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Is anarchy about; no government, no hierarchy or both?

+3 votes

Is anarchy about; no government, no hierarchy or both?

I think this is an important question and I all I have really seen about it is some evidence 'that the first RECORDED anarchists were against ALL hierarchy.

I personally do not know how to come to the correct meanings or words or if words should be able to change meaning somewhat in modern times but something doesn't sit right with that for me. For example, not all hierarchy is bad. My relationship with my parents is a voluntary hierarchy that I find beneficial and also my relationship with the CEO of the charity I work for also works. I respect his experience and maturity. Plus he wouldn't need to sack me, he could just ask me to leave. But if he did I am sure I would of deserved it.

Maybe there are 'better alternatives' to hierarchy but is it not for the individual to decide mostly, in relation to the specific circumstance?

asked Sep 14, 2015 by gary cook (160 points)
oops, i accidentally hid your embarrassing repetition AD.

why on earth are you just repeating yourself? people are absolutely responding to your (odd, awkward, and bemusing) question. but perhaps you'll hear me if i say it this way: children do not have any responsibility to the people who brought them into the world. they had no choice in the matter, and it is not necessarily some favor that the progenitors bestowed upon them.

but actually, this topic deserves its own thread.

fwiw, your argument is humanist as i understand humanism, which is to say that (among other things) it assumes that human life is the best, and that more human life is better than less.

i for one find that perspective to be obviously fallacious.

"...How about responding to the original argument, i.e. "Without their reproductive organs (and the ways they were used in) the children wouldn't even exist. They expand the child's options from [A. not existing] to [A. Not existing + B. Existing on said conditions].""

the reverse perspective is more true than this: parents have responsibility towards the children since they brought them in the world to begin with, whereas BA and dot point out, the child didn't have anything to do with their parents reproductive organs.

To me, the argument that AD is making isn't really a "humanist" argument, but an argument for some debt that doesn't actually exist, like owing God your love, owing respect to soldiers...the list goes on.

they're not mutually exclusive rs666, but i think you're right: that is probably more the point of AD's insistence.
gary cook, i'd like to hear your definition of "hierarchy", in particular what you mean by a "voluntary hierarchy with your parents". in what ways does your relationship with them function hierarchically?

it would help me to understand your question better. thanks.
I have recently begun using the phrase birth debt and womb capital for these ideas.

2 Answers

+2 votes

I'm not sure that there is a simple A, B, or C answer to this. Although if forced, I would say C: Both.

I think part of the problem is what we mean by hierarchy when we say that. If you are talking about parents (or, in societies without nuclear families, adults- parents, aunties, grandparents, etc) in relation to children, some hierarchies will likely always exist, although it is important to note that in many societies where the power of adult influence is more diffused, there is less rigidly hierarchical relations between generations. Words like hierarchy, power, and authority get thrown around in a pretty reckless way in anarchist circles (I am certainly guilty of this), and that tends to leave all of them meaning maybe the same thing? But certainly nothing concrete.

In regards to the relationship of an employee to a boss, that is a clearly hierarchical relationship in a concrete way. Your boss maybe wouldn't sack you, but as your boss, he could sack you, which cuts you off from your means of survival in a relationship that is purely about capitalism (even if it is a charity - I work for a not-for-profit myself, but we are still complicit in and help maintain the larger system of capitalist relations).

Unless your parents are wielding your financial dependence on them over you in a similar way, this is different (and the way you refer to them in your question, I am assuming your relationship with them is mostly okay, so if not, my answer might change).

(Aside: There is a dumb old Bakunin quote about boots or shoes or something that you can look up if you really want, but I never particularly liked it.)

Regarding individual choice: sure, it is up to the individual, but I would be careful about this argument - it is really easy to fall into anarcho-capitalist terrain if you uncritically use arguments like this. As an example: I have a friend who is a pro-dom. People pay this friend to dominate them, but they are choosing to do so. Entirely voluntary relationship. That is different than me going to work and having to do what my boss tells me because I need to or I don't get paid anymore and then I can't pay rent and am homeless. 

This gets back to capitalism, but I think there are other forms of capital that need to be considered, such as our social capital. It might not be a monetary relationship, but there can still be hierarchies that are undesirable or constraining.

