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Is anarchism overly complicated?

+2 votes
In your opinion, is anarchism overly complicated?

If you have further questions, I'll try to explain what I mean.

I have no clue of how to tag this without mentioning anarchism in the tag, so suggestions on that matter would be great.
asked Dec 15, 2015 by human (3,740 points)
i think the society in which we live is overly complicated, which contributes to the problems with it that anarchists talk about
as someone with tendencies on both sides (desiring simplicity and--what i consider--an acknowledgement of complexity) i would say that this is an issue of bias.

we have all had experiences with people of bad faith who tended in one direction or the other, and i expect that is informing our tendencies. ie if we have had more exposure to people who falsely simplify things (like feminists talking about sex work, or most people talking about intimate violence), then we will tend to despise (false) simplification. if we've had more exposure to people like grad students-with-more-language-than-ideas, then we'll err against complication.

pity those of us with intimate knowledge of both! ;)
well, what i was trying to say about "society overcomplicating things" was more or less a reference to bureaucracy and the tendency to take issues and make them as far removed from immediate reality as possible...but i guess this also manifests itself in oversimplification like with the feminist movement, trying to make their struggle a good vs. evil thing against "the oppressor"

in my experience, i always got really frustrated in school when both in the classroom and out (i went to private school most of my pre-adulthood, which has an intellectual arrogance more rare than in public schools) and often you'd be presented with certain kinds of logical reasoning, and if you didn't understand it you were a lazy idiot, which to me is both overcomplicating things and being lazy yourself in not trying to find a way to explain things that make sense. On the other hand, what is an equally common trend i've noticed throughout my life is to turn certain matters into emotionally charged sound bites, not unlike what politicians do constantly, which is encapsulates the feminist movement thing too...i always just get confused as to how people can be so terrible at taking a look at themselves, i don't believe the majority of people do this on purpose, there is just this blind that they can't see through....cops will unfortunately continue to act the way they do without any questioning of the premise of their job (the self-righteous harassment and taxation, and this even occurs with cops who know how stupid the whole system is, for example, the cops who made the show "the wire" (which i by the way, think is great show regardless) will always see a need for policing period, and having seen every episode they seem to think that the problem is just the particular crimes cops are politically motivated to prosecute...

well, there's my rant on bias...
@dot: you make a great point.

over-simplifying is no better than over-complicating. i am not sure if this is what you meant, but the kind of simplification you describe in that comment sounds like what i think of as reductionist thinking. (i am also not sure if i use that word correctly). as one who desires simplicity (and surely acknowledges complexity as a real and necessary aspect of life) as much as possible, i constantly try to check myself on exactly that: am i being reductionist?
i'd perhaps throw into the pot that the conditions within which we speak have a great deal to do with this, so funky@ i cannot reduce you to reductionist. :-)

many aspects of our communion with others are outside of our control in varying degrees: placing and timing; writing, speaking...singing(?); and so on. writing in any form, for instance, necessitates far more abstraction and distance than does sitting around a fire and chatting, although i know surrealists attempt to greatly reduce, if not undermine, this consequence with communal automatic poetry.

1 Answer

+5 votes

this is a good question.

my initial answer:

no, the concepts behind anarchy (even anarchism) are relatively simple, even to me (a simpleton). one might say they are a (not the, but a) "natural" way of being and relating in the world.

however, what makes anarchy complicated where the rubber meets the road - living our lives - are the multitude and magnitude of indoctrinations and ideologies that the world we currently inhabit imposes upon us, from the moment of our conception/birth. all (or most) of which are intended to ingrain in us principles and desires that are completely contrary to anarchy.

so, we have this kind of innate sense of wanting to be free, yet we are constantly told that we should want something else; authorities, social contracts, law and order, etc. and of course, those things are imposed on us regardless.

add to that what human mentioned above: the different flavors and ideological leanings of anarchism, and the tendency for those talking/writing about it to be overly verbose, intellectual, and reliant on historical writings (which adds yet another level of mediation due to language and style differences between timeframes). 

then, yeah, i can easily understand how one might see it as complicated.

in general, i think people tend to complicate things rather than simplify them. and when it comes to communicating ideas, i wish people would more often aim for conciseness and simplicity, rather than verbosity and complexity. and i know that ain't always easy. especially for those that attended the academy.

answered Dec 16, 2015 by funkyanarchy (10,260 points)
i'm drawn to most of your answer funky@, but the last paragraph i wonder...

for one, i don't equate complication with complexity. i don't see academic thought necessarily complex, although complicated; nor those all-too-rare occasions of open-ended, deep conversations among trusted friends as complicated, but complex.

the former's tendency toward generalization (often in the form of logic/reason)  is often at base fairly simplistic due to their inherent reliance upon generalities. complication arises often enough solely as retrospective justifications.

the latter takes far more time, often mixes story, emotion, reason and, again, trust as its plaited together, say, around a fire. there often isn't any need for justification, although one may be asked to provide some. i see in this, complexity.

all in all, in complication i see more of a controlling, managed cognitive approach. in complexity i tend to feel conscious, semi-conscious, non-conscious threads, as well as many unmanageable and perhaps ineffable traces at play.
I can't answer for f@, but complexity adds to it being more complicated, at least for me. Something being complex on it's own, per se, doesn't necassarily mean it's complicated, as complex just means, in my view basic understanding, involving a lot of parts and what not. Adding all these different parts and what not makes it more complicated to explain than it needs to be.

So, like for example, when I try to teach someone to fly-fish, I don't get into the specifics for why they need to form the loop when casting or how the flies are tied because it'll over complicate the matter.

With anarchism, in my experience, when one asks or is curious about anarchism, the person is usually told to read Peter Kropotkin or Mikhail Bakunin after it's briefly explained of what anarchism is.

Did that make any sense whatsoever?
ah, fly-fishing. some of the few, and best, memories with my father...:)

yes, some sense was made, although we may just be speaking past one another a bit. after all, the internet only complicates what could perhaps, in other occasions, emerge as a shared conversation as an evening unfolded.
af, i definitely agree there is a difference between complexity and complication. and i like the examples you used to demonstrate that. in that last paragraph, perhaps i could have used "complication" instead of "complexity".

then again, i also agree with human that complexity tends to increase complication.
funky@ and human, i do think i see what you're saying and it's difficult, if not impossible, to fully separate the two meanings i'm getting at. i'm sorta using 'complexity' in a way reflecting the emergence of self-organizing patterns (an echo of f@'s 'natural' way of being) and 'complicate' in a way reflