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For those of you where the individualism-collectivism debate exists, what is it all about?

Submitted by Tequila_Wolf in AskRaddle

Can you give an illuminating example or two of how an individualist or a collectivist would act differently?

In my simple understanding of it, it's not clear to me how there isn't a straightforward false dichotomy happening.

  • Isn't it in the interest of an individual that the collective they're part of flourishes? and isn't it in the interest of the collective that the individual flourishes?

  • in what sense do individuals even exist? (I'm pretty steeped in the idea that we're all multiplicities and we don't have clear points where we begin and where other things end)

and while I'm here, (I'm not sure if it's even related), what's are einzige about?

I'm happy for you to just tackle one point! Perhaps the first question is most important. Looking for thought-through answers, preferably :)

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12

ziq wrote (edited )

The argument of collectivists is that they live to serve the 'greater good'. They place the collective before the self.

To the individualist, this makes no sense, because humans don't act unselfishly. We act to meet our own needs. When things comes to a head, survival instinct trumps all reason.

If the needs of the individual also happen to serve the community as a whole (which they often do, because we're typically social animals and seek approval from our peers) then great!

Things get tricky with collectivism when your needs happen to be in the minority.

The will of the majority will always take precedent in a collectivist society, and in the West, that means the will of indigenous Europeans.

Idk if you've ever tried to talk to people on r/anarchism about race, but people can be incredibly close-minded when race isn't something they need to think about in their lives. Just try politely asking r/@ to stop saying "kill all spooks" and watch the fireworks.

Give these first world anarchists their collectivist anarchist society and it's very likely they will serve each other first.

"The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."

When we're unfortunate enough to be part of the few - our needs can only be guaranteed by ourselves. That's what individualism is, the (perhaps cynical?) belief that strangers won't meet your needs if your needs clash with their own.

So individualists distance themselves from collectivism. Years of experience seeing how brutally the collective treats minority voices has trained them to be wary. If we woke up in a state-free world tomorrow, would people suddenly stop putting themselves and their families before strangers?

The individualist's mindset is - if we won't help ourselves, no one will.

An example - the system is overthrown. Anarcho-communism or anarcho-collectivism replaces it. The formerly sub/urban middle class take over a city. They then all decide they want to manufacture bicycles.

Everyone builds the factory, the whole community is psyched to get to work manufacturing. But they don't have any metal. Someone says "hey let's mine it from those hills over there". Everyone's in agreement.

So they excitedly march to the hills with their bulldozers to make their bike-fuelled utopia a reality.

Only problem is - a small group of strangers have made the hills their home. So the city people are stumped. "We need to build bicycles so we can manifest our dream of an anarchist utopia. But these strangers are living here and standing in the way of our bulldozers. What do we do?"

Brandon offers to take lead, "The needs of the majority outweigh the needs of this small group. I'll talk to them." Everyone nods enthusiastically.

Brandon approaches the strangers confidently, "Hey, strangers, so we all voted democratically in our new town hall, and we've decided that we're going to mine these hills to build bicycles to improve our city. So you can't live here."

The small group have no interest in leaving, after all, the hill is covered in fruit trees that will feed their families for generations, and they've already built their homes there.

But the collective has spoken, and the will of the majority prevails. They bulldoze everything.

That's basically the struggle between individualism and collectivism as I see it (as an anarchist-without-adjectives). And it's also why individualists reject democracy.

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ziq wrote (edited )

I should also mention -

Can you give an illuminating example or two of how an individualist or a collectivist would act differently?

Individualists don't aspire to create a rigidly structured society. Individualists don't want any one-size-fits-all rules that will dictate how they live their lives. Most individualists shun the idea of an organized society and instead wish to co-operate with others when the need arises, but otherwise be left to their own devices.

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ziq wrote (edited )

And individualists don't dream of 'revolution'. They don't aspire to attain the unattainable - to create order out of chaos. They believe in living an everyday anarchy in the here and now rather than pining for a permanent anarchy; a global society of enlightened communists that is too far out of reach to be plausible.

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Tequila_Wolf wrote

Thanks ziq, I was hoping you'd respond here since I vaguely remember you having mentioned individualism before. This cleared up quite a bit and I have some further thoughts.

So, it seems to me immediately that if that's what collectivism is about then it is shit. (when we think about its majority-rule nature. However, it's hard to imagine that there are anarchists who believe kind of justification of imperialism - as is done small-scale in the bicycle mining example. Though I suppose there are?)

But also it seems like there is a lot more options than collectivism and individualism, if individualism is defined as you have. It seems you can be anti-majoritry-rule while not having the mindset that "if we won't help ourselves, no one will." Just by considering proposals of gift economies and mutual aid that is typical of anarchists. While it might be the case the humans act selfishly, I'm not sure how that implies judging the individual or the collective as primarily valuable, since we can selfishly care about others.

And then other problems seem to arise when we think about how the collective is made up of individuals, and how an individual is bound up in the collective. It might be that, how the distinction between the two is clearer in some parts of the world and that seems to be why this debate doesn't exist where I am.

I'm also tempted to consider individualism, as the belief that strangers won't meet your needs if your needs clash with their own, as a reflection of understanding human nature in a fixed way, (not accidentally) in a way that we're socialised to by capitalism.

Are there collectivist arguments against individualism?

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ziq wrote (edited )

I'm sure every anarchist has good intentions, but the practical application of theory doesn't always go as planned.

There are no utopias in this world, and the struggle for anarchy isn't something that we'll ever 'win'. We'll always be fighting for it, and anyone that convinces themselves there's a finish line waiting somewhere in the distance is going to be in for a rude awakening.

The bicycle miners story is what happens when ideology is made sacred. All of a sudden, the collective-will and some dusty old books can be used to justify any atrocity as long as its done by 'the people'. That's the biggest setback of collectivism. History has repeatedly shown how any principles can be warped beyond recognition to suit the whims of the moment. People branding themselves as anarchists aren't above doing fucked up things to make their lives easier. That's why most individualists reject the concept of ideology or hard and fast rules.

You mention that we've been socialized by capitalism, and that's something we'll always have to live with. Even if you believe in violent anarcho-communist revolution; all the people that fight the revolution and shape the new world will have been influenced to varying degrees by capitalism and war. The society they craft won't be immune to their failings, no matter how good their intentions are going in.

Humans and their systems will always be fallible and vulnerable to both internal and external forces. The struggle for anarchy happens first in our minds, and we have a LONG way to go before we can even claim to be ahead in that fight.

..Letalone the fight to win over the minds of the majority of the population who are more interested in applying bandaids to the status quo than abolishing it. Even our own comrades are helplessly attached to the idea of making friends with the boots pressing down on their skulls.

A good example of this is that r/@ thread the other day where everyone was lecturing KZ to not alienate someone who was essentially a military recruiter advising queer kids to enlist in the US military to "protect America".

They all consider themselves anarchists, but their dedication to their utopian ideals won't let them see that talking down to a comrade for their decision to yell at an imperialist is horrible praxis.

In their minds, the military promoter is queer and thus a potential comrade. But in the minds of anyone being crushed by imperialism, there's no reason we should coddle a proud imperialist just in case they one day decide to read Kropotkin and 'convert' to anarchist ideology. It won't change anything for the victims of imperialism.

That is essentially the biggest battle between collectivist and individualist aka lifestylist thought. The collectivist is always working towards their utopia, while the lifestylist is just trying to live in as free a manner as possible. Whether that means building a commune, community garden, squatting, opening a free shop... these are all individualist/lifestylist pursuits. A pure collectivist would consider these pursuits a waste of time because they function within the system rather than abolishing it. Crimethinc especially gets a lot of flak for their lifestylism, but are Internet collectivists really doing anything so revolutionary that they should feel entitled to talk down to them?

The more arrogant collectivists will browbeat any comrade that breaks from their 4 step plan. "You're making anarchists look bad, you're being divisive, you have to use more tact, you're not going to win them over if you don't respect their opinion, everyone is a potential ally".

