• Paine
    1.1k
    The social contract (which is, granted, not a signed document. and nobody thinks it is) yields mutual support and benefit. That's how a functioning society works.Bitter Crank

    The language of contracts has befuddled a swath of Libertarians regarding what was meant when the notion was first articulated.

    What is often forgotten is the negativity associated with having to accept them. Hobbes argued for authority as the only remedy to the war its absence would permit. Rousseau presented it as a loss of a natural form of life where nobody owns anything so nothing can be stolen. Locke saw it as a need to confirm deals beyond those who make them.

    In each of these cases, the challenge is never simply to cancel the original arrangements. It is, rather, to find a better arrangement.
  • Tzeentch
    2.3k
    Your vision of family (at least as you have projected it here) expects violence and ruthless exploitation. It isn't that ruthlessly exploitative families never have existed.Bitter Crank

    I invited you to envision a family. It should be obvious that I do not believe all families are exploitative. However, if a family were to operate in the way a state operates, we would unmistakenly recognize them as exploitative, and that's the double standard I am trying to lay bare.

    What I am asking you is, what makes the actions of a state acceptable, when they're so obviously not in other situations?

    Families are generally nurturing and loving.Bitter Crank

    Yes they are, and states are not.

    This further begs the question.

    The social contract (which is, granted, not a signed document. and nobody thinks it is) yields mutual support and benefit. That's how a functioning society works.

    The social contract of mutually beneficial behavior would exist in an anarchist society as much as, maybe more than, it does in a hierarchical society. Our human ability to mirror other people's needs, desires, pains, etc. long preceded civil society.
    Bitter Crank

    This did not answer my question - what if the individual is not benefited but instead exploited or abused by the "social contract"?

    Should they still abide by it? If they wish not to, is the state correct to say "If you don't like it here, you can just flee the country"?

    No. Without a functioning social contract, you have chaos, and all you can do is try to stay alive.Bitter Crank

    How do we determine whether a social contract functions?

    How many people may feel like they are being exploited / abused before the contract is considered defunct?
  • NOS4A2
    6.5k


    Statism also requires that everyone is on the same page in terms of ethical conduct. If anyone violates certain rules, for instance, he can be kidnapped and imprisoned. Anarchism refutes the idea that one tiny subset of the population gets to decide what that ethics is for everyone else and who gets to enforce it over any given territory.

    I’m not so sure it’s utopian, though. A consequence of ending a monopoly on violence is its dispersion, and I’m sure most anarchists are aware of that. Violence will occur; people will try to seize control; and hopefully they will be met with the force of free people.

    Perhaps a better analogy than “social contract” is in order. The arrangement is nothing like a contract or pact or agreement because no one has voluntarily agreed with it, no one can refuse the terms and conditions, and there is no way out of it. Also, no state has originated in such a way. It’s a false analogy, which is a fatal flaw. It’s more analogous to something like a protection racket. It would be interesting if a government really did pull out a social contract one day just to see if everyone was still on board. I’m sure most would sign over their freedoms and livelihoods for a little bit of safety.
  • BC
    11.5k
    Yes they are, and states are not.Tzeentch

    It is neither the function of the state to be loving and nurturing, nor can the state BE loving and naturing. Why not? Because states are not families, not composed of a handful of people, and their function is to maintain civil order as they mediate mediate the competing interests of millions of citizens, That said, they are not required to violently oppress and abuse the citizens in the process.

    There are states which fail to meet my expectations: quite a few states, really. Burma, Afghanistan, Russia, China, North Korea, Mexico, El Salvador, Ethiopia, and Somalia, for example. Not a complete list at all. At any given time in history, most states have managed to meet your expectations of violence and exploitation including the United States and the various nations in the European community.

    IF the citizenry are able, they change the state (by reform or revolution) so that it ceases to oppress.

    The root of the problem is not in the existence of states per se. It is in the perverse behavior of those who wield power.
  • javra
    1.9k
    Statism also requires that everyone is on the same page in terms of ethical conduct. If anyone violates certain rules, for instance, he can be kidnapped and imprisoned.NOS4A2

    To be more specific about what I wanted to say: Unlike any Stalinistic governance that ever was, I find that a sustained anarchy will require that no one individual in the community violates the implicitly agreed upon ethical conduct of the community, and this of their own accord. And this because ...

