I recently had a lot of interest in a facebook post I made about anarchism so I thought I’d respond with a blog post about the basic ideas I was talking about.
In the original post I threw around a few different terms describing varieties of Anarchist thought without explaining what each kind entails, so allow me to rectify that and I’ll tuck in a couple I haven’t mentioned yet. Additionally to be clear, I don’t necessarily subscribe fully to any of these modes of anarchist thought, but I do think all are valuable.
Anarchism (Basic): The rejection of unjustified hierarchies. Capitalism being the most commonly railed against, do the way “profit” is extracted from workers labour to line the pockets of private owners. (bourgeoisie is a term you’ll regularly see to describe those bosses/owners) It being unjustified because workers don’t really have a choice in weather they work or not, and because of the nature of capitalism owner are generally forced by the market to drain their workers lest they lose their completive edge and go bankrupt. Making the system in anarchist eyes not only unjustified by systemically unjustifiable and deeply unfair. A hierarchies can only be justified if all parties can give informed consent to the hierarchy.
Intersectional Anarchism: When Anarchism is taken to its logical end you find yourself having to work against all forms of unjustified hierarchies, systemic oppression on various groups. So a logically consistent anarchist is also a social justice activist, including being feminist.
Pacifist Anarchism: In standard Anarchist thought, you see the very similar idea of “revolution” as you might expect from a Marxist, and this is where in my opinion the two ideologies have the most overlap. While revolution does not necessitate violent over throwing of the state, many anarchist this is an inevitable consequence when the powerful are threatened. Pacifist Anarchist reject this, and believe a non-violent is either preferable or necessarily for an anarchist revolution. Though of course some might argue redistribution of the means of production (private property*) is itself violent so you know debate continues.
*Oh important note “private property” does not equal “personal property,” in either Marxist or anarchist thought. Private property is when a person own something like a factory, but they don’t themselves use it. Personal property is like your car or house. You can own things, but you can’t for example own a property you don’t actually use.
Communist Anarchism (AnComm): This is where you see the most cross pollination between Marxism and Anarchism, and AnComm’s tend to (although not always) have an revolutionary bent. However they also are strong proponents of intentional housing, housing cooperatives, and communes of various kinds, and if you search Google for such establishments you will find there are many all over the developed world, there are likes others, but they are more challenging to find. Though here is a good link. http://www.planetfriendly.net/community.html
AnComms are also are all about seizing the means of production, but so are Syndicalists, so I’ll just explain them, and if you’re interested there is more information out there on the interwebs and there are Anarchist bookshops and coffee houses in some cities. Though one word of warning you will get a few authoritarian Marxism in the mix, some will be doing this “ironically” and it can be quite amusing, but other support a kind of tyranny of the majority, and view that as not only unavoidable, but even good. I don’t agree with that extreme, and even the “ironic Stalin’s” can be off putting with all there jokes about the gulags.
Anarcho Syndicalism: Basically this ideologies is all about workers taking ownership of factories by collectivizing, forming unions, and forming cooperatives. This particular ideology played a huge from in the early 1900’s for workers’ rights. I’m not super knowledgeable about this history, but Noam Chomsky is a major figure in the field of thought and there is a lot of material on the subject. And it can be boiled down the idea that workers ought to control the nature of their work, and are better suited to planning that work then a boss or business owner, and are better able to react to changing conditions with into the work environment when they are not having there livelihoods held hostage.
Individualist Anarchism: More a group of ideas then a coherent ideology, however it’s important to include this one as well. Extreme Individualism leads to the kind of lawlessness assisted in popular opinions about Anarchy, however this extreme view of a person ought to be able to do functionally anything is not in my opinion work considering for long. What I am more interested in the more moderated ideas of invalidism, those about informed consent. In any anarchist movement I am interested it is key that individuals are able to give informed consent to the processes they participate or are subjected in. This may sound obvious, but that includes less obvious processes, like capitalism, and various kinds of oppression, and subjection that people are put under. It is one task of an anarchist to identify new and undiscovered ways in which we form hierarchies, and to determine if those hierarchies are justified or not.
Anarcho-Capitalism, Modern “Libertarianism”: While this is not a true from of anarchism, except if you ask some Anarcho-Capitalists its popularity means I will mention it here as well. Anarcho-Capitalist believe that human flourishing can only occur when You dismantle any state apparatus that exist (the end goal of many anarchist models) and you allow unfettered unregulated capitalism (this being anathema to anarchist thought) there by creating the greatest amount of human flourishing.