To an individualist none of this makes any sense, because they have no aspirations to convince liberals to convert so they can build a communist utopia together. They're just struggling to maintain a morsel of autonomy in the here and now and not focusing on distant theoretical futures that they have no power over.

I think that's the big difference between the two sides. One is trying to live anarchy right now, while the other is waiting for the right opportunity to present itself for revolution. And in the meanwhile, both are building awareness through propaganda and recruiting other disillusioned people to join the struggle.

Personally, I think its all semantics and anarchy doesn't need any prefixes attached to it. The collectivists won't have their utopia in their lifetime and the individualists will lose more and more of their autonomy everyday as life takes its toll. In the end, we're all just anarchists and arguing over a hundred years of conflicting theory isn't going to free us.

EDIT: btw the conflict between original flavor anarchism and social anarchism doesn't exist where I'm from either. It's largely an American thing. I've always heard that most non-American anarchists are better described as individualists rather than collectivists tho. Social anarchism started with Kropotkin and Bakunin in Europe and was quickly exported to the US, but indiv. anarchism existed in Europe from much sooner and social anarchism never unseated it, but simply added to it. In America, they found indiv. anarchism much more recently in the form of post-leftism and egoism, so it created a fork in anarchist practice that doesn't exist elsewhere.

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Tequila_Wolf wrote

I agree with a lot of what you've said - I'm just going to say what I need to to get to the most interesting bit for me.

I do think that we'll have to deal with the ways that capitalism has fucked us up for our whole lives. But I also think of anarchism as a multi-generational project of unlearning the old world. This seems somewhat implied when you say "The struggle for anarchy happens first in our minds, and we have a LONG way to go before we can even claim to be ahead in that fight." So if individualists understand people now as mostly selfish in a "if we won't help ourselves, no one will" way, that makes more sense, but I don't really understand why it seems like a kind of fixed position.

I get the sense that collectivists are authoritarian and that individualists as you've described them are good except for a kind of selfishness implied by their view of people.

I wonder how different worlds look when they're based on seeing yourself as co-constituting with and interdependent on all people versus a world understanding people as focused on themselves in a way that is cut off from that, which again seems implied by a "if we won't help ourselves, no one will" perspective. I'm getting confused also because it seems in conflict with your your relationship to the cosmos and everything seems to be at odds with this, where you seem to be saying that seeing ourselves as unrelated to everything is a mistake. Or are you saying that though we want to feel a part of everything again, our purpose at the moment is to be individualists focused on life as individuals, before the cloud is lifted?

All that said, I haven't thought of post-leftists like Crimethinc as individualists, so I'm going to have to think about how that fits in with everything.

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ziq wrote (edited )

I'm too tired to reply properly but I'm not an individualist, I'm an anarchist-without-adjectives.

http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/Anarchist_Archives/bright/cleyre/ts205.html

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Tequila_Wolf wrote (edited )

Ah. That makes a lot more sense now. Somehow I had not processed that anarchism without adjectives bit because I'd not thought of individualism/collectivism to be among the adjectives involved for some reason. Thanks, and sorry for the confusion!

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ziq wrote (edited )

Individualist anarchist: illegalists, mutualists, anarcho-primitivists, lifestylists, post-leftists, nihilists, egoists.

Social anarchist: anarcho communist, anarcho collectivist, anarcho syndicalist, social ecologist, bright green, anarcho-transhumanist, platformist.

Both: anarchist without adjectives, postciv

Either: Insurrectionist

Neither: post anarchist

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Tequila_Wolf wrote

Ah, thanks, this is interesting.

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ziq wrote (edited )

Henry David Thoreau was an individualist anarchist and his book 'Walden' probably gave most modern anarchists their first taste. I started out reading that before moving through the different social and individualist factions, but his simple living ethos will always be a big part of my anarchist make up. The rejection of society is a big part of his praxis so anyone that lives that lifestyle is going to struggle to fully embrace collectivism.