    I’m not so sure it’s utopian, though. A consequence of ending a monopoly on violence is its dispersion, and I’m sure most anarchists are aware of that. Violence will occur; people will try to seize control; and hopefully they will be met with the force of free people.NOS4A2

    I take it that violence toward others and attempts to seize control will both be violations of the ethical conduct which anarchy assumes. Given this:

    When starting off with a baseline of anarchy (no governance) in a given community, violators of ethical conduct will gain power over non-violators of said conduct, thereby resulting in a governance of the community (one that will quite arguably be corrupt to boot) and thereby an end of the anarchy which previously was. To prevent this, a sustained checks and balances of power is required; in an anarchistic community this will translate into all individuals of the community needing to wield equal power - be it physical, social, economic, etc., or any combination of these - so as to prevent one individual assuming more power than the rest.

    While this can be done with good enough approximations of the just stated ideal in very small communities, in large societies it to my thinking does become utopian thinking - by which I here mean unrealistic thinking.
  • jorndoe
    2.4k
    The true anarchist is always outnumbered.
    Will it be by organized thugs or a democratic majority?

    Of course, democracy is always in danger. Say, if a majority picks a thug that removes democracy. I'd think, though, in that case, that society might already be on a trajectory for ruin. Otherwise, democracies tend to illegalize (organized) thugs.

    @NOS4A2, you might be interested in Christiania, which can variously be seen as a social experiment, a sort of anarchist community, or whatever.
  • NOS4A2
    6.5k


    I wonder if the idea of a “large society” would have came into consciousness if at any time anarchism had prevailed, because it assumes a community where there really isn’t one. But after centuries of living under state rule, we’ve all come to conflate the idea of a nation or territory with society on the virtue that we are all obliged to obey the institutions that govern it, and by no other measure. In Common Sense, Paine warns of this tendency to conflate government and society in such a way, but here we are. Now we cannot imagine society without government.

    Like you said, there needs to be some ethical agreement between members of anarchist communities, and to add to that, some organized defense for it to work. That simply isn’t possible on such a grand scale. I agree on that point but in a more cynical way. Centuries of state rule have by now rendered man unable to work with each other to achieve such ends. This is because we have been pacified for far to long to conceive of and work towards these arrangements.
  • javra
    1.9k
    This is because we have been pacified for far to long to conceive of and work towards these arrangements.NOS4A2

    Agreed.

    For what it's worth:

    In an idealistic sense, I find the notion of pure anarchy to be almost, if not fully, indistinguishable from the notions of pure communism (or, community-ism) and of pure democracy (akin to what they were close to having in ancient Athens). Not wanting to write a thesis on this, in short, they to me all seem to require the same codes of conduct. Things don't ever remain static, so, from my pov, it's a question of whether societies move toward this just expressed ideal of universal "fraternity, equality, and liberty" or else toward its converse: that of an ever-more powerful authoritarian regime (which some do hold as their ideal governance, given that they happen to be on the side which is in control).

    Obviously, the former ideal is unrealizable in the world as we presently know it, but incremental progression toward this for now utopian state of affairs is not: Hence the ideals of the functional democratic-republic wherein, for one example, all powers are to be in checks and balances and, as yet another example, all citizens are to be deemed endowed with equal right regardless of the power they might wield.

    Yes, the aforementioned is somewhat overly simplified, and will likely be rather controversial for many, but I find that the issue is always a matter of where we're headed to politically. And without a clearer sense of the ideals we strive for, it's likely that we'll move about like a headless chicken ... which is to say randomly, in contrast to having an idea of where we should be going as our long term goal which guides our actions in the present.
  • Tzeentch
    2.3k
    There are states which fail to meet my expectations: quite a few states, really. Burma, Afghanistan, Russia, China, North Korea, Mexico, El Salvador, Ethiopia, and Somalia, for example. Not a complete list at all. At any given time in history, most states have managed to meet your expectations of violence and exploitation including the United States and the various nations in the European community.Bitter Crank

    This is exactly the problem I have with the idea of the social contract.

    A contract suggests that when either side breaches the terms, some form of termination can take place.

    In practice, the citizen has no such option. If the state breaches the contract, they can flee, or through some large, arduous political or bureaucratic process try to change things, if that is even possible at all.

    In pratice, there is no social contract by which the state is bound.


