• Seri
    3
    I am just going to place some disclaimers before I start talking about my question: I am a high school student that has no background in philosophy, and I only started reading on the topic of Anarchism because I saw it on the internet and it intrigued me. So if there are any inaccuracies, please correct them for me.

    I understand that anarchism is the belief that all types of states are illegitimate. That only by abolishing human-made laws can men be complete, in the political sense of the word, free. I have also read that authority and autonomy cannot co-exist. If we wish for authority by a government, then our autonomy must be given up. Even democracy, which attempts to have it so that man is both the lawmaker and obeyer is false, do we really have any say in the laws that are passed? However, my question is that by completely getting rid of human laws, can we survive as a society? I read in the essay "Anarchism: What It Really Stands For?"by Goldman that as long as people are not living lives they hate and not doing things they enjoy, crime will continue. But, let's say we do allow people to do whatever they want, without human laws holding them back from anything, will crime stop? Are there not individuals that would take advantage of this? Does human nature allow us to live in a state of no laws, no "overseer"? I know that it is not like governments at the moment do a great job of reducing the crime rate, and that the justice system is most certainly not fair in many cases, but at least there is the well known fact that certain actions, like murder or theft, are not allowed or "illegal". You could argue that our human laws at the moment are not achieving the very thing they were made to do, and that if we take them away, there will be no significant change. But, by taking away these laws, are we not just letting the crime rate increase because suddenly all these people that were being held back by law enforcement or were already commiting crimes but not as prominently to avoid law enforcement are now free to do what they wish?

    Thank you for reading my question. I genuinely just want to learn and understand this topic better, so again if there are any errors, let me know. :D
  • Zophie
    84
    I don't know. But I can offer a psychological perspective.

    I maintain a lot of things boil down to personality, but that area of research is currently a mess because there are such a huge number of variables, many of which are unaccounted for. An anarchistic society would need to (somehow) account for these variables to maintain a bare minimum of social function in figuring out who is most vulnerable to patterns of destructive behavior, assuming such a thing exists.

    As a second-best, a belief system can be a persuasive motivator. It's like a cultural hack which can prevent the kind of alienation you're talking about, where people feel like they're valued and crime is less enticing. Crime wouldn't stop, and people would still push their luck, but the "overseer" would be internal instead of external. People need structure. Specifically, they need a shared ontology and vocabulary.

    I doubt people are naturally bad, but if the rules of the game allow for cheating, it becomes a strategy.
  • Grre
    182
    Hey there!
    Funnily enough I was in high school when I first started researching Anarchism-it was actually for my grade 12 philosophy course thesis...really interesting stuff and at the time, I got pretty into academic research. Emma Goldman actually happens to be one of my favourite political and feminist thinkers-she is an incredibly radical (and if you read her biography) fascinating person, even by our standards.

    I don't think its my place to sit here and tell you that Anarchism can "work or not", because, given our current society and how it shapes personality/belief/goals ect. we are biased by that. As Chomsky said (another Anarchist thinker you should look into) what we often mistake as 'natural' human traits-are actually largely shaped by social function ect. ect. Hence why some Anarchists such as Kropotkin focused on 'altruism' as being a driving social personality, rather than greed-we are more given to altruism than greed (or some thinkers say equally) however our society/economy necessarily encourages greed more than altruism.
    All I will say when studying Anarchism is don't listen to others until you have done your own research. Come to the table with facts, knowledge, and history before any discussion of the sort. Anarchism is one of the most misunderstood, understated, and badly misrepresented theories (maybe second only to communism, but so much less known than communism) and regardless of its practicality, there are so many relevant thinkers involved in Anarchist thought and history, and many injustices done to Anarchists and their movements (look up the Haymarket Massacres, the event actually inspired Goldman to pursue Anarchism). In fact, Anarchists were the forefathers to many prominent social movements such as free healthcare, womens rights, the draft/war, abolition ect. and Anarchists were one of the first groups to publicly contradict fascism and the Nazis in the early 1930s (even before the communists)...arguably even the communist/socialist ideals and policies would not be where they are today without the aid of many of these thinkers.

    I'm sorry that I didn't answer your question directly. I would suggest you look up Proudhon and his "Spontaneous Order Theory" if you want more concrete understanding of practicalities...Chomsky also has a book On Anarchism that is more contemporarily based...however, seeing as I was also in high school when I was studying this, below I've copied my bibliography I used for my research essay, and feel free to message me privately if you would like to read the essay-its no masterpiece, but even years later re-reading it, I feel it provides a very readable introduction to the theory, especially seeing as I was (assuming) around your age when I wrote it (I'm 21 now).

    Also if you want any more help researching some of these thinkers, feel free to let me know, because I have access to some free PDFs/additional resources I came across more recently :) .
    Chomsky, N. (2014). On Anarchism
    Curtis, M. (2008). The Great Political Theories. New York: HarperPerennial ModernClassics. [This is a collection of many different political theories/summaries, which is interesting of itself but contains great information on Anarchism)
    Goldman, E. (1970). Living my life. New York. [This is her autobiography]
    Gornick, V. (2014). Emma Goldman Revolution as a Way of Life. New Haven: Yale University Press.
    GREEN ANARCHIST INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATIONG A I A Eco-Anarchist International Green Grass ConfederationGreen Anarchists' Network World Wide. Retrieved June 11, 2017, from http://www.anarchy.no/green.html
    Haymarket Massacre. (2011, August 07). Retrieved June 11, 2017, from http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/augustspiesaddress.html
    Hoffman, J., & Graham, P. (2010). Introduction to Political Ideologies. New Delhi, India: Pearson Longman.
    Marshall, P. H. (2008). Demanding the Impossible: a History of Anarchism. London: Harper Perennial. [This is a massive book of about 500 pages but it contains everything you ever would need to know about the history of Anarchism and Anarchist theory, and goes over/summarizes all the main theorists, and includes pieces of their essays and work, great resource to start with]
    Nicholson, C. B. (2010). Emma Goldman: still dangerous. Montréal: Black Rose Books.

    Also, individually, I would look up:
    Joseph Proudhon
    Thoreau (he was a naturalist/Anarchist thinker and a beautiful writer)
    Godwin
    Kropotkin
    Bakunin (one of more 'pro-violent' Anarchists, which is, to be fair, pretty rare among Anarchist though)
    The Diggers (late medieval era group)
    Shulasmith Firestone (radical feminist, who espoused the lesser tenets of Anarchism and free love, the conception of Anarchist sexuality, again, very interesting and very under emphasized, people have the misconception that all Anarchists were men just interest in blowing stuff up, when really, many great thinkers were women, focused on destabilizing sexist institutions such as the Church, marriage, the family, and prosititution)
  • boethius
    739
    Thanks for self identifying as a high school student, as it's completely excusable to not know much about a philosophy that is essentially censored.

    Anarchism is not about getting rid of all governing structures, it is about self governance without a privileged class, by birth, wealthy or aristocracy. "Direct democracy" is a modern euphemism for anarchism.

    The word anarchism is simply a literal juxtaposition to hierarchy. Our modern conception of government and most social organization, such as in a business and most religions, is hierarchical, with superiors and inferiors; however, getting rid of this hierarchy does not mean getting rid of government nor the specialized management where needed. The foundation of an anarchist society would be equal political participation in forming decisions, the concept and goals of society, and participating in and choosing managerial specializations when necessary. This is in opposition to modern "market democracies" where democratic participation is mostly through token measures; it's not conceptually excluded that any given individual can participate in democracy as an "equal" by becoming rich and hiring lobbyists, keeping a coop of propagandists, and funding super pacs; so people are equal in this deboched and ludicrous sense in the imagination of said propagandists who create material for super-pacs (lobbyist and super-pac consultants do not generally believe this notion, but are simply sell their skills to the highest bidder out of contempt for the poor, who they generally view as human trash, if they bother to think of them at all), but such a system is not equal in any real sense for the vast majority who are not rich.

    Anarchism is mostly associated with chaos due to the propagation of a false dichotomy by the above mentioned propagandists that government simply cannot function without the hierarchy and the subordination of the lazy poor to a system that forces them to work, and therefore, by whatever means are expedient, must be prevented from having any real say in the decisions of society. If the poor can be made to actually want their own subordination and truly love their rich overloads, so much the better; but whether a king is better loved or feared by the people is ageless debate the upper classes have between themselves.

    A small, later groups of anarchists started blowing stuff up. In some cases it accelerated the right to vote (women who blew stuff up to vote saw the right to vote for women in their life time) ... in other cases it regressed democratization and ultimately contributed to a communist overthrow of the government and much more oppression than before as well as mass starvation and forced creation of hierarchical forms of farming that didn't even exist before. Anarchist union education and leading helped bring workers rights such as 40 hour work week (which we view as a lot of time today, but is not very close at all to how long someone can work in a week if they don't have a choice), safety laws, child labour laws and the entire concept of the welfare state as practiced in Europe to larger or lesser degrees, Switzerland, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New-Zealand, and Canada (so, most importantly free and equally funded education at all levels, or highly subsidized, and free health-care, which is the foundation for equal participation in democracy). The welfare states are the embodiment of this anarchist transitional idea of "the state fading away" (wealth does not buy much influence, managerial positions are help to account by both transparency and democratic processes), ultimately due to real education (and the welfare state was originally conceived of mostly by social democratic anarchists and communists). The foundational theory of this view of society is that once enough people understand an idea is simply true, they simply don't accept a government in contradiction to that idea very long; exactly how the government catches up to what people believe, or how people go about making their government change, does not really need to be attended to in a mechanical way, it just happens.