The form of social anarchism I've most flirted with is social ecology.

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ziq wrote (edited )

So if individualists understand people now as mostly selfish in a "if we won't help ourselves, no one will" way, that makes more sense, but I don't really understand why it seems like a kind of fixed position.

The thing about most individualists is they refute the idea of any kind of fixed positions. But they also hold as truth that all animals serve the self first, and any other considerations come after. You could call it a contradiction.

If we're talking about egoists - they might be happy to die to save the life of another, but they don't consider this an unselfish act. They'd be sacrificing their life for a selfish reason - be it for love or dedication to some sort of ideal.

They see love, heroism, etc as being selfish because we do these things primarily for ourselves. Mutual aid, we do it because it feels good to help others. So we do it to satisfy the self; which is a selfish act. Hope that's clear.

I get the sense that collectivists are authoritarian and that individualists as you've described them are good except for a kind of selfishness implied by their view of people.

This is how individualists feel about collectivists, yes. They feel that any attempt at global social anarchy will result in yet another failed Bolshevism-esque experiment because they see a collective as a form of power that can be corrupted. They don't believe that anarcho-communism would be that different in practice than Bolshevism.

Anticivs, for example, are certainly right about that, because any industrial society would fail their desires, whether it's fully communist or not.

A useful comparison is how Freetown Christiania no longer serves the purpose it set out to and has just become a place to buy weed. The founders got older, they lost interest in the experiment, and the whole thing is now barely a footnote in anarchist history.

But because it's just one community, its failure won't affect any of the other anarchist communes around the world.

In a global collective; failure of the system could spread like root rot and all of society could collapse like the Soviet Union did.

We would theoretically make every attempt to have Anarcho-communism be decentralized. But in practice, when billions of disparate people are involved and not just a small group of well-read radicals... And there are millions of hostile actors working to sabotage our efforts and return the world to capitalism... Any number of things could go wrong. If the people perceive global anarchism as having failed, that would be the end of it. Individualists would rather keep things on a small scale, build their small communities (or not) and exist despite the outside world.

It's also a given that the most dominant personalities would have the most influence over an ancom society. People would put their trust in leader figures - looking to them for guidance. There's a definite threat of a personality cult arising, and the personality then deciding to change things for the worse, with their followers backing them up.

There's no reason to think a global ancom society would be invulnerable to the cult of personality mentality that destroyed the USSR when today's anarchists are so infatuated with Bookchin or Chomsky and will attack anyone that criticizes them. And these are just a few thousand people, when you take anarchism to the wider population, the vast majority of people aren't going to be conscious of traps like personality cults. They wouldn't even care to reject hierarchy. Expecting billions of people to act super-enlightened and maintain an anarchist purity that they have no concept of is a fools errand.

I'm getting confused also because it seems in conflict with your your relationship to the cosmos and everything seems to be at odds with this, where you seem to be saying that seeing ourselves as unrelated to everything is a mistake. Or are you saying that though we want to feel a part of everything again, our purpose at the moment is to be individualists focused on life as individuals, before the cloud is lifted?

This is going to get a bit out there, which is why I made that reply a separate comment; it's not really related to anarchism and there's no science to it other than intuition.

When I said "when the cloud is lifted" I meant: when we die.

I think we take human form because we have stuff we need to work out. We can only address these issues if we isolate ourselves from the whole so we can focus on working through them. Every time we remove ourselves from the universal consciousness and take human form, it's to address the questions that arose from our previous lives.

For a very simplified example - if we were arrogant and brash in the last life - in this life we would work at being more humble. Every time we take solid form, we do it to reach a greater understanding. When we die and return to being one immense body of energy, we bring back those lessons we learned to the collective and its better for it.

But while we're human, we feel as if we're severed from the universe - the collective energy - and its difficult for us to see beyond the self unless we strive to reach that state through meditation or psychedelics.

But I also think of anarchism as a multi-generational project of unlearning the old world.

Totally agree.

