Submitted by ziq in Anarchism

The ideal of anarchism is a society in which all individuals can do whatever they choose, except interfere with the ability of other individuals to do what they choose. This ideal is called anarchy, from the Greek anarchia, meaning absence of government.

Anarchists do not suppose that all people are altruistic, or wise, or good, or identical, or perfectible, or any romantic nonsense of that kind. They believe that a society without coercive institutions is feasible, within the repertoire of natural, imperfect, human behaviour.

Anarchists do not “lay down blueprints for the free society”. There are science-fiction stories and other fantasies in which anarchies are imagined, but they are not prescribed. Any society which does not include coercive institutions will meet the anarchist objective.

It seems clear, however, that every conceivable anarchy would need social pressure to dissuade people from acting coercively; and to prevent a person from acting coercively is to limit that person’s choices. Every society imposes limits, and there are those who argue, with the air of having an unanswerable argument, that this makes anarchism impossible.

But anarchy is not perfect freedom. It is only the absence of government, or coercive establishments. To show that perfect freedom is impossible is not to argue against anarchism, but simply to provide an instance of the general truth that nothing is perfect.

Of course, the feasibility of anarchy cannot be certainly proved. “Is anarchy practicable?”, is a hypothetical question, which cannot be answered for certain, unless and until anarchy exists. But the question, “Is anarchy worth striving for?”, is an ethical question, and to this every anarchist will certainly answer yes.




You must log in or register to comment.

subrosa wrote

Sketching something out, sleep-deprived, critique if you feel like it:

I like to think of freedom not as a set or range of choices, but as a quality of social relations. More or less as a synonym for power. The kind of freedom/power that anarchy makes possible is one you can't find anywhere else, and that alone makes it a 'more' perfect freedom than the inescapably limited range of choices available to the individual/person.

The collective force generated in social-economic association (admittedly, an awkward formulation, I can only work with established categories) is currently used against the individual. But the very same collective force can be a liberating force in freely associated, anarchic collectivites, where "the collective" is really just people out there doing stuff with some attention to what others are doing. Without any center to it, but with multiple entry points.

If we can learn to 'harmonize' our needs and desires and activities and processes (the opposite of pointless competition antagonizing forced cooperation), this sort of power might turn out to be a ton of fun, a source of endless self-liberation.

The social pressure mechanism against the "freedoms" that we wouldn't want to grant anyone seems like an unfortunate necessity in only the worst possible anarchy. It would be an anarchy that hasn't quite 'harmonized' yet, where people still have to play a softer version of culture-cops to maintain the most basic social peace.

The text as pasted here does what it sets out to do, but it seems like the author had to use the kind of anarchy that, with its absence of government, just barely qualifies as anarchy. It's a fair 'warning' that anarchy on its own doesn't promise anything else. But what makes it a beautiful idea are the possibilities that come with it, the possibility of truly and mutually empowering relations between the individual and the (apolitical, unbordered, network-like, open waters) collective.

In a very real sense, even in anarchy are we free to interfere with the ability of others to do what they choose. We just wouldn't be authorized to do so, wouldn't have a right to do so. We would simply have to deal with the consequences.