    Great! I see Grre wrote an informative post with complimentary information to the above as various nuances of anarchist theory and direction and the main authors.

    General point being, anarchists to not believe some experiment should be run where there is no rules of government, but believe in getting rid of structures of oppression.

    Anarchists disagree with other "leftist" movements in terms of what exactly is oppressive (obviously slavery is oppressive and every kind of "left" world view would agree, but under what conditions and to what extent market forces are oppressive or then would lead to oppressive structures re-emerging would be a point of disagreement) and, assuming agreement on what's oppressive, how best to change those oppressive structures (anarchists generally don't like identity politics where token or ornamental things are fought fiercely over but don't change oppressive structures much, and so end up being mostly a distraction and a sort of trap because such movements are allowed to flourish precisely because they don't threaten the powerful in any meaningful way, indeed the powerful can play at "fighting the oppressor" in these movements; other leftists that agree with identity politics sometimes have a "one-battle-at-a-time" world view, though often don't really have any theoretical idea of politics precisely because such a theory must be excised from the movement to be able to appear in mainstream news and thus "win"). Anarchists disagree with the right (obviously starting on the point of slavery, vis-a-vis the extreme right) not in "how to achieve the goal" ways, but on the fundamental issue of both hierarchy (many "right" movements want submission to authority, be it the church, the boss or a "strong political leader") as well as what would happen without hierarchy ("right" economics is usually based on the idea that poor people are simply lazy and need to be coerced to work one way or another, whereas anarchists view this characteristic of the working class, especially the poor working class, as an expression of the understanding-by-living that they do not really benefit from their work, they do not participate in forming the vision society they are contributing to, precisely due to these coercive structures they're trapped in they have no time for real political discussion, participation and agency; hence, they always seek to be free from these oppressive structure, which logically expresses in a first step of wishing not to work hard and longing for little under an abusive boss and doing so whenever they can -- sometimes constructively, like starting a pottery business, and sometimes destructively, like cooking meth in a trailer; the emotional element to anarchism is not blame the oppressed for self-destructive reactions to oppression, but rather to have a general compassion for these behaviours as chronic psychological oppression injury little different than the black lung, and to blame the oppressors, and the wealthier professional classes that act as a sort of side kick and have the access to information to know better, for maintaining such structures).
  • Grre
    182

    Excellent! A much more detailed summary than mine. Would agree with everything you said.
    Definitely want to highlight what you wrote about it not only being censored (which it is, and why its so important do research and read the primary works of these thinkers) but its difference from the rest of what we would consider the Left (although some, like myself, see political theory not as linear so much as multidimensional). Socialists/communists largely believe in a collective organization-which is where the misconception that 'slavery under communism' comes from-ie. its totalitarian history-that people have no choice but participate and sacrifice themselves to this 'collective'. Whereas Anarchists primarily believe in liberty + equality, in the form of voluntary free association, and like Boethius explained, through the destruction of caste based systems in favour of decentralized/grassroots/personal authority. In the Church, state, even the family (many feminist thinkers focused on the family unit as the fundamental oppressive state) you have what is called "centralized authority" meaning, authority/power is had by only select people/groups of people (those in charge) whereas the rest are subject to that power. Of course, power itself is a complex topic in philosophy (Look up Foucault) but being general here, Anarchists wish to return power to each individual as an autonomous agent. Well won't people be evil if they suddenly can do whatever they want?? Thats a fair reaction, given the environment we are socialized in. However, the Anarchist response (and largely my own to an extent) is that many of the issues we see in individuals ie. cruelty/greed/violence is the result of the oppressive caste system we inevitably live under (whether it be class, race, gender-or on a more micro scale, individual power hierarchies, like an asshole boss or cruel parents) these fundamentally shape who we are, our choices, and our desires. Take away this system and people might, voluntarily, act very differently. Hence power is decentralized-to individuals or small, voluntary collectives such as small tribes or clans ect. Meaning Anarchism is far from a partisan political theory, its not one that has a national or supranational identity per say (not a national Party), but rather, would be a way of life.
    This seems very radical and it is. For good reason. There's a reason why much of the Left that mainstream media exposes to us (and what is taught in public school) is pretty toned down-again like Boethius says, much of it focuses on smaller, minute, or individual identity politic issues-which, of course, are issues-but they are also symptoms of a much larger systemic problem. The Liberal/NeoLiberal (which is far from Left, more like middling centre) focuses on these one-issue campaigns (ie. abortion rights, gay marriage ect.) which, maybe slightly progressive in comparison to the more centre-rights (Republicans, Conservatives) ect. are pretty much ineffective in addressing the whole system, and in fact, some thinkers have argued that placing emphasis on these identity politic issues obscures the system even more so, a prime example is with regards to environmental movements. Sure, everyone should recycle, but placing the onus on a small minority of individual obscures the much larger systemic issue of an economic system based on consumerism, and the giant corporations that create tonnes more waste than one individual ever could in their lifetime.
  • Pfhorrest
    2.5k
    "Direct democracy" is a modern euphemism for anarchism.boethius

