Submitted by subrosa in Anarchism

Had a little conversation with someone on the anarchy101 subreddit about human/natural rights, and I had the feeling that it wasn't gonna get anywhere. So now I wonder how other people think about this stuff. Maybe there's some crucial aspect to this that neither of us acknowledged?

Basically, in a Stirner-esque moment I insisted that rights (as something inherent to every human) don't exist, and that they're not a particularly useful tool for anarchists. I pointed out that regardless of what rights we supposedly have or don't have, we already can do whatever we want, and we already are inescapably responsible for everything we do. I can't help but feel that "rights" are inherently tied to morality, and only really make sense in a severely haunted worldview.

In response, the other user pointed out that 1) Plenty of anarchists (Kropotkin, Goldman, Michel,...) used rights as an ethical framework and that 2) most people do not think that they can do whatever they want and do not feel responsible for everything they do. They have been living in a mind prison for their entire lives. That's why talking about and expanding the concept human rights is important.

Am I wrong in dismissing rights in an anarchy101 forum that easily? Am I carelessly mis-using Stirner so I don't have to think about this stuff?



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existential1 wrote

Rights are simply ideas that are used to modify or codify preferred behavior. I think your critique of rights is more suited to a conversation about how the rights were agreed upon and enforced moreso than if they are necessary at all.

Nothing is necessary unless you want a specific outcome. Eating isnt necessary, unless i want to live. Being monogamous isn't necessary, unless I want to be with someone who believes that it is and won't be with someone who isn't.

In that vein, rights are just a tool for a group of people to observe collectively accepted behaviors. Again, they can be poor tools if the rights are defined and reaffirmed infrequently or people are subjected to them who never had ample opportunity to meaningfully voice concerns about them. But there's nothing inherently good or bad about them. They are just tools.


sadie_killer wrote

Nothing is necessary unless you want a specific outcome. Eating isnt necessary, unless i want to live. Being monogamous isn't necessary, unless I want to be with someone who believes that it is and won't be with someone who isn't.

this. this is how i feel about everything. is there a word for this way of looking at things more generally?


existential1 wrote

Well it's definitely a central part of Taoism/Daoism. Fairly well encompassed in the Wu Wei (actionless action) principle. Any action taken disturbs the order of the reality where it had not happened. And that disturbance has consequences. And like other Chinese philosophies/religions, it has an innate critique of attachment. Often actions we take are due to attachment to ideas or emotions. And upon examination, not many are actually necessary.


rot wrote

rights are whatever is permitted


subrosa OP wrote

Which begs the question: According to who?


ziq wrote (edited )

The ruling class, invariably. They take our freedom and then grant us access to small pieces of it if we follow their rules and agree to a lifetime of labor for them.


rot wrote

the state typically codifies rights i.e. right to an attorney, I have that right as long as it is permitted. Access to food or housing is not a right as it can be denied


CaptainACAB wrote

That's an interesting question, actually.

I've also been critical of the concept of rights; particularly because they're a concept that suffers under little to no critique in comparison to others; which would be fine if it weren't for the fact that many anarchists don't critique the concept of rights at all. Many people are anarchists because they believe in rights and they believe that anarchism is the best way to secure rights to as many different people as possible. Rights were (and probably still are, to an extent) believed to be given to every human being by a "God" (I won't get into that argument); rights are widely "enforced" and regulated by the state: in their current form, rights are little more than government-granted "permissions" that can be given, changed, or revoked at the whim of those who rule.

At the absolute best (i.e, the least haunted), rights would little more than guidelines for how people would interact with one another under an "anarchist society"; like etiquette, with unofficial social sanctions being the punishment for breaking them. Depending on your views, this could also be seen as undesirable; because it's still a concept to be beholden to. Rights would either have no power (an abstract without power doesn't need to be followed, so it's just a superfluous "thing" that people believe in) or have a very "unofficial" sense of power (an abstract that people obey regardless of whether or not it fulfills their ego out of fear of punishment).

At worst (i.e, the most haunted), rights would essentially be laws (or morals, or virtues) under a different name; with it's own set of enforcers, prisons, and power structures; under the same conditions of being mutable to those with the power to arbitrate what "is" and what "isn't" within the acceptable realm of rights.


Majrelende wrote

I think of rights in terms of being something natural that is taken away— for example, when people are starving, they have the right to food— but past simple things like this, the impossibility of knowing what actually is natural prevents them from being useful in a specific sense. For example, if someone walks into a rose bush and is scratched, is someone or something violating their rights? Are they preventing them from paying attention, like worrying about rent? Superficially, the action seems natural enough, but deeper in, these things start to break apart. I think the concept itself is useful, but trying to determine what is and is not a right is distracting and Sisyphean.


Ampelio wrote

I think any functioning society is going to need some form of rights for people to agree on and point to in times of need. The thing about stirner is not that he was against something, even spooks, but, he was against what was not beneficial to the individual. Rights are beneficial to the individual and to anarchists because you need a standard by which to measure and prove accusation.


polpotisevil2 wrote (edited )

Stirner was definitely against spooks, something an individual places above and before themselves, without regard for beneficiality and with religious zeal E: Didn't write that out very well but hopefully you get the point

What kind of rights are you talking about? I don't see how rights are able to be used to "measure and prove accusation"

I don't need nor is it useful to explain why government censorship should be opposed by pointing to the "right" of free speech.

A right, and this is a standpoint closely taken by Stirner despite your little mock up of him in your head, is something granted to you by a higher authority or power. A right is a concept fundamentally against the individual, because it means there is some other power, society, government, king, or whatever else, restricting that individual to their "rights"

2.2.1 "My Power"


Ampelio wrote

If they are benifical to the individual ego then they aren't spooks. The right to life and all that shit is important to be codified and a system of justice that is built around that is important. I'm not saying the current state of affairs is, but, something is needed in order to prevent, or, at least mitigate negative consequences of peoples actions; false accusations of crimes for example. Right now in the country thousands of innocent people have been put to death in a myopic pursuit of eye for an eye justice for the actual wrong doers. If you want to pedant and say stirner is against not killing and murdering people cuz "that's just a spook bro" then you haven't read the man it's that simple.


polpotisevil2 wrote

A spook can absolutely be a spook and be beneficial to the individual. If the individual recognizes a spook and puts themselves above it and destroy it, and use it for their ends, then it has ceased to be a "spook" for the individual, but is still so for others.

No, it is not important that it is codified. I'm surprised you have (supposedly) read Stirner and still throw out words like justice, "mitigate negative consequences of people's actions", etc. You realize these are all subjective and doom the individual to communal slavery? If you disagree with individualism (and it seems you do), you may go ahead, and we can discuss that more deeply if it is the case. I'll start it off.

False accusations of crime is a very large topic. I expect it will boil down to a few differences on the topic of civilization itself, but why would someone falsely accuse someone of a crime and why would they be believed? Fail-safes against such accusations are trust, character, and preventing the opportunity. There are others that don't involve a court getting involved and deciding it. It should be obvious of course that courts are also just as susceptible to error as a non-court result.

If you want to pedant and say Stirner is against not killing and murdering people cuz "that's just a spook bro" then you haven't read the man it's that simple.

What are you talking about? Stirner wasn't against or for people killing and murdering, he was for it being considered for the individual by the individual himself, all while recognizing morals, as you want to establish them included, as societies impositions as to whether it was something they should do; and justify to themselves.

It doesn't seem to me that you have read the man, and if you have, perhaps you went through the material far too quick to understand it and are one of those who read but do not bother to comprehend the material.

If you want to discuss what Stirner meant by passages you have read, I'm totally game for a discussion and reading on Stirner's work. I have already cited one myself.


darkecology wrote

Above all, we note the fact that the so-called rights of man, the droits de l'homme as distinct from the droits du citoyen, are nothing but the rights of a member of civil society – i.e., the rights of egoistic man, of man separated from other men and from the community. ... according to the Declaration of the Rights of Man of 1791:

"Liberty consists in being able to do everything which does not harm others."

Liberty, therefore, is the right to do everything that harms no one else. The limits within which anyone can act without harming someone else are defined by law, just as the boundary between two fields is determined by a boundary post.

Security is the supreme social concept of bourgeois society, the concept of the police, the whole society exists only to ensure each of its members the preservation of his person, his rights and his property.

Karl Marx