attractive for profit-making eg. it is capital- intensive, large-scale, centralised and suitable for monopolisation. So of course are many other possible energy sources. But capital has required constant coaxing and reassurance to continue to participate, and the industry would apparently have become defunct some time ago if those mythical ft market forces" had been allowed to prevail. Thus there have been no new orders for reactors in the U.S. since 1977, and the industry is in a financial mess even with the highly favourable conditions provided by the state. [2]

The industry does however seem to be highly suited to increasing the power of the state itself, both through its military connection, and through its contribution to overall technological, social and bureaucratic centralisation.

This seems to present a fairly clear case then where the state has operated with some relative autonomy in promoting a technology which apperars to be in its own interests rather than primarily fflat of capital, and to be the chief promoter and beneficiary of the industry which capitalism has to be coaxed to support.

So far the data I have presented is consistent both with a sophisticated Marxist theory which allows some relative autonomy [3] to institutions such as the state, and with more traditional anarchist theories which see the state as the central organ of social repression and the production of hierarchical social relationships and associated technologies (this last a modem addition). There are however other factors which have to be taken into account to understand the kind of social control being exercised here, and which show that the state reduction model - the reduction of all significant factors to the state (or to some combination of state and capital) is too simple and has other defects as well. These factors show the need to press on beyond purely state or other reductive models and to develop a more pluralistic model of the operation of power which sees power as " a productive network which runs through the entire social body much more than as a negative instance whose function is repression". [4]

Of these other factors of explanation, a major one is the intellectual division of labour and the role of the scientific elite, which shows the positive operation of power in forming knowledge. The scientific elite has provided a major source of support for nuclear technology and a major reason for its continued existence, not only for the usual personal individual career reasons (promotion of an area in which the scientist has acquired an investment and opportunities for expansion), or even because of the opportunity for scientificbureaucratic expansion and increase in control, but because elite concepts of knowledge and of the superiority of elite-based or elite promoting technologies have influenced the very forms of a criterion for what counts as respectable knowledge. Another factor here is the way in which the myth of the value-freedom of science is employed to escape recognition of the value systems served by technologies such as nuclear. The division of labour is employed to discourage work and to prevent them taking responsibility (or assist them in avoiding it). This is achieved through the division of the technical and the political the latter being the province of the special caste of political managers. The immense impo~tance of this mechanism of social control is demonstrated by the enormous threat Green Bans, which challenged this division of technical and political labour, posed to the system, and the sorts of measures taken to repress and prevent their reemergence. It is also demonstrated in the sort of treatment meted out to dissenting scientists and experts, both in nuclear and other areas, who attempt to take some sort of responsibility for the social effects of their work. This factor is focussed on in the 'self-management' critique of nuclear power. [5]

Some other factors involved in the production of the sort of technology represented by nuclear power are patriarchy, and the ideology of the domination of nature; these are limited in the treatment of the subjugated object as a mere instrument to the attainment of the ,goals of the powerful. The operation of power is indicated by the existence of a corresponding area of resistance (a sufficient but not necessary condition), and an examination of these can help to determine the factors of control operating. The foci of resistance to nuclear technology have been diverse and have by no means just consisted of state-resisting groups or resulted from concentration on its centralising, state- or capital-strengthening potential. Opposition to the increasing power of the scientific elite, to its managerial character in removing control and responsibility from ordinary people, has also been a focus, as has also of course been concern for citizen health and for the environment and well-justified distrust of state 'protective' and regulatory' mechanisms which allegedly guarantee protection of these.

Nuclear power has been the focus of at least the following critiques:

The diversity of sources of resistance, and of critiques of the technology suggest that despite the pre-eminence of the state the sources of social control can best be understood in terms of a pluralistic and non-reductionist position on power and social control, rather than one which sees the technology primarily in terms of one factor, in terms of the state. This pluralistic position is once again nicely expressed by Foucault and this aspect of his thinking seems to have virtues of its own which can be considered somewhat independently of the rest of his often obscure and problematic philosophical system.