    Not so. Anarchism is not majoritarian.
  • Grre
    182

    True. Anarchism is voluntary free association-majoritarian would imply some larger non-voluntary collective. However, I think what @boethius meant was that Anarchism seeks to destabilize systems of power-returning power (decentralized) back to the autonomous individual to make their own choices-not reliant on class/elitism ect.
  • Seri
    3
    Your answer has opened a new perspective for me. I never thought of a belief system as a possible method to have the overseer be internal instead of an external force, such as the government. Thank you for responding!
  • NOS4A2
    3.5k


    The author Steven Pinker claimed he was once anarchistic until the Montreal police went on strike in 1969. The police were forced back to work to restore order to the ensuing mayhem. There were riots and looting.

    I agree with him to the extent that there can be no doubt that opportunists would capitalize on such a moment. But for how long? And what of the vast majority of people who never acted on such an opportunity, but abided by the law even though there was little enforcement of them?
  • Pfhorrest
    2.5k
    Others have already shared a bunch of good information on anarchism generally, but I thought you might also be interested in my particular view on what anarchy could look like.
  • Seri
    3
    What do you mean by "how long"? Would you suggest that after a period of time, people that originally were taking advantage of the moment would stop due to some reason?
  • Grre
    182

    The Anarchist response to opportunists would be that such were 'created' in turn by a system that values greed (I believe it was Chomsky). Arguably then, Anarchism is more of an ideal theory than a short-term practical one. Take away all centralized power and very likely such mayhem would ensue, the question is, if the power remained taken away-would future generations act in such a way? Perhaps not.
  • NOS4A2
    3.5k


    What do you mean by "how long"? Would you suggest that after a period of time, people that originally were taking advantage of the moment would stop due to some reason?

    I think so. I don't think it would be long before others banded together to defend their property and rights.
  • boethius
    739
    Not so. Anarchism is not majoritarian.Pfhorrest

    Yes it is.

    No anarchist writer has a belief that governing decisions could be based on minority votes. It makes no sense on the surface, nor at any other level.

    Speaking on behalf of nearly every writer on anarchism that has read other writers discussing anarchism:

    Where anarchists disagree with "majorities" is when the process is not equal to begin with; that majority does not equal democracy, other conditions are required to participate in a decision process as an equal.

    For instance, an anarchist does not view the US system as genuinely democratic; however, the fact a minority of votes can elect the president is not one good point about the US system among many bad points, it's an even more absurd and terrible thing about it.

    Likewise, anarchists do not believe that even when votes are genuinely majoritarian that they are somehow inherently moral; there's nothing upon which to decide if whatever the outcome is is correct. The majority can be wrong, hence the focus on education and knowledge as the primary force of liberation.

    Anarchists are also deeply suspect of majority elected managers who are then not practically accountable and can easily corrupt the entire system of voting that is claimed to make them accountable from time to time (gerrymandering to straight vote rigging). Anarchists do not like first-past-the-post representational systems, precisely because they are only majoritarian in a plausible deniability way; anarchists prefer proportional representation where better representation, and more discussion and learning take place; but this too can be improved upon.

    Anarchists believe strongly that political participation is best when done most, and this goes well beyond voting. That everyone is "co-creating", to translate an anarchist idea into woke corporate terminology, the political structure, not subservient to it. This is a radical change to what government would mean in practice to most people; almost so different as to be not recognizable as government, but to say this is no government or some sort of magical non-elite and non-majoritarian organization without any sensical way to make decisions as a society, is well off the mark.

    Point being, none of these issues give rise to a belief that a good governing structure would be one that the majority of people would or could disagree with and that this good government therefore must have the power to continue to govern anyway (in a text-book definition of elite statist oppression that would lead anarchists directly to an obvious and silly contradiction with their most basic pretensions).
  • ztaziz
    91
    Anarchy isn't about lack of Government.

    Government can be implemented in anarchy. As well as the anarchaic crisis is the anarchaic serenity, where naturally, people form alliegence, harmonizing toward a certain goal.

    There is authority as such as there is philosophy to guide the minds.

    Let's just say following the moral objective is some part necessary; we have to feed our bellies; it is enough policy without a Government agenda like capitalism.

    People will create politics naturally, a moral policing force would form, but it's legitimately moral in nature.
  • boethius
    739
    but its difference from the rest of what we would consider the Left (although some, like myself, see political theory not as linear so much as multidimensionaGrre

    The main thing that has stayed true in anarchism is a deep mistrust of schemes that seem to carry the clear risk of "being a useful fool".