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dellitsni wrote

They believe in living an everyday anarchy in the here and now rather than pining for a permanent anarchy

How can an everyday anarchy be possible when we are, to be sure, being dominated by the capitalist state almost no matter where we go (unless we abandon society completely and go to live on our own, which would be hiding from the government, a sort of revolution in itself)? How can you be free when you definitely aren't?

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NEOalquimista wrote (edited )

See the War of Canudos that took place in Brazil in the IXX century. The people didn't like the new republic, so they built a community in the middle of nowhere, a place to be known as Canudos afterwards. What was the plan? To be independent from a government that didn't care about them. They grew their own food, they made their own security and, obviously, they tried to bring more people in by walking to far villages telling about Canudos.

What did the new government do? Tagged them as dangerous, a threat to the country that was formely under a monarchy. Those people didn't want a republic. The republic turned out to be worse. It only favored the privilleged of society. They started making propaganda for people to stay away from Canudos.

Canudos already had tens of thousands of people living in it. It was simply HUGE and popular. It was working so well. The people were finally happy there.

But then... they were ordered to strike that "threat" with violence. The authorities raided the community and shot, raped and slit the throats of every last survivor, even children. Some heads were taken back to the city to be displayed. Canudos was over... just like that.

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ziq wrote

Look at anarchy as a state of mind rather than a form of government. How everyone else is choosing to live their lives shouldn't impact your own struggle for anarchy.

You can't control the lives of others but you can set an example by the way you live.

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DeathToAmerica wrote (edited )

The line between social and individual anarchy gets more and more blurred as social anarchists integrate egoism into their theory. Of course, a lot of them just do it for the memes, but it still impacts their politics.

http://www.spunk.org/texts/intro/faq/sp001547/secG6.html

There are also Mutualists and other pre-communist anarchists who fall squarely under the individualist banner. Anprims too.

I don't care for Stirner, but I approach anarchy from an anticiv position, so can't be described as a social anarchist.

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ziq wrote (edited )

(I'm pretty steeped in the idea that we're all multiplicities and we don't have clear points where we begin and where other things end)

I also feel this way, and would go further in saying all energy in the universe is one vast interconnected body and we only perceive ourselves as individuals because our sense of perception is severely clouded in this realm of existence.

From as soon as we're born, most humans are anxious, isolated and scared. I think we feel like this because we're temporarily inhibited from being aware of the universal body of energy we inhabit.

Even though we're still all part of the same whole, most of us are unable to discern it because of how limited our physical forms are.

This confusion and longing tends to manifest itself as anger, fear, desperation, etc. And our buried yearning to return to our previous understanding of ourselves as a unified vast body of pure energy is manifested with our need to form communities, to be accepted and loved by others, to fight the disconnection we feel from the universe.

We want to feel whole again, but our purpose here on Earth is to concentrate on one piece of the whole, to work out specific issues before the cloud is lifted and we return to the greater universe as all energy does.

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kore wrote

The amount of times I've just wanted to become undifferentiated matter.... consciousness is a blessing and curse.

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ziq wrote

I imagine being like Odo from Star Trek: Deep Space 9. Just turning into a puddle.

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Tequila_Wolf wrote

I'm looking forward to hearing more about this as time goes by :)

I'm not really sure what I think of things at this level or how they affect my emotions and purpose (I don't think of people as having purpose outside of any we decide for ourselves), but I do think of myself as unique points of a multiplicity that is part of the things beyond it. This is mostly just the influence of the philosophy of difference stuff I've read, and perhaps my own ubuntu-like understanding of the human relations.

(yes, those of you who only know the word from Linux, it comes from here. The guy who founded the company that made the OS is was born in South Africa)

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ziq wrote

There was a shortlived Mike Judge cartoon called The Goode Family about a family of hippies and the son was called Ubuntu, that's how I learned what the word meant.

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Defasher wrote (edited )

/u/ziq touched on something that I think demonstrates the big weakness of collectivism...