"I don't want to say that the state is not important; what I want to say is that relations of power and hence the analysis that must be made of them, necessarily extend beyond the limits of the State. In two respects: first of all because the State, for all the omnipotence of its apparatuses, is far from being able to occupy the whole field of actual power relations, and further because the State can. only operate on the basis of other, already existing power relations". [6]

The second claim seems to me much more problematic than the first, but I want to suggest then that this picture, or something like it, corresponds much more closely to the sort of picture which emerges when we look at the power factors involved in nuclear power, despite the fact that this case is one especially favourable to a statereductionist analysis (that is, one which attempts to reduce all other sources of power utlimately to the state, in much the same way that versions of Marxism have attempted to reduce all power factors ultimately to economic or class ones). The state has an important role, but not an exclusive one, and it is far from clear how other important factors involved can be reduced to simple adjuncts or satellites of the state system. In fact it is fairly clear that some of them, such as patriarchy which predates the state, cannot be so reduced.

If we assume that the critical dimension of explanation in a fundamentally anarchist critique, as contrasted with a Marxist one, is one in terms of power, whereas that of Marxism is that of economic factors or of class defined in economic terms - a thesis as I recall suggested a few years ago by Bob James - then this kind of pluralistic, non-reductive analysis associated especially with Foucault and suggesting a number of foci of explanation can be seen as a more sophisticated contemporary development of anarchist social theory. It would bear something like the same kind of relation to crude reductionist forms. of anarchism which attempted to reduce all explanatory factors to the state [7] as more sophisticated contemporary forms of Marxism which allow some autonomy to the state and other structures such as patriarchy, bear to older, cruder forms which attempted to reduce all factors and explanations directly to economic and class ones. In the latter Marxist case however there is still usually a determination to reduce factors ultimately to class ones, and what is at stake is how much autonomy is permitted-and how closely the satellite foci of explanation (ideology, bureaucracy, patriarchy) have to orbit around the central sun of class.

Such pluralistic explanations don't have to amount to a mere fragmented collage of different unrelated factors, as sometimes charged by those espousing reductive explanations. The factors involved can be seen as interacting, as mutually reinforcing (or in some cases as conflicting), and as related in ways which can be the subject of investigation. In fact the way in which they are related then becomes an important area for investigation. One virtue of such a nonreductive position is that it enables the taking up of the different critiques of power of different contemporary social resistance movements while avoiding the position of necessarily trying to establish one (eg. the state, discourse, capitalism) as basic and the others as subsidiary. Of course this does not commit one to a " never-eliminate-a-factor" methodology, but rather to a stance of methodological tolerance of pluralism in explanation unless there is good ground to reduce or eliminate one factor or another. The onus of proof then falls on those who would present a case for the reduction, rather than the other way around (as in reductionist methodologies).

Such a pluralistic explanatory framework for social control necessarily leads to different analyses both for strategies for actual groups and issues and for anarchism as a social movement. * An appropriate strategy for the defeat of nuclear power must be one which takes account, as far as possible, of all these critiques, resistances and associated alternative goals, rather than just concentrating for example on the political defeat of nuclear power at the state level. Such a strategy should take account of or adopt means appropriate to the multiple goals arising from these critiques and of nuclear power as a product of a particular network of power relations which stand behind it, rather than as itself the ultimate political target. [8]

What is clear from recent events in Australia is the importance of moving beyond a narrow, 'political' approach to the nuclear issue to one which is based on an analysis of the power structures embedded in it. This is important for the survival of the anti-nuclear movement as an important social force in Australia. The anti-nuclear movement in Australia has had great strength and by some criteria, great success. But the recent treatment of the issue at the hands of politicians illustrates vividly the ultimate bankruptcy of elite-oriented strategies for change based on appeals to decision-makers and working within a`state and electoral framework. An inability to focus on alternative strategies will probably cause the death or serious weakening of the movement in the coming period of political confrontation, yet its demise as a widespread activist issue would be a serious loss. An alternative approach, stressing long-term strategies and institutional analysis, has great promise because the multiplicity of factors, critiques and sites of resistance to nuclear power gives the issue great potential. And such a social movement also has the ability to bring about or reinforce social awareness of the undemocratic character of social life and of the need for other sorts of fundamental changes in social relations, provided of course that the means adopted, for example, for working in groups, are themselves appropriate to these multiple goals and sufficiently challenging to dayto-day hierarchical social relationships and power structures eg. sexist and racist ones. [9]