Of course in hearing this most anarchists will point out that an unregulated free markets result in monopoly and unaccountable tyrants who control the vast majority of the wealth and property with 0 accountability to anyone else, but oh well.
So there some terms, what to I think to be true. Honestly I’m still working out my preferences. I think because we live in modern democracy it make sense to take up pacifist tactics since the chances of a successful revolution are slim to none and even if it succeeds you don’t have the kind of informed population who could make informed decisions, so education and creating working communities practicing anarchist ideas is key to any sort of anarchist future. Creating out own media, building systems that allow us to reject as much of capitalism as we can, i.e. being self-reliant within a community to a greater or lesser extent. Experimenting with systems of self-governance. All of these and more are the things I’m most interested in, beyond you know no having to be a wage slave, that would be nice too.
I’ll probably write some more in the future about this subject, I do have ideas about how to make these communities work, and increase their self-reliance, but for now I think this is an effective starting place.
March 10th, 2017 at 7:17 am
Power cannot be self-legitimizing
March 10th, 2017 at 1:37 pm
Absolutely, power is only legitimized by those who are underneath that power and only if they can dispose of that power if it ceases to respect their wishes. Though someone in power can attempt to offer an argument for their legitimacy.
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December 25th, 2016 at 7:31 pm
There are a couple of other major strands of anarchism which you could look into. The first is mutualism. Proudhonian mutualism, to be more specific. He termed it ‘mutuelliste collectivisme’. Mutualism is basically left wing market anarchism in which the workers own the means of production but some competition is allowed due to the positive effects it can bring, but only when it’s not competition in the capitalistic sense as this is actually harmful and wasteful.
The second is primitivism which seeks to reverse the effects of ‘civilisation’ and return to a more ‘primitive’ form of living in which people are closer to nature. The major benefit of this is reducing our effect on the environment but there are of course some cons to this strand of anarchism.
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December 24th, 2016 at 3:09 pm
Very good summary and a succinct yet accurate description of the different forms of anarchism. You made a point which I would like you to clarify, if you wouldn’t mind. I’m not sure if you were saying that anarchism is flawed because it needs to respect people’s preferences and allow them to do as they wish, even if it is not in line with anarchist principles. This is not the case. On the contrary, anarchism is purely voluntary. In anarchist theory, anyone who prefers not to join the revolution and engage in the revolutionary initiative will be allowed to do so, as long as they do not infringe upon the freedoms of the anarchists, in which case it is seen as justifiable to defend oneself, one’s comrades and the revolution, with the use of arms of entirely necessary. A good real-life example of this is the anarchism which was practised during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s (during which period there was a combination of anarcho-communism, anarcho-syndicalism, naturism etc.). The revolutionaries collectivised industry and agriculture and had self-governing communes and workers’ cooperatives but this was only with the consent of the workers and the agricultural labourers. Only those who wished to join the collective initiative did so; no one was forced. As there was a deeply-rooted anarchist/socialist/revolutionary tradition in Spain already by the time the revolution broke out, many of the Spaniards joined these initiatives. Those who preferred not to were allowed to farm their own land etc. without interference but would not receive the full benefits of the revolution. The revolutionaries did however grant such people some of these benefits although these people did not contribute to the revolution. Once these collectives were established, many of those who chose to remain as individual workers farming their own land etc. were attracted by the merits of the revolutionary initiative and chose freely to join it.
December 24th, 2016 at 10:59 pm
100% voluntary is perhaps are hard thing to claim when we live in a world with sacristy. It’s hard to say we have 100% freedom to do anything. The best I think we can to is allow for a real choice, where a person can make an informed choice. I don’t think we can call this 100% voluntary, just far more freedom to choose when what we have under most current systems available.
But do I think the revolution can be peaceful and agreeable to the vast majority of people? Yes I think it can be.
December 25th, 2016 at 7:09 pm
I’m saying that it would be voluntary in that anyone who did not wish to be part of the anarchist revolution would not have to.
December 18th, 2016 at 3:37 pm
Thanks for your thoughtful explanations of terms I have been struggling to navigate. This election has focused my politics into more of the Democratic Socialist camp. my attempts to find a modern intellectual framework has been frustrating. More of a self seeking free thinker than college guided. I’m also a hard core soccer Ultra. ANTIFA. Inclusive. And more than willing to back it up.