I'd try to write more about that, but I am tired and need to sleep now...

answered Sep 15, 2015 by ingrate (20,520 points)
edited Nov 14, 2015 by ingrate
In context, the dumb old Bakunin quote only makes sense if he "bows" to his own inability to do everything and know everything. And it's hard to imagine Bakunin, who hates, he says, even the word "authority," being very happy bowing to anyone or anything.
+3 votes

to speak directly to the primary question:

literally - at least etymologically - anarchy is about no rulers. which means government immediately falls by the wayside. hierarchy is somewhat more vague, depending on how one defines it and in what context. i would say any institutional hierarchy gets tossed. in direct relations between individuals, there may be some situations where what some might call "hierarchy" are necessary. 

i guess this brings up a question for me: what is the relationship between hierarchy and authority?

answered Aug 10, 2016 by funkyanarchy (10,540 points)
Anarchy is a social system without rulers, but not necessarily without rules. Whoever says "make no rules, obey no rules," is proposing a general rule he or she thinks it is be "good" to obey. An ethical notion of what one should do or how one should live. Contradictory at first glance, since it appears to suggest some sort of authority, but the key to anarchy is this: no being has any right to force another being to do anything. Freely given respect (to your CEO) and education (to one's children) seems fine to me. It even seems obvious that the parent has a responsibility to help the child become a free-living thing, as has been said above. Some might call it a duty. same thing. It's all in the attitude, which is absolutely critical to the dignity of the other. It is of utmost importance that all parties to any interaction remain free to associate, or not, in any way they feel is right. If any party changes the dynamic of the relationship into one of coercion-submission, that party is a bad-guy in the eyes of the anarchist. I think.
your inclusion of CEO in this is glaring to me.

i take it as fairly fundamental that relevantly respectful relationships are not possible between boss and employee. people can treat each other nicely, but the structure is inherently disrespectful (ie, it has nothing to do with the individuals involved, it is structural). to use your terms, i guess, i question the freedom of the employee, for sure, but to some extent the freedom of the boss as well.


'Anarchy is a social system without rulers',

i would probably say that anarchism(s) may be a social system, but not necessarily anarchy. as such some proposed social systems, like so-called anarcho-capitalism, might equate the notion of freely given respect to a CEO to an anarchic act. but as dot pointed out, the context isn't a bit anarchic, even if there's politeness by the bucketful.

What I mean when I say anarchy is also drawn from the etymological beginning of "without rulers," but I don't draw a distinction between "big rulers" and "little rulers." That is to say, I take it in the most severe sense as meaning "no authority over me." CEO, that is Chief Executive Officer, has three different words in it that are foundationally contra-anarchism.

As to family, iirc Marx traces the origin of the nuclear family in Capital Vol 1 and finds it to originate with, and be a direct mirror of, capitalist modes of production. This is to say that in so far as Anarchism is understandable as anti-capitalist it must also be understood as automatically contrary to the social form known as the nuclear family.

"Anarchy is a social system without rulers, but not necessarily without rules. "

i second af that anarchy is not at all (necessarily) a "social system". it is true that some anarchisms may have a social system as their goal; that is why i don't tend to use the word "anarchism" to describe my affinities. indeed, my own anarchy could never be characterized as such.

i also second dot's comments about ceo(s). you are talking about the institution of work - part of the economically derived and driven system(s), which you seem to wholeheartedly support. it is an institutional hierarchy, and it cannot in any way be reconciled with my desired anarchy. the relationship of boss/employee is absolutely and inherently hierarchical and authoritarian, regardless of what "respect" one affords the other in any given interaction. likewise, a cop that is "respectful" in some given situation is still a cop; part of a undeniably hierarchical, authoritarian institution, endowed by that institution with the power to dictate your behavior (or imprison you).

i have never been convinced that there can be rules without rulers. it obviously depends on how one defines "rule"; but if a rule is something that can be enforced (which is largely how i define it), then there are rulers to enforce it (even if the actual enforcement is carried out by the rulers' henchmen). and if something cannot be enforced, then it is not a rule, in my mind.

i admit, the question of rules is an interesting and nuanced one. i have had several recent (face-to-face) discussions around this topic (inspired by some recent events in my area), and it is not so cut and dried. there can be confusion (maybe even overlap) between a rule, a warning, a request, a threat, an expression of desire, etc. it might warrant a separate question/discussion.

having "respectful" (a hugely subjective term that can only be defined in a given context) relations with those one chooses to relate with as such is great, and does not conflict at all with my concept of anarchy. but when you start talking about "rights" and "duties", you've lost my interest; because that circles back to the current dominant paradigm of accepting external authorities telling one how to live. simply doesn't work for me.

free association and disassociation are concepts i have very strong affinity with.

Aaah, if any anarchists on this website EVER fully agree with me -- especially dot, funkyanarchy and StrawDog -- I will be very disappointed. Just now looking for ammunition in Proudhon's Philosophy of Misery (very spiritual work by the way) I stumbled on a line something like "I honor your idea by refuting it."

Variety the spice of life.

To the original question: anarchy is clearly about both: no government and no hierarchy (assuming the meaning of hierarchy suggests government of one by another). Beyond that we all have unique perspectives that are relatively close or distant. I admit I think the egoists' and anarcho-communists' ideas are evil; they would say the same about mine; but I can't say they aren't anarchists. Just misguided anarchists.