Ancoms on reddit were lecturing me for no-platforming an imperialist. They all ganged up to downvote me into oblivion for trying to explain my praxis. In meatspace that would translate to them all talking over me and then shoving me out of the room. Denying me my autonomy because they don't think the empire's stormtroopers should be told off.

They even started calling me a 'rightist' and called me a liar for saying I'm queer... Then I got heavily downvoted for taking offense to that fucked up accusation.

If I don't subscribe to their methods, I'm rendered a pariah and outcast. IRL their groupthink could be dangerous and most people in my position would be afraid to speak up.

Individualists don't believe that collectivism will result in anarchism for this reason. We don't trust that people can remain righteous while wielding the power of the collective - the mob stampede that will crush any dissenters.

Collectivism has a way of growing increasingly insular and hostile to any perceived threat to the officially sanctioned dogma. It makes sense for anarchists to reject anything that can easily morph into an unjust hierarchy.

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selver wrote

I'm pretty steeped in the idea that we're all multiplicities and we don't have clear points where we begin and where other things end

"Individuals" can be interpreted as "subjectivities" if that helps. We might not know where we end, or what "we" are, but we can probably agree that my subjectivity is different than yours, that our minds are at the intersection of many different forces, and that at the end of the day our subjectivity is all that really matters or exist for us.

Been reading a book about the the topic you brought up (Enemies of Society), and it opened with this passage that I really love, I've never seen it posted before:

I have no ancestors! For me the creation of the world dates from the day of my birth; for me the end of the world will be accomplished on the day when I shall restore to the elementary mass the apparatus and the afflatus which constitute my individuality. I am the first man, I shall be the last. My history is the complete result of humanity; I know no other, I care to know no other. When I suffer, what good do I get from another's enjoyment? When I enjoy, in what do those who suffer detract from my pleasures? Of what consequence to me is that which happened before me? How am I concerned in what will happen after me? It is not for me to serve as a sacrifice to respect for extinct generations, or as an example to posterity. I confine myself within the circle of my existence, and the only problem that I have to solve is that of my welfare. I have but one doctrine, that doctrine has but one formula, that formula has but one word: Enjoy! Sincere is he who confesses it; an impostor is he who denies it

This is bare individualism, native egoism; I do not deny it, I confess it, I verify it, I boast of it. Show me, that I may question him, the man who would reproach and blame me. Does my egoism do you any harm? If you say no, you have no reason to object to it, for I am free in all that does not injure you. If you say yes, you are a thief, for, my egoism being only the simple appropriation of myself by myself, an appeal to my identity, an affirmation of my individuality, a protest against all supremacy, if you admit that you are damaged by my act in taking possession of myself, by my retention of my own person,—that is, the least disputable of my properties,—you will declare thereby that I belong to you, or, at least, that you have designs on me; you are an owner of men, either established as such or intending to be, a monopolist, a coveter of another's goods, a thief.

There is no middle ground; either right lies with egoism, or it lies with theft; either I belong to myself, or I become the possession of some one else. It cannot be said that I should sacrifice myself for the good of all, since, all having to similarly sacrifice themselves, no one would gain more by this stupid game than he had lost, and consequently each would remain quits,—that is, without profit, which clearly would make such sacrifice absurd. If, then, the abnegation of all cannot be profitable to all, it must of necessity be profitable to a few; these few, then, are the possessors of all, and are probably the very ones who will complain of my egoism.

Every man is an egoist; whoever ceases to be one becomes a thing. He who pretends that it is not necessary to be one is a thief.

Oh, yes, I know, the word has an ugly sound; so far you have applied it to those who are not satisfied with what belongs to them, to those who take to themselves what belongs to others; but such people are in the human order; you are not. In complaining of their rapacity, do you know what you do? You establish your own imbecility. Hitherto you have believed that there were tyrants. Well, you are mistaken; there are only slaves. Where nobody obeys nobody commands.

Anselme Bellegarrigue

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culprit wrote

This is still fairly new to me, but the individualist perspective illuminated by ziq in this thread certainly seems short-sited and self-defeating. Maybe it's due to my past reading of Zen texts, but I have difficultly seeing the long-term potential of the individualist practice.