    Obviously, Stalin wasn't a communist in any recognizable sense of the communist theory of the time (and other leaders of the Russian revolution), but communists were useful fools for Stalin. Anarchists (correctly in my view) both at the time and since recognized that coercive state power can not be used for good (for instance to then "force" people to be good collectivist farmers or "force them to learn the truth").

    However, anarchists view this fundamental learning required for genuine change as a long process, so at at given point in time things are multidimensional as you say. Anarchists can be all over the place doing what they see is clearly a good thing on a small scale, without bringing much attention to the word "anarchism". Theory is a tool for local actions, rather than a template for a new state. Acting locally requires cooperating with people at their current understanding of politics, but who want to go in a better direction; if an anarchist believes in equality, then an anarchist doesn't believe in insisting people accept they know the truth and should therefore make all the decisions.

    All to say, that a nuanced multidimensional view of politics at any given time is not incompatible with:

    Anarchists wish to return power to each individual as an autonomous agent.Grre

    Where we completely agree on what the foundation of anarchism is.

    The Liberal/NeoLiberal (which is far from Left, more like middling centre) focuses on these one-issue campaigns (ie. abortion rights, gay marriage ect.) which, maybe slightly progressive in comparison to the more centre-rights (Republicans, Conservatives) ect. are pretty much ineffective in addressing the whole system, and in fact, some thinkers have argued that placing emphasis on these identity politic issues obscures the system even more so, a prime example is with regards to environmental movements. Sure, everyone should recycle, but placing the onus on a small minority of individual obscures the much larger systemic issue of an economic system based on consumerism, and the giant corporations that create tonnes more waste than one individual ever could in their lifetime.Grre

    This is definitely a good summary of most anarchists issue with single-issue left movement.

    However, one this to add is that these movement are ineffective not because attaining those issues aren't worthwhile things, but if and when they collaborate with the dominant structure of power. As a counter-example to contemporary examples that have clearly contributed to giving us Trump vs Biden, desegregation was a single-issue leftist movement. Obviously it was good to desegregate. However, MLK clearly understood that desegregation simply to be poor didn't accomplish all that much, and also understood that the structure of poverty regardless of race was as important as the blight of slavery and segregation. MLK was assassinated before really getting into this second phase; the system praises his work on desegregation every year (insofar as it's presented in a way that doesn't challenge the power structure), but mentioning his thoughts on poverty makes one a dangerous pariah (an interesting example of long term double think the system can support).
  • boethius
    739
    Socialists/communists largely believe in a collective organization-which is where the misconception that 'slavery under communism' comes from-ie. its totalitarian history-that people have no choice but participate and sacrifice themselves to this 'collective'Grre

    Only some communists were statists; there's an interesting history of anarchists first cooperating and then breaking with communists, but then some parts of the communist movement breaking with revolutionary theory and going towards anarchism.

    Communists (mostly historical as there's not really any contemporary) were mostly social-democratic. The reason communist vanguardists who wanted to capture a state and run their experiments needed to do so in Russia, is because their ideas simply didn't get much attention in central Europe: trade unionism and democratization clearly made more sense, attracted more supporters and got results without crazy risks (creating ultimately the welfare states rather than the dystopian Soviet Union failed experiment that killed millions).

    The more fundamental disagreement with historical communists is the view of industrialization as a good thing and the idea capitalism creates wealth that then communism can come later and takeover and redirect. Anarchists were deeply skeptical if not diametrically opposed to industrialization. Again forerunners of a hip idea: decentralized production.

    However, most of the time in most places, communists and anarchists would be willing to agree to settle these theoretical differences through democratic process, and both were allied against fascists.
  • Grre
    182


    However, one this to add is that these movement are ineffective not because attaining those issues aren't worthwhile things, but if and when they collaborate with the dominant structure of power. As a counter-example to contemporary examples that have clearly contributed to giving us Trump vs Biden, desegregation was a single-issue leftist movement. Obviously it was good to desegregate. However, MLK clearly understood that desegregation simply to be poor didn't accomplish all that much, and also understood that the structure of poverty regardless of race was as important as the blight of slavery and segregation. MLK was assassinated before really getting into this second phase; the system praises his work on desegregation every year (insofar as it's presented in a way that doesn't challenge the power structure), but mentioning his thoughts on poverty makes one a dangerous pariah (an interesting example of long term double think the system can support).