In this strategy then the critique of the role of the state is critical, but it must be combined with a critique of the wider power structure involved. What implications does this analysis have for anarchism itself? Does anarchism emerge as just another form of activism and critique, and anarchists as anti-state activists along with feminists as anti-patriarchy activists for example? This may seem quite threatening to many anarchists, since it threatens the claim to a more central or 'purer' position.

Such a view however ignores the relation between the different critiques - it assumes that they just coexist peacefully side-by-side as separate pieces of an overall puzzle, needing only to be assembled in their separate purity to providing a critique, not only of general power structures, but of the means and strategies adopted by other social movements. This concern with means and the stress on appropriate ways of pursuing other political goals, has been traditionally important in anarchist thought.

If anarchism is conceived, to a large extent at least, as involving another way of doing something else, of pursuing other social and political goals and effecting social changes in appropriate ways, rather than just as a utopian and unrealizable goal, disconnected from strategies and from other movements for social change, then there is an important relationship between anarchism and other social movements for change. Links with other activist groups become crucial, as does attention to the means by which particular resistances to particular forms of power are conducted. Stress on purity of anarchist doctrine, on 'keeping the hands clean' by not mixing it with less idealistic or utopian social movements must then be seen as sterile and self-defeating, and as removing this fertile area for achieving change. The real challenge to contemporary anarchism, conceived of as a general resistance to hierarchical and centralising structures, would then be in the struggle within movements for social change for appropriate non-hierarchical processes and to achieve alternative social relations, as well as for the adoption of noncentralising means for achieving particular social goals.

Anarchism in this picture has a crucial role to play for other social movements in maintaining the means/ends critique, and in promoting non-centralising and non state-strengthening strategies for other activist movements. Other social movements such as the anti-nuclear movement then provide a crucial 'field' for anarchism, which, to the extent that it is a general critique of power and of processes for achieving change, may still have some claim to a central (if not centralising or reductive) role.

References and Footnotes:

1. I'd like to acknowledge the benefit I've had from working with others in the FOE group in Canberra, including Brian Martin, in thinking about these ideas.

2. See Chris Flyn, 'Nuclear Power's Financial Meltdown in the U.S.', Science for the People, Vol. 16. No. 1, Jan/Feb 1984, pp. 6-9.

3. The notion of 'relative autonomy' is however so potentially elastic that it seems capable of being stretched to cover almost any possible counter-example.

4. Michel Foucault, p.36. "Truth and Power" in Paul Patton and Meaghan Morris (eds.), Power, Truth, Strategy, Feral Publications, Sydney, 1979.

5. See for example Brian Martin, The Bias o Science, published by Society for Social Responsibility in Science (ACT), Canberra, 1979. Brian Martin, Changing the Cogs, F.O.E., Canberra, 1979. Brian Martin, 'The Goal of Self-Managed Science', Radical Science journal, No. 10, 1980. pp. 3-17.

6. Michel Foucault, op. cit., p.38.

7. There has always been some recognition in classical anarchism of the necessity to combat forms of power outside the state, but on the whole not much attention has been given to these by anarchists, and for most purposes the assumption has been that the state was central, so that these forms would 'wither away'.

8. This view of the appropriate strategy on nuclear power is outlined in A. Bowling, B. Martin, V. Plurnwood and I. Watson, Strategy Against Nuclear Power, published by F.O.E. (Canberra), January, 1984.

9. One has only to consider the way in which feminism emerged from attention to group process in the new left and civil rights movements, to appreciate the importance of attention to means and to the potential clash with alleged ideals.

Val Plurnwood,
to the 'Social Control' Conference, Sydney, 1984.

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Last modified: February 20, 1999

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