There appears to be a circular logic that traps the individualist and collectivist as ziq describes.

First, the individualist perspective critiques the power of the collective to inevitably be used to oppress minorities/individuals. Yet at the same time it admits that the individualist perspective is founded on the ego and selfishness understood as 'human nature'.

So this implies that the individual will never have the ability to unseat the power of the collective, and selfish egos become the only valid nexus of power. But collectives of selfish egos is generally the most common form of oppressive power found in history.

So it seems like the rejection of collectivism due to the difficulties identified from the individualist perspective (the lack of engagement in dealing with those difficulties and working to conceptualize alternative strategies) creates a circle of infinitely defeated struggle. The individualist can not provide any effective strategy to counter the problems attributed to the collective, but that rejection certainly appeals to the selfish ego.

I don't mean this as any type of attack, just a working through what I perceive as problematic reasoning that seems to dead-end into the status quo.

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selver wrote (edited )

But collectives of selfish egos is generally the most common form of oppressive power found in history.

Tons of the hardcore individualist work came from people who lived through WW1, and you'd have a real tough time convincing them that individualism is the real danger when they saw millions die in trenches for absolutely nothing but a ghost story (nation, duty, imperialism, etc.). No self-conscious egoist would be killing and dying in trenches for rulers.

Individualists tend to see the master-slave relationship as dependent on both parties. The relationship only works when the slave agrees to be a slave. No rulers have ever existed without a collective slave morality that kept the poor in line. If every individual refuses to put his own interests aside for the sake of the social order, then no one can possibly rule anyone, because ruling requires obedience. Individualists see collectivism as another form of that same problem, asking people to become slaves to an idea (the commune, the people, ownership of the MoP, etc.) weakens them, turns them into slaves, and now you're back to having people who need a ruler. Instead they advocate for radical individualism, so that all people refuse rulers.

And they aren't against working in groups with other people. They do that, they just approach it differently.

Whether there is a solution to the problem of the collective vs the individual is one that individualists have fought amongst themselves about for a long time.

*When I say "individualists", I'm referring to those in the egoist tradition. They aren't the only ones.

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culprit wrote

I guess the problem I see in the appeal to individualism or egosim is that most oppressive collectives exist due to the ego-gratifying nature of in-group affiliation. WWI ghost stories you mention were useful at organizing the 'slaves' into cannon fodder for the 'rulers' because individual egos could be persuaded of the individualized glory they would be afforded.

The problematic militaristic hero-worship and temporarily-embarrassed millionaire syndrome that is the clarion call to many of the right-wing proletariat has roots in the 'human nature' of selfish egos.

I guess I just don't see the qualitative difference in the anarchist individualist or egoist in practice to that of AnaCaps. Claiming to be more ethical yet having no consistent concept of a collective/cooperative understanding seems like very weak theory.

Maybe you could expand on this: "And they aren't against working in groups with other people. They do that, they just approach it differently."

Reading the above quotes from Anselme Bellegarrigue certainly seems to invoke a cult of ego that bares many hallmarks of the much dreaded collective. So much absolutist or binary language seems quite the antithesis of anarchism.

The focus on the ego as the nexus of truth is quite troubling to me because that quickly approaches something akin to 'Will to Power' and 'Might equals Right' which clearly is not a desirable outcome.

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selver wrote

I guess the problem I see in the appeal to individualism or egosim is that most oppressive collectives exist due to the ego-gratifying nature of in-group affiliation.

I agree, in-group politics are reactionary, but that's not confined to individualism. Every group has those dynamics whether they actually promote self-interest or not, but historically individualists have been the ones to ruthlessly criticize that tendency and try to fight it. Usually by pointing out the ways that those oppressive collectives are not in the interests of the members, and there's also a general hatred of conformity and group-think. An egoist worldview means acknowledging the self-interest that keeps people in groups. Communists would rather obscure the reason they're in an organization rather than just admit that it's self-interest.

AnCaps have way more in common with communists and socialists than with individualists. An-caps operate entirely off of a rights-based ethical system, their defense of capitalism is based on the right to one's labour, and stuff like the Non-Aggression Principle. They believe everyone must adhere to their conception of rights, similar to the communist's promotion of their own forms of rights (Kropotkin's right to well-being, Marxist labour/value rights, human rights, etc.). Ancaps and communists alike will accept no other way of life but their own. Individualists don't believe in rights at all, they reject any one universal code.

Maybe you could expand on this: "And they aren't against working in groups with other people. They do that, they just approach it differently."

Individualists have always been involved in political movements & activism. They just don't hold organizations above themselves. They will fight with them, not for them.

The focus on the ego as the nexus of truth is quite troubling to me because that quickly approaches something akin to 'Will to Power' and 'Might equals Right' which clearly is not a desirable outcome.

The point is that there is no Right, there is only Might.

2

culprit wrote

"The point is that there is no Right, there is only Might." What does this mean when two individuals have conflicting desires? It seems to mean the most mighty will prevail. That seems like an ideology of eugenics or 'survival of the fittest'. Deciding things by single combat seems like a devolution of social dynamics.

I did some reading on egoist/individualist thought the last few days, but nothing seemed to address this issue. I still don't understand what solutions this perspective is supposed to provide. I see the focus on ego as very fertile soil for dangerous factional power to arise. The egoist perspective diagnoses the problem of collective power, but it doesn't seem to offer any real direction on how to address it meaningfully.

I'd be interested in any functional description of the usefulness of this perspective in addressing the failings of collective power. All I've discovered is circular reasoning about it.

3

amongstclouds wrote (edited )

Just sharing some information I've found incredibly useful in the past!

The Anarchist Synthesis

On Synthesis

The Network of Domination


"But in order to truly understand the revolutionary project and begin the project of figuring out how to carry it out (and to developing an analysis of how the ruling class manages to deflect the rage of those it exploits into its own projects), it is necessary to realize that exploitation does not merely occur in terms of the production of wealth, but also in terms of the reproduction of social relationships. Regardless of the position of any particular proletarian in the productive apparatus, it is in the interests of the ruling class that everyone would have a role, a social identity, that serves in the reproduction of social relationships. Race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual preference, subculture — all of these things may, indeed, reflect very real and significant differences, but all are social constructions for channeling these differences into roles useful for the maintenance of the current social order. In the most advanced areas of the current society where the market defines most relationships, identities largely come to be defined in terms of the commodities that symbolize them, and interchangeability becomes the order of the day in social reproduction, just as it is in economic production. And it is precisely because identity is a social construction and increasingly a saleable commodity that it must be dealt with seriously by revolutionaries, analyzed carefully in its complexity with the precise aim of moving beyond these categories to the point that our differences (including those that this society would define in terms of race, gender, ethnicity, etc.) are the reflection of each of us as singular individuals.

Because there is no common positive project to be found in our condition as proletarians — as the exploited and dispossessed — our project must be the struggle to destroy our proletarian condition, to put an end to our dispossession. The essence of what we have lost is not control over the means of production or of material wealth; it is our lives themselves, our capacity to create our existence in terms of our own needs and desires. Thus, our struggle finds its terrain everywhere, at all times. Our aim is to destroy everything that keeps our lives from us: capital, the state, the industrial and post-industrial technological apparatus, work, sacrifice, ideology, every organization that tries to usurp our struggle, in short, all systems of control.

In the very process of carrying out this struggle in the only way that we can carry it out — outside of and against all formality and institutionalization — we begin to develop new ways of relating based on self-organization, a commonality based on the unique differences that define each of us as individuals whose freedom expands with the freedom of the other. It is here in revolt against our proletarian condition that we find that shared positive project that is different for each one of us: the collective struggle for individual realization. " -The Network of Domination: From Proletarian to Individual: Toward an Anarchist Understanding of Class, Wolfi Landstreicher.