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Expertise isn't the same as authority, why Chomsky is wrong

Submitted by ziq in Anarchy101 (edited )

Once you start justifying hierarchy, you twist a knife in anarchy. Ever hear the phrase 'all power corrupts'? It's not a meme; it's the entire reason anarchy exists as a practice.

Legitimizing authority enables archy. Doesn't matter if you call yourself an anarchist while justifying hierarchies you personally approve of for whatever reason. NO authority is legitimate in the eyes of anarchy. Yes, even in a parent-child relationship.

When you legitimize an authority, you're granting it power, presenting it as an institution that needs to be obeyed at all costs, and it won't stop there. It'll want more power because that's the nature of power. Always grows, never stops to examine its devastating effect on its surroundings. Power is a license to do harm. Whether it was your original intention to enable a violent force of power when you legitimized an authority is irrelevant. It will do harm and the people who signed off on legitimizing it are culpable for that harm.

Anarchy is the opposition to authority. To pretend otherwise would be a blatant misrepresentation of what anarchy is.

A lot of people confuse expertise for authority and then use that confusion to insist anarchy doesn't oppose all authority.

A carpenter might be good at what they do, an expert even, but that doesn't make them an authority.

Authority is not simply an isolated instance of the use of force, but an ongoing social relationship between two parties. It is a relationship where one party has the socially legitimized right to command, and the other party has the corresponding obligation to obey.

Consider a simple example: a wild beast attacks me and I kill it in self-defense. This is an instance of the use of force, it is not an instance of authority. Consider another example: I notice that my friend is in the path of a speeding car and pull them away. Again, force - not authority. Anarchy takes no stance against force, just authority.

People that repeat the 'justified authority' fallacy are parroting Chomsky's views, as seen in this interview.

Chomsky is never a good source for what anarchy means. He's made a career of watering down anarchy to better appeal to liberals. This whole confusion seems to stem from his flawed definitions. Far too many anarchists look to Chomsky as an authority.

The term 'legitimate authority' he uses in this video is specifically what leads to so much confusion with Anglo Anarchists.

Instead of saying "anarchy is against authority and hierarchy", he makes the mistake of saying anarchy is only against 'illegitimate authority' which is baffling because all authority is unjust to an anarchist. Pulling his granddaughter out of the street isn't an example of authority, it's an example of force. Saving someone from being hit by a car has absolutely nothing to do with authority.

He also equates anarchy to the enlightenment and classical liberalism in this interview, which is a very western-centric thing to say, especially since the enlightenment oversaw the divvying up of Africa by European imperialists and other horrifically racist and genocidal acts.

I don't consider Chomsky to be an anarchist (because he's demonstrably not one) so his definitions aren't that important to me. But unfortunately they're important to a lot of people that call themselves anarchists and they keep repeating his flawed definitions to newcomers and create further confusion.

Saving someone from being hit by a car has nothing to do with authority. That's a fundamental misunderstanding of one of the most basic concepts of anarchy.

Every shitty political ideology out there claims to be for justified-authority and against unjustified-authority. We know it's horseshit when they deem bombing school buses 'justifiable' 'collateral damage', so why would we adopt their dangerous doubletalk to define anarchy? As soon as you start making allowances for authority, you've stopped supporting anarchy.

Changing the definition of 'authority' to make allowances for 'justified authority' as Chomsky is attempting is a pointless exercise that only confuses the uninformed and gives us baby-anarchists who come in not understanding the basic definition of anarchy.


Original post: https://old.reddit.com/r/Anarchism/comments/9aa4i5/no_anarchists_dont_believe_in_justified/

Comments

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2

noordinaryspider wrote

This makes a lot of sense.

Chomsky, like every other human being who has ever walked this earth, is fallible and makes mistakes sometimes. It is never a good idea to get all of your information on ANY topic from a single source.

That said, it's nice to see all the revisions happening on the wiki. I'm guessing that it's very timely for raddlers who are dealing with seasonal changes in how much personal time they have for self-education.

Thank you.

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Zzzxxxyyy wrote

My major question is then, if you achieved your utopian Anarchy non-state, how to you stop illegitimate power structures from (re)forming without collective force?

How do you prevent a bad actor from exploiting the power vacuum? What if they do something like go fill the atmosphere with CO2 and mess up the whole planet for everyone?

I’m not pro-state, but I don’t see how else you maintain anarchy against the inevitable few who would seize the opportunities afforded by having no authority.

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ziq wrote (edited )

Use force to murder them.

Your statement is really "We need a standing police force" and we simply don't.

See Shaun King.

He spent countless hours tracking down and identifying several nazis that attacked people using online footage.

No one deputized him or whatever, no one gave him a badge, he just did it because it had to be done. The designated investigative authority (cops) didn't lift a finger. And the trying authority (courts) actually gave them lenient sentences and didn't even take into account that they were white nationalists at a white nationalist march, wearing hitler paraphernalia, engaging in hate crimes by beating the shit out of a black person for being a black person. The courts just tried them for regular assault and gave them pitiful sentences. The authority stood in the way of justice every step of the way because the perpetrators were white males, like authority always does. Authority was never about justice.

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ziq wrote

And btw, there are no utopias and you can't achieve anarchy. Anarchy is a perpetual struggle against authority.