    Furthermore, states can move into extreme directions at the drop of a hat. During the Vietnam War the United States government forced its citizens to participate in conducting a de facto genocide against the inhabitants of a third-world country. (And it has repeated similar things since then)

    Was this a breach of the social contract? If so, where could US citizens have gone with their grievances?

    Short answer: nowhere. They could comply or be met with the state's violence. Even if they weren't shipped off to Vietnam, they were forcibly made complicit in the ordeal through methods like taxation.


    The social contract is nothing but a fancy term to describe the same ties that bound serfs to their feudal landowners in the Middle Ages (you give me grain, I give you safety, or else), and it is every bit as one-sided.

    It's a pacifier, but that only becomes apparent once one finds themselves on the receiving end of the state's injustice.

    The root of the problem is not in the existence of states per se. It is in the perverse behavior of those who wield power.Bitter Crank

    States function through laws. Laws function through the threat and application of violence.

    The state itself is a perverse instrument, so is it any wonder that perverse individuals are drawn to wielding its power?


    The fact that you call the people in power and their behavior perverse suggests you see the same problem I do, but if you wish to change a system you cannot do so while abiding by the very same paradigm of violence.
  • Joshs
    4.2k
    States function through laws. Laws function through the threat and application of violence.Tzeentch

    The threat and application of violence is an inherent component of all human social interaction, simply because any action I choose will do unintended violence to someone else , and anything I believe to be right will be perceived as a violation of someone else’s standard of ethics. We have no choice but to shun those who behave in ways that violate our modes of thinking and acting. Whether we incarcerate them or physically separate
    them from us, the principle is the same, even though there are vast differences in the degree of ‘humaneness’ with which we split ourselves or our group off from
    others whose behavior we cannot abide.

    Self declaredradical anarchists like David Graeber perpetuate a certain violence in demanding a wholesale denunciation and distancing from what they deem as structures of violence. The problem isn’t the existence of statist structures , but the rigidity of their formation and interpretation.
    There are always ways of adding multiple forms
    of discursive mediation , negotiation and collective
    reinterpretation into legal and governmental structures , and this will happen as a consequence of evolving social
    understanding.
  • BC
    11.5k
    This is exactly the problem I have with the idea of the social contract.Tzeentch

    You express antipathy to states and the violence they might, may, will, or already have deployed, and you are quite right that states employ force. (Wasn't it PM Margaret Thatcher who said h didn't suffer from "a sickly inability to use force"?). Therefore, I assume you will fly the anarchist banner. Now, you also express antipathy to this idea of the "social contract". A lot of people dislike the term. Fine -- one can get alone without using that term.

    What happens, though, is that we find ourselves wondering what we are obligated to do. We have attended a really nice party. We will wonder what our obligations are to the host: should we return a similar invitation? Should we send a thank you note? Bottle of wine? Or, just forget about it.

    The idea of etiquette (something I am not good at) is an example of a social contract. Someone buys you a beer at the bar; you should buy them the next round. It's not that complicated.

    I think we have a number of obligations to others. We are supposed to rake up our leaves and shovel the snow off our walks. (Some people) believe that we are expected to maintain an attractive lawn. Is a yard covered by ground ivy attractive? It's green and flat. IMHO, it takes too much labor, weed killer, fertilizer, and obsessive-compulsive disorder to maintain the perfect lawn. But... some people think that's part of the social contract.

    In an anarchist society, I would think mutual obligations would be much, much more important than they are in our hierarchical atomized society. Without a state, peace among the people will have to be self-sustaining, wouldn't it? That implies a common agreement on what goes and what doesn't. A social contract.

    If you don't like the term, fine: Don't use it. But some of us find it a convenient way to reference complicated systems of mutual obligation.
  • Tzeentch
    2.3k
    Therefore, I assume you will fly the anarchist banner.Bitter Crank

    To be clear, I don't fly any banners nor am I campaigning for the abolition of states.

    I'm just discussing an idea.

    Now, you also express antipathy to this idea of the "social contract". A lot of people dislike the term. Fine -- one can get alone without using that term.Bitter Crank

    Obviously I have no problem with people consensually interacting and voluntarily committing to mutual obligations, preferably also without violence playing a role.

    And that's exactly the problem I have with states and how it relates to anarchy: the role of violence and the lack of consensuality.
  • Isaac
    9.4k
    I'm just discussing an idea.Tzeentch

    I think the problem is that you're discussing only part of an idea. It's like if I offered you tea or coffee and you replied "I don't much like coffee". Apart from the contextual implication I would draw, it doesn't help much because if you dislike tea even more, the coffee would be your best choice still.

    The problem is what to do about those whose 'free choice' is to harm others, or restrict their freedom. If we allow them, then we're sacrificing our own freedom for the sake of theirs. If we deny them, then we're imposing our will against their's and we're likely to need some threat to support such an imposition.

    It's not ideal that such violence-supported impositions are needed, but its being non-ideal is irrelevant unless there's a better alternative.

    So do we just let those who want to harm others, or restrict their freedom, do so? Or do we act, with force if necessary, against their will to prevent them?
  • Tzeentch
    2.3k
    It's not ideal that such violence-supported impositions are needed, but its being non-ideal is irrelevant unless there's a better alternative.Isaac

    The goal of violence is to control people against their will. What you're asking me is whether I can give you a better tool than violence to control people against their will.

    My response would be, don't try to control people against their will.
  • Benj96
    1.6k
    yet both these examples can perform feats of reciprocal altruism that some humans can only presume to be “unnatural”.javra

    It is a great shame if humans believe altruism and reciprocity are unnatural. For that to be the case, self service and selfishness would be the natural state of things.

    : it's the unrealistically optimistic belief that all individuals in a large grouping of humans can remain ethical toward each other’s needs without hierarchical governance and policing - and that it's this very governance which makes many humans less than ethical.javra

    Exactly. We may be the most optimistic and hopeful people, very sure that our own innate wisdom or ethical principles would serve as just in an anarchist society and thus stabilise it. But this disregards the "rotten apples" of which you speak which are just as likely to occur on society as well doing/well meaning, good folk.

    So it seems that a hierarchy is required only as long as it reflects the social conscience (democracy). Because such a hierarchy factors in all peoples needs from all walks of life through voting.

    Anarchy is only appropriate when faced with a caustic, hyper Conservative totalitarian government with "law by decree" (of one person).
  • Isaac
    9.4k
    My response would be, don't try to control people against their will.Tzeentch

    So the person who does do that gets to do so with impunity? We're powerless to stop him?

    I don't see how that helps. People have their freedom restricted either way.
  • Marchesk
    4.6k
    My response would be, don't try to control people against their will.Tzeentch

    And if their will is to harm others, what then? What if their will is to control others? Or maybe they just want to burn down the nearby forest because they like burning things. Do you just let people do whatever they want? That's not how any society functions.
  • Marchesk
    4.6k
    Yet if the politicians passed some law or laws you don't agree with, does anything make those laws so special that they have to be obeyed even if they are dumb or harmful?AntonioP

    And what if I want to do things that are harmful to others, because I'm a selfish cunt and don't agree with rules against exploiting others? How does the anarchist deal with that sort of fellow?

    The justification for authority starts with all human groups developing rules to follow so they can meaningfully coexist. That means some restriction on freedom. We learn this as small children when older people don't just let us bite, kick, steal and throw tantrums for any reason. Someone has to decide on and enforce those rules. Governments are a way to do this along with administering societal functions like collecting taxes for roads, defense, etc as humans congregated in larger groups.
  • Marchesk
    4.6k
    bviously I have no problem with people consensually interacting and voluntarily committing to mutual obligations, preferably also without violence playing a role.Tzeentch

    And if people violate those mutual obligations, or wish to be violent? What do you do with Viking marauders or pirates? Warlords, criminal gangs, serial killers, rapists? What about would-be conquerers who are raising an army? It happened in the past. Plenty of rulers conquered their way into power.

    Even if we all agree anarchy was morally superior, how do we suppose the world remains in anarchy? It certainly didn't in the past. How would we even ditch thousands of years of government across the planet at this point? 8 billion people are going to live happily in anarchist communities?
  • NOS4A2
    6.5k


    And if people violate those mutual obligations, or wish to be violent? What do you do with Viking marauders or pirates? Warlords, criminal gangs, serial killers, rapists? What about would-be conquerers who are raising an army? It happened in the past. Plenty of rulers conquered their way into power.

    Governments are all guilty of the exact same, I’m afraid. There is no human right they have not violated; they engage in marauding and piracy; they have and will murder people on a mass scale, more so than any warlord, gang, or serial killer, all of whom can be dealt with by any sufficiently armed group of people.

    Governments are also guilty of not protecting their citizens, whether through inadequacy or incompetence. People still murder, rob, rape, burn down forests, and many are sure to be rewarded with a cuishy punishment. Since the government claims and enforces the monopoly on violence, though, their failure adds another burden to the citizen, for he’s already been denied for so long the right and means to protect himself that he’s been left a sheep to the wolves, so to speak.

    I’m not positive a group of anarchists are any better at doling out violence and justice than a government, but it’s difficult to see how they can be any worse.
  • Marchesk
    4.6k
    all of whom can be dealt with by any sufficiently armed group of people.NOS4A2

    True, but a sufficiently armed group of people are not likely to be anarchists.

    for he’s already been denied for so long the right and means to protect himself that he’s been left a sheep to the wolves, so to speak.NOS4A2

    Sure, but the alternative has been mob justice, which is judged historically to be even worse than the judicial system we've developed over time.

    fI’m not positive a group of anarchists are any better at doling out violence and justice than a government, but it’s difficult to see how they can be any worse.NOS4A2

    While true, a lot of that is a matter of scale. Governments can marshal armies because they have a lot of people. They can protect multinational corporations because we have global trade networks. The anarchist faces the problem of what to do when there's lots of people concentrated in areas. It's all good and fine for small groups of hunter/gatherers to be community-based, it's another thing when you have millions of people nearby. There is a tendency for self-organization to occur, and a tendency for some individuals to take advantage of that. Also a need for large-scale organization as services needed to be provided for those millions, and it's a lot more efficient to have highways than a bunch of privately owned roads.

    Also, we have a lot of historical evidence for all the wrong-doings of governments, we have less evidence of what our ancestors were up to before recorded civilization. We do know all the other hominids went extinct along with lots of megafauna. Our hunter/gatherer ancestors may have played a role in both. There is evidence of human migrations coinciding with existing populations being replaced.

    The reality is there is no ideal solution. Governments are bad because they are run by people, but what alternative is there? Communities are run by people too. It might be a case of what is the least-bad, realistic approach to governance. Same with economics.
  • Tzeentch
    2.3k
    People have their freedom restricted either way.Isaac

    The difference is that you and I wouldn't be complicit in it.

    Even if we all agree anarchy was morally superior, how do we suppose the world remains in anarchy?Marchesk

    That's not my problem. If people want to continue to construct and contribute to rapacious institutions then so be it. The extent of my action will be to avoid them, and protest if forcibly made complicit.
  • Isaac
    9.4k
    People have their freedom restricted either way. — Isaac


    The difference would be that you and I wouldn't be complicit in it.
    Tzeentch

    So?
  • Tzeentch
    2.3k
    So?Isaac

    If people want to continue to construct and contribute to rapacious institutions then so be it. The extent of my action will be to avoid them, and protest if forcibly made complicit.Tzeentch
  • Isaac
    9.4k


    I wasn't asking what you would do. I was asking why?

    Why would you seek to avoid being part of it?

    So Joe Bloggs uses his big stick to beat his neighbours into becoming his slaves. You could either stop him, by force, or stand by. Why would you stand by?
  • Tzeentch
    2.3k
    Because I don't like being made complicit in rapacious institutions.
  • Isaac
    9.4k
    Because I don't like being made complicit in rapacious institutions.Tzeentch

    We're not talking about 'rapacious' institutions. You're claiming an opposition to government tout cort. Even a great one.
  • Tzeentch
    2.3k
    I've just argued that government is inherently a violent instrument, so there is no such thing as "great government" as far as I am concerned.

    Protecting people against direct physical violence is a noble goal. If government was to limit itself to that task and that task alone I could consider it a grey area.

    Anything else does not warrant violence.
  • Isaac
    9.4k
    I've just argued that government is inherently a violent instrument, so there is no such thing as "great government" as far as I am concerned.

    Protecting people against direct physical violence is a noble goal. If government was to limit itself to that task and that task alone I could consider it a grey area.

    Anything else does not warrant violence.
    Tzeentch

    Why not?
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment

Welcome to The Philosophy Forum!

Get involved in philosophical discussions about knowledge, truth, language, consciousness, science, politics, religion, logic and mathematics, art, history, and lots more. No ads, no clutter, and very little agreement — just fascinating conversations.