My friend is a medically retired State Trooper who did his own intelligence investigation into the regions problem children. He’s also a Trade Unionist Leftist. And a street cop. Not law enforcement. While I reject the violence and lawlessness of the Aryan Brotherhood. The undeniable fact is they are, if not the best, well read group of organized criminal groups. All the Classical thinkers. Shakespeare. Economic theory. The major forces of the Enlightenment. Their strict code of behavior and ruthless brutality enforcing it overshadows all of that. In past societies they would have craved out kingdoms or transformed them into Empire.
I’ll take their reading list but nothing else. Starting with any writer the conservative right rejects might be a place to start but unsure of who they might be. Give up trying to understand an alien mindset long ago. Look forward to more blogs on this subject. My goal is to create a mission statement/framework in order to educate and inform others. Finding the Middle Way means sifting lots of chaff to find the wheat. Good luck on the journey. Open to the possibility of long conversations outside of WP or public social media platforms.
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December 18th, 2016 at 9:21 pm
This think the most frustrating part is realizing there isn’t a modern frame work, Anarchist thought and Marxist thought where largely snuffed out or abandoned after the 1920 and the major union successes of that era. You’d had pockets here and there, but until the economic fall of 2008 there just hasn’t a major resurgance, or need to push these sort of systems of self governance, but with the promises (and threats) of automation, the rise of information technology we now live in a world where Anarchist thought might hold some solutions the the challenges of unemployment that are already coming to pass.
That said I’m still working on my own literacy in this area, I need to get better idea on consensus (and other competing methods of) decision making, and other key factors I will need to learn as I work on constructing my own intentional community/commune.
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December 24th, 2016 at 3:16 pm
If you’d like an example of an anarchistic (if not fully anarchist) project which I functioning today, have a look at Rojava in Syria. There are also other parts of Syria where anarchy is being practised spontaneously by the people.
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December 24th, 2016 at 11:02 pm
Thank you for sharing, I was only vaguely aware of Rojava’s Existance. Thank you for giving it a searchable name. Do you have any links or resources about Rojava (or anarchism in general) you think are particularly informative or useful?
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December 25th, 2016 at 7:23 pm
I read this recently. https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/the-most-important-thing It’s available to download in pdf form and is only several pages long (about six if I remember correctly). It provides an authentic and critical perspective on Rojava. The anarchist library is a great source for reading on anarchism in general. It has an abundance of material from dozens of authors on dozens of topics relating to anarchism and is all available for free. The FAQs on there might be a good starting place, and Daniel Guérin’s ‘Anarchism from Theory to Practice’ serves as a brilliant introduction. You can find pretty much everything you’re looking for on the anarchist library and it’s easily navigable. Libcom is also good.
December 15th, 2016 at 9:12 am
I like it. It nicely explains things. Although I see anarchism as a reactionary counter force to the organizing force of hierarchical organization that is in our nature as humans. In the absence of deliberate countervailing forces, social hierarchies naturally form. And this isn’t just found in humans, but in many other social species as well. Our biggest challenges related to social hierarchy are caused by our incredible population densities that push us well beyond our primitive social instincts.
December 15th, 2016 at 10:29 pm
Although Social Anarchists do not normally deny our propensity to form social hierarchies, but rather test those hierarchies to see if they are justified (and if they not dismantling them). Being aware of this human propensity is crucial to combating the worse effects of the social hierarchies we are prone to form.
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December 24th, 2016 at 2:54 pm
DataHeart, history suggests otherwise. For 96.7% of human history at the very least, these hierarchical systems which anarchism seeks to dismantle did not exist and humanity flourished without them. Living conditions, in terms of working hours, freedom etc., were better than they are today in any country of the world. Your point about population density however is an important one to make as it does make anarchy harder to achieve. Perhaps this is something which makes anarcho-syndicalism the most achievable form of anarchism in today’s industrialised and populous world since its foci is cooperatives. Anarcho-syndicalism can be a means to reach other forms of such as anarcho-communism, and can exist alongside them.
December 25th, 2016 at 11:25 am
Perhaps it depends on how you define hierarchy. To my way of thinking, the first medicine man, the first chief, the first priest are all examples of natural hierarchy. And it is positively true that hierarchy was a requirement for the first large agrarian villages to store grain. So if you are referencing time beginning with our earliest homo sapiens, maybe, but I doubt it. I would like to read your response if you care to respond. I’m open to learn.