    Great point on the double think. Another, more contemporary example of such a "double think" would be the hailed progressive (centrist-Liberal) achievement of allowing gay marriage. This seems great (and for many of course, it is, I identify as LGBTQ myself) but the issue is of course much more complex...one has to consider why homosexuality was barred from legitimacy at all (meaning, to question the founding imperatives of Judeo-Christian morality systems, difficult to do with the recent rise of extremist political christianity to an almost fascistic nature (MAGA and the regressive right)) why is homosexuality such a threat? A threat to what? Well the nuclear family ideal (which as many feminist writers have highlighted is based in sex class oppression and as Engels highlighted, is its own form of capitalist oppression, and serves a greater capitalist industrial system)-hence some thinkers have pointed out that by allowing homosexuals the socially(and economically) constructed legitimacy of state (and religious to some extents) marriage, reinforces the importances of marriage and nuclear family ideal; thus serving the bigger system of capitalism.
    Again, such an issue of importance (in this case, recognizing the legitimacy, state or otherwise of homosexual relationships and ensuing social acceptance and normalization), is hailed as a "single-ticket" issue-which seems good and progressive, but really collaborates with larger systems of power-hence going unseen and ensuring the status quo (meaning nothing too radical) goes on. That is, bluntly speaking, the MO of most neo-liberal/centerists politics, bureaucratic acquiescence to soft issues.
  • Pfhorrest
    2.5k
    The majority can be wrongboethius

    That’s exactly what I mean by “not majoritarian”: just being the majority vote doesn’t make it right. Just being some minority’s vote doesn’t make it right either, but I wasn’t implying it did.
  • Grre
    182

    All good points. I should add then to my own summary, that some of the tenets of Anarchism and Anarchic thought are in a return to more primitive life/minimalism and self-sustainability. Arguably in Greek history, Diogenes was one of the first Anarchist thinkers-living in his box as he were, on his own terms.
    "If you would only learn to compliment Dionysus, you wouldn't have to live on lentils."

    Diogenes replied, "But if you would only learn to live on lentils, you wouldn't have to flatter Dionysus.”

    One of the more contemporary thinkers who showed how this self-sustainability could be put into practice was Thoreau-who built himself a cabin in the woods and lived, pretty peacefully, for almost two years. Again, even more recently, this is why Anarchism is closely associated with many radical environment movements today; they focus on unearthing the larger (capitalist) systems that have lead to the environmental crisis we are facing, and then see grassroots level, self-sustainability (some more primitive than others), as a viable solution.
  • boethius
    739
    That’s exactly what I mean by “not majoritarian”: just being the majority vote doesn’t make it right.Pfhorrest

    Agree, but that's not what almost anyone in political theory means by majoritarian. It goes without saying that the majority is not intrinsically morally right (leading the absurdity that they would be unable to know which vote was right before the cast it and saw the results); I know of no prominent philosopher or political theorist that has made such a claim, and certainly no prominent anarchist. The confusion around majoritarian rule is "what kind"; anarchists do not believe in "consent of the governed" but rather "governing by the governed", but both can be described as majoritarian rule, so the issue is not on that point of agreement (which to be clear, no American constitutionalist or whatever brand of status-quo'is is even in this little club of agreeing about majoritarian rule, just disagreeing about what is genuine, as the "losing side" in term of votes "winning" is not majoritarian rule, and yet happens in the US system; "losing the popular vote" just means "not democracy"; not to say you agree with the US system, just pointing out that if one group identified their system as "freedom and democracy" they may not understand the analysis of another group that does not make such an identification, and they can be very confused if they don't bother to understand the alternative point of view).
  • Pfhorrest
    2.5k
    Rousseau? Not an anarchist, but that kind of majoritarian.

    And direct democracy in the usual sense is normally functionally majoritarian. If 51% of the electorate directly approve of something then it’s law, fuck the other 49% if they disagree and can’t persuade 2% more to change their minds. Anarchy isn’t “direct democracy” like that.
  • NOS4A2
    3.5k


    The Anarchist response to opportunists would be that such were 'created' in turn by a system that values greed (I believe it was Chomsky). Arguably then, Anarchism is more of an ideal theory than a short-term practical one. Take away all centralized power and very likely such mayhem would ensue, the question is, if the power remained taken away-would future generations act in such a way? Perhaps not.

    That's true. I can't see how Anarchism could be implemented through traditional party politics. I think it could only come about through collapse or disaster, perhaps settling after a period of strife. But that's also unlikely; there is always that power vacuum, where some group would eventually assert its authority for the sake of order, and many would probably welcome it.

    Perhaps anarchism serves better as a way of thought than a political system.
  • Grre
    182

    Ya, I've recently started dating a Sikh who I've come to realize their belief system is akin to Anarchism in some ways-excuse my paraphrasing, but much of Sikhism is not about centralized religion or obeying a monotheistic god, but rather a way of life and thought that promotes what they see as positive and worthy attributes.

    I could see Anarchism overcoming a power vacuum if conditions are right. Like you said, a total disaster could give way to enough fear mythology for the surviving generations to fear any kind of use of power. Coupled with a return to more self-sustaining, maybe nomadic (meaning no personal property to defend) lifestyles could mean voluntarily free associating groups. Now we're getting into anthopology though...I recommend William Sumner Folkways, I need to re-read it but he presents an interesting analysis of fundamental aspects of human society/life in a very materialist way, which I largely agree with. Things do not "appear randomly"-every aspect of our life, like evolution itself, serves some purpose or attribute ie. religion was not just randomly 'discovered', its a useful storytelling tool for unity and group identity.
  • boethius
    739
    And direct democracy in the usual sense is normally functionally majoritarian.Pfhorrest

    Yes, anarchists usually like this sort of direct democratic participation; which is majoritarian.

    If 51% of the electorate directly approve of something then it’s law, fuck the other 49% if they disagree and can’t persuade 2% more to change their minds. Anarchy isn’t “direct democracy” like that.Pfhorrest

    I don't know where you're trying to go.

    Anarchists like democracy, votes happen in a democracy.

    Anarchists do not end their political analysis with simply "majority decides", but that does not mean they are in disagreement with the principle of majority based decisions.

    For instance, anarchists do not equate "voting" with "equal political participation". One definitely would be able to vote on an issue as an equal, and voting means that "the majority wins" the vote; that's simply what voting is and anarchists do not have some totally different way of making decisions in a group. However, anarchists do not view simply the presence of voting as a strong indication of equal political participation (equal agency to form society), as I've explained (they are against pointing to votes and saying "see, democracy, nothing more to discuss" but they are not against votes nor democracy).

    As for voting itself, assuming it's a genuine system that empowers people "equally enough" to be preferred by anarchists over less empowering systems, then, yes, sometimes mistakes are made and hopefully society learns and reverses those mistakes through voting the other way. However, essentially no anarchist believes in a "super structure" of government that cannot be voted on or about that guarantees certain undiscussable conditions (such as deed rights to landed property).

    Anarchists also don't believe that simply being able to vote (for now) about who manages a powerful centralized state is a stable situation likely to continue for long. Anarchists want to see local political units able to spontaneously organize outside of a central managerial structure (previously agreed about) to simply dismantle and replace such a structure if it went rogue (a variation on "state rights" but not racists nor stupidly appealing to constitutional originalism at the same time).
  • jkg20
    351
    As you can see, you may find litte enlightenment on this forum as everyone seems to have an axe to grind, including me.

    That only by abolishing human-made laws can men be complete, in the political sense of the word, free

    I find it very astute of you to qualify your notion of freedom, as bandied about by anarchists, to the strictly political sense, because one thing that some socialists accuse anarchists of is that they fail to distinguish political freedom from human freedom, and even where they do distinguish it they think that the important type of freedom is the former and not the latter. In fact, for some very crude anarchists, political freedom is just equated with economic freedom. For the socialists I have in mind, and Marx arguably was one of them, one can be free as a human being within a law governed society. A necessary, but not sufficient, condition for such human freedom is, however, economic equality. Economic equality is a notion that many anarchists find anathematic, especially "right wing" minimal state anarchists of the kind well represented by Nozick's Anarchy, State and Utopia, since economic equality is something that has to be ensured. Left wing anarchists are really just liberals with guns, but at least they do not pose the question "why can't we all just get along?".
  • boethius
    739
    especially "right wing" minimal state anarchists of the kind well represented by Nozick's Anarchy, State and Utopia, since economic equality is something that has to be ensured.jkg20

    It's best to just call these "right wing" anarchists libertarians, if that's your implication, as that's what they call themselves.

    Someone simply writing a book with "Anarchy" in the title, having essentially nothing to do with with previous anarchist literature and no association or commentary on anarchist movements, and core ideas of which was immediately labeled something else, is not a good representation of historical anarchism. Not sure if your intention is to place "Anarchy, State and Utopia" in the anarchist tradition, or whether you would agree with the above.

    In any case, it's interesting to point out the difference between "left wing" anarchists and US libertarians, whether you want to call them "right wing anarchists" or just US libertarians (the think tanks that created and keep this movement going generally avoid the term anarchism, or "ancho-capitalists" to avoid needing to bring up the subject of anarchism).

    The key difference, is indeed that left anarchists do not view "political freedom" as distinct from "economic freedom". I completely agree.

    The reasoning is of course the critical part. Insofar as economic freedom is maintained by institutions, backed by force, then it is simply a political issue. One can make a moral argument that certain social creations of property should be made and certain freedoms allowed within them, but this is not an argument that such a process is somehow apolitical, pre-political or has a sensical moral meaning outside a political process. If one has an argument justifying something is "really" someone's property but no argument that a political process should conclude the same, then for left anarchists it's simply a non-sensical opinion of property and, critically, even more non-sensical that the political process in question should nevertheless agree that such a notion of property is paramount despite not having any reason for doing so (i.e. yes, the majority has no reason to accept billionaires, lobbyist and astro-turf movements billions finance, and indeed society has every reason to dismantle such a power structure based on property deeds maintained by society, and ... therefore, society should never be allowed to deliberate on such an issue precisely because the majority may make the wrong decision, because despite it being a general harm to society it is a fundamental right to be able to collect such property deeds and insist society go to whatever lengths necessary to protect them, even risking its own destruction).