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ziq wrote

And power structures aren't illegitimate or they wouldn't exist. They're very much legitimate and that's the problem.

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Zzzxxxyyy wrote

Idk. Nothing you said here really had anything to do with my questions.

If it’s ok for you or other good guys to “kill them” then you’re acting as an authority.

This non-state stuff mostly seems like a way to dupe people into an ethic of isolation, the strongest survives, etc.

Not my bag. I like Chomsky’s view that Anarchism is challenging power structures and taking measures to tear them down when you find them to be illegitimate (not serving the will of the people). I don’t see myself getting on the anti-Chomsky train here.

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ziq wrote (edited )

Force isn't authority.

Authority is not simply an isolated instance of the use of force, but an ongoing social relationship between two parties. It is a relationship where one party has the socially legitimized right to command, and the other party has the corresponding obligation to obey.

Anarchy doesn't need to wait for states to go away. States aren't going anywhere.

You're wasting your time asking 'what if' rhetorical questions about some bullshit utopia that isn't coming. That's not what anarchy is.

(The practice) of anarchy is the opposition to authority, not the absence of it. Authority is what is allowing the earth to be polluted. Look around you. We're in the middle of a mass extinction. Authority is doing that. Not anarchy.

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ziq wrote (edited )

This non-state stuff mostly seems like a way to dupe people into an ethic of isolation, the strongest survives, etc.

Archy already gives us an ethic of isolation. We're more emotionally isolated from each other than we've ever been at any point in human history.

Archy already gives us a world where only the strongest (wealthiest) survive. Where the poor are left to die on the streets or denied basic life-saving care by paramedics. Anarchy is the rejection of conditions that create these power vacuums. If you oppose authority outright, refuse to accept any authority as legitimate, you can remove yourself from culpability for the system that rubber-stamps authority so it can enslave, pollute and murder and destroy entire ecosystems.

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ziq wrote (edited )

Authority enshrines itself as sacred so that anyone that would dare oppose it is in violation of the authority's laws by default. Any opposition to the authority is automatically grounds for arrest, imprisonment or execution. Rulers use authority to shield themselves from responsibility when their enforcers bomb school buses full of children or shoot black people in the face for 'resisting' their authority. Authority does not prevent people from doing harm, it enables them to do more harm on a much wider scale, and prevents them from having to answer for it. Authority is institutional harm with the absence of repercussions.

An individual taking it upon themselves to kill someone who is deliberately destroying an ecosystem and making countless beings sick is not the same as a state building a protected institution that can murder and pollute and not have to answer to any of its victims.

An individual deciding to take direct isolated action to stop a horrific crime against nature does not make them an authority. They have not been enshrined or officiated or certified as an authority. Their use of force is not institutional. It is an isolated action against an oppressive authority to end their violent hierarchy. Destroying a hierarchy doesn't automatically create a new hierarchy or make the person who destroyed it an authority.

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ziq wrote

Direct action taken by an anarchist against a violent authority does not somehow make the anarchist take the authority's place on the hierarchy. The anarchist doesn't start receiving the authority's paychecks or privilege or license or badge or social status. The anarchist's station in life is unchanged at best, or at worst the anarchist is imprisoned or killed for their action.

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Zzzxxxyyy wrote

So is the motivation here to create an authoritative definition of Anarchy that excludes Chomsky’s views?

I personally appreciate his thoughtful approach to maximizing human freedom, while balancing the need for protection against human exploitation and tragedy of the commons. Perhaps in implementation he’s not always correct, but I like his underlying model. I personally think he’s an anarchist, because at the root of his model is challenging power structures and tearing them down when they don’t serve the greater good. No hierarchy is sacred.

On another note, while I know this conversation is important to you, don’t let my views upset you. I think Anarchy is strongest with a range of approaches, sometimes conflicting, hopefully always respectful and inclusive where possible.

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ziq wrote

The definition already existed. "No authority." He decided that wasn't good enough and tacked the word 'unjustified' onto it for no good reason.

I'm not upset, just passionate.

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Zzzxxxyyy wrote

So would you have laws? If so, how would those laws be interpreted and enforced? If not, how do you fairly and without bias prevent exploitation of the weak?

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ziq wrote

You're falling into that trap again of thinking of anarchy as a social system instead of a perpetual struggle against authority.

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Zzzxxxyyy wrote

Isn’t that what Chomsky suggests?

I’m just trying to figure out what you’re suggesting.

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PerfectSociety wrote

No, Chomsky suggests that certain forms of authority/hierarchy can be "justified". This is an stark contrast the the core principles of Anarchism.

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Zzzxxxyyy wrote

Anarchism as defined by The Anarchism Authority?

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PerfectSociety wrote

No, Anarchism as defined in the most rational sense in the context of Political Philosophy. You've brought up this point of an "Anarchist Authority" as an attempted reveal of hypocrisy among Anarchists on this topic, multiple times on this thread. Our response has been the same - expertise and authority aren't the same thing. A lack of authority does not indicate a lack of objective criteria for what makes for the most rational definition of a term within some context (in this case, the context of Political Philosophy).

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ziq wrote

Isn’t that what Chomsky suggests?

No.

I’m just trying to figure out what you’re suggesting.

I've given you hundreds of words describing in simple terms exactly what I'm suggesting and you keep responding with confusion. It's kinda no longer worth my time.