December 25th, 2016 at 7:15 pm
In the ordinary definition, hierarchy is when people are ranked relatively in terms of authority and status. Anarchists reject that people should be organised in such a way, coming from the starting point that all human beings are equal (some anarchists extend this to all sentient beings but that’s for a different discussion). There can e varying levels of responsibility, e.g. someone who does the most cooking, and remuneration will be proportionate to this, but no one is to be valued more or given greater power.
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December 27th, 2016 at 5:46 pm
Isn’t the big problem with a hierarchy that people in whom we invest power ( or who take power by force) tend to extract disproportional rewards that go beyond personal effort or community value?
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December 27th, 2016 at 6:50 pm
That is a major issue, yes. Hierarchies disadvantage those towards the bottom of the structure and favour those towards the top. Where there is hierarchy, there is inequality. Where there is inequality there is injustice. For people are not treated equitably under such systems. From an anarchist perspective, the people at the top of the pyramid have an unfair advantage over others and their privilege is unjustified.
(Sorry, I had written a better response to this but there was a malfunction and it didn’t send. Hopefully this still answers your question.)
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December 29th, 2016 at 10:59 am
It sounds like we might be saying the same things in a different way. It isn’t hierarchy itself that creates inequality but the taking of advantage and exploitation of others that hierarchy allows. If an anarchist says we cannot control human behavior under that structure then we cannot control of any other structure.
December 30th, 2016 at 12:21 pm
Hierarchies are inherently, and by definition, unequal. Anarchists do not seek to control behaviour. On the contrary, anarchism holds absolute freedom to be an ideal, where the individual is free of constraints from the state, employers (capitalists) and even mandatory society.
December 31st, 2016 at 12:21 pm
Hierarchies naturally form because individuals are inherently unequal from birth. Anarchistic structures require greater control over people to overcome this fact.
To create an organizational structure that maintains individual equality between people requires a great deal of social control. It just doesn’t occur in Nature. Equity in the distributions of goods and services (which I would define as subsistence plus a proportionally appropriate motivational reward) is much easier to accomplish. The latter requires far less social control.
While many of us recognize a bundle of natural right common to all the adults of our species, it should be obvious that humans are not born equal in all things. Equality, in a social sense, is a human construct, not a natural phenomenon. Variation in any species is essential for survival, and we all vary from each other.
One extreme example of a human variation, to illustrate my point, is the average size of men and woman. Woman, as a category of humans, are nearly 20% smaller. This biological differentiation is a vestige of a genetically enforced primate social order from our evolutionary past. It no longer matters for our survival today, but it persists.
While this distinction in size is gradually fading over time, it still remains a factor that influences social behaviors. In every human social gender equality is, at best, a guiding principle and a goal to achieve through institutional controls. Without societal controls and social enforcement there will be always be men and whole cultures that take advantage of this natural gender difference. This difference doesn’t go away or lose its impact by lifting social controls. In fact, it takes a lot of social controls and enforcement to establish and maintain social gender equality, (and of course it’s worth it in my opinion).
But more importantly than this interesting discussion is my sincere hope that you have a happy, healthy New Year!!!
December 31st, 2016 at 1:31 pm
Well it is a dangrous thing to defend societal hiarchies, in terms of Biology. How from a evophyc stand point you ight be able to make the argument for how it evolved in human society you may have a point. Many hierarchies we see today are no longer connected to any justified holding of power. Managerin retail for example are rarely more then simply a person you managed to get a mangement job once and can now bounce along on that experince regardless of weater or not they do a good job at there previous emoplyeer/positions. Bussniess owners after a few year in a successful bussiness often become disconnected from there employees and the realities of there business and begin to give out nonsense orders that people have to follow because they can’t hold thing over the business owner.
Capitalism itself, also generate inequality, by it’s very nature it take the productivity from workers and rewards that to owners. Indefinitely until either that owner dies or the business fails. Generally is defended by the owner “taking risk” and so they deserve compesation, however I don’t see how indefinete compensation for limited risk is fair, as well employess often take on implicit risk going into a field of employment, and we will see with the automation of vehicles as a whole class of workers is eradicate over a short time span.
If you take 100 people, have them all be perfectly equal in all relevant matter and they live in a closed society each if all start a bussness eventualy due to chance alone some are going to fail on there bussiness and be forced to work for other people, how now are entitled to a portion of there labour,indefently so long as they work for them.
No matter what happens, capitalism ensures that the working class gets screwed out of a sizable amount of their productivity without any personal gain, while an elite minority get to take that productivity with practically no effort of their own.