    The uniting theme of libertarians is a fear of submitting definitions of property to an equal political process. Therefore, there must be political structures that the majority cannot change that guarantee property rights. For most anarchists, it's simply centralized statist elite aristocratic rule, with extra fuzzy sounding steps.

    However, this is a distinct issue from "maintaining economic equality" in absolute terms. Anarchists are against being able to amass so much property as to be able to corrupt the political system and simply found a new aristocratic one (property being used to subvert political processes), but anarchists are not against property, and differences in property, as such (property is a result of political discourse and cooperation, not an a priori to it).
  • jkg20
    351
    Well, I certainly agree that Nozick spent absolutely no time engaging with anarchist thought, or much of any kind of thought for that matter. Generally speaking he was a glib philosopher, and not just in the realm of politics. Leaving the right wing of the anarchist movement aside for the moment, though, since you do seem to know your stuff here, l have a question concerning the difference between the left wing side of anarchism and socialism that you might have an enlightening opinion on, so please take all my future uses of "anarchist", "anarchism" and so on as referring to the left wing versions.
    In the end, anarchists and socialists want the same thing, the disappearance of the state, at least it is not unreasonable to make that suggestion. Socialists also want substantive economic equality, not just equality of economic opportunity, and see that as a necessary condition for human freedom, and human freedom is the final goal. So let me start with this question: Do anarchists care about economic equality in that way, or do they see it as a peripheral issue? I'm genuinely curious, by the way, I'm not just looking for a fight :wink:
  • Pfhorrest
    2.5k
    Yes, anarchists usually like this sort of direct democratic participation; which is majoritarian.boethius

    Only in matters where multiple people have a legitimate stake, though, and not even always then.

    51% of people, all of them white, deciding that nonwhites may be enslaved, isn’t anarchic. That’s just tyranny of the majority.

    If the people who live in a building or work in a company need to make a decision about that building or company that they all have a stake in, that may require a vote, and majority rule might be the best that can be done in such a vote, but even then many anarchists would argue that it is consensus, not majority, that matters.

    The important point though is that 51% of the general populace doesn’t get any say on what goes on inside that house or company; only the people who actually have a legitimate stake in it.
  • I like sushi
    2.4k
    I understand that anarchism is the belief that all types of states are illegitimate.Seri

    In a sense yes. But if there was no ‘state’ the anarchic attitude would still exist as it is fundamentally about questioning authority rather than going along with the crowd - ironically in modern day terms the kind of people who call themselves anarchists, that you see wearing masks and throwing rocks, are merely going along with their own group insisting on their authority over others rather than simply questioning.

    There are numerous positions on the political scale that are moderate yet still hold the term ‘anarchism’ to heart. As with all -isms there is no one true definition just a core gist surrounded by nebulous ideas and movements. Anyone who sides with anarchism in the sense that they oppose all societal structures of authority is essentially encouraging the death of millions because they believe they are ‘correct’. Naivety often goes hand in hand with extreme liberalist views, but that doesn’t make them useless either.

    I am certainly someone who leans to ‘anarchism’ in the sense that I question authority where I can - within and without - rather than avoid rocking the boat. To grow as an individual a reasonably large helping of anarchism is essential as far as I can tell. Too much, like almost anything, is poisonous though.

    Any political attitude used en masse is anti-anarchical. The true use of the anarchic attitude - as far as I care for it - comes from within. That is to oppose one’s own attitudes and beliefs with rigourous questioning.
  • boethius
    739
    51% of people, all of them white, deciding that nonwhites may be enslaved, isn’t anarchic. That’s just tyranny of the majority.Pfhorrest

    Do the nonwhites get to vote in your example? Did African nations where the slaves are captured get to vote?

    But, assuming we agree it's a-historical "what if" game, whatever scenario you're trying to construct, the problem is not solved for anarchists by some super-governing structure that can't be voted on at all. Yes, the majority of people can be wrong from the anarchists point of view, indeed so wrong that collaboration is no longer possible even. Anarchists don't have a problem with violent resistance movements to Nazi Germany, even if we assume 51% of German's and 51% of French approved of Hitler.

    Lot's can be said from an anarchist point of view on democratic processes, but I know of know anarchist writer or movement that is against democratic ways of people making decisions (other than "right wing anarchists" who insist on calling themselves anarchists -- which, to be clear, they are free to do and I have no problem with that -- but who do not engage with anything that can be remotely called the anarchist school of thought). For most, perhaps all, "left" anarchists, the risk of centralized managerial structures is mitigated by local organization, not an even more centralized and non-democratically accountable power structure such as a supreme court or central bank.
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