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January 1st, 2017 at 8:28 am
Hierarchies are an organizing force in human social behavior. They are inherently neither good nor bad, they just form. Good or bad is a value judgement based on the complexities and purposes of any given organization. Value judgements don’t apply to the natural phenomenon itself. We also have a natural human tendency to form mating pairs and more enduring family units. That doesn’t make any particular family good or bad. It doesn’t make non-traditional mating pairs or family units formed from then good or bad either. So in describing social hierarchies here I am not justifying or defending them. I am merely pointing out that anarchy, as an alternative organizing force, does not have the same advantage.
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January 1st, 2017 at 8:19 pm
Well it totaly can however, becuase a family unit doesn’t need to have any hiarchy except one of experince, but this is why many anarchist, myself included talk about justified and unjustified hierarchies. Imbalances in power are not necessarily bad, or unfair they simply arise out of scarcity (or resources/time/opportunities) However, mating in humans often don’t follow the standard nuclear family model or even simple pairing, and can be a great deal more fluid an involve a lot more people. Today we see a lot of monogamy and grandparent + parents plus children + maybe one or two other family members, but what’s more common through history is basic human trablism, which is more about us verus them, and while there is a preference for blood relatives, the tribe is generally nearly as important, and can form the family unit just as much as direct relatives. Today we are just exposed to a great deal less diversity in family structure then humans have had in the past.
But one point I think is more important is that Anarchist don’t need to reject hierarchy all together, but reject unjustified hierarchies which is far more nuanced and attainable.
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January 15th, 2017 at 6:02 pm
I want to start by apologising for taking so long to reply. The new year meant that I became very busy. I hope the year has got off to a good start for you.
Hierarchies are what create inequality in the first place, not the other way round. Humans are born equal. Anarchistic strictures have nothing to do with control over people; such structures exist without people having control over others.
Creating a structure that maintains equality does not require any control. It only requires people recognising their privileges and dismantling structures which create privilege. These structures are hierarchical and are what allow oppression and discrimination to take place. Hierarchies provide people with the power and ability to oppress those below them within that hierarchy.
Something does not have to occur in nature for them to be desirable. The electronic device you have been using to have this discussion is not a natural phenomenon. This does not mean you do not want to own it or be able to enjoy the benefits of using it.
Women do tend to be smaller. That is an observable fact. But this is a difference in characteristics; it is not something which means women should be valued less than men. For people to be equal, they do not have to be the same. Someone’s status, rights or opportunities should not be determined by their physical size. Calling for equality of the sexes does not mean that differences between the sexes cannot be acknowledged. But using these differences as grounds to discriminate against one sex is sexist. This would be incompatible with anarchism. A Subaru might be faster than a Hyundai but both could be of the same value and cost the same to purchase. Although they differ in certain aspects, perhaps size, they are both worth the same. This probably isn’t the best analogy but it’s the first thing that came to mind. My point is that people can be different without being unequal, since their value is derived from their status in society, as a car’s market value is determined by supply and demand.
The only thing necessary to establish equality of the sexes is creating the horizontal structure of anarchism in which nobody has more power over another as there is no hierarchy to facilitate, encourage and allow this.
The relative sizes of the male and female sexes have no real impact on their status and do not make them unequal.
January 15th, 2017 at 6:16 pm
For whatever reason, I cannot reply directly to your later comment but I think you will be able to guess which one I am responding to.
The claim that hierarchies are neither good nor bad depends on the criteria you use, or in other words, how you define ‘good’ and ‘bad’. We can observe the effects of hierarchies with little difficulty since we live within many in today’s society, no matter where you are in the world with very few exceptions.
Hierarchies restrict freedom. Hierarchies cause suffering. Hierarchies devalue people. To me, these effects make a hierarchy bad.
We can debate what the meaning of ‘bad’ really is but we cannot dispute the observable realities of the effect of hierarchies.
You may deny that racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism etc. are ‘bad things’ but what is irrefutable is that when these social diseases are institutionalised, systematic or enforced by some other power, say economic power, this is when they have the greatest impact and in these cases they are a direct product of hierarchies. For this reason, anarchists seek to dismantle such hierarchies and thus eliminate these problems, reducing them to only personal attitudes and views which cannot be enforced universally.
May 3rd, 2017 at 8:23 am
I would be wary of using the term “reactionary,” as it typically refers to a position that desires to return to some conceptual past position that is not the status quo. For example, a US citizen endorsing monarchism would be reactionary. It isn’t just a “reaction” to a thing.
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May 5th, 2017 at 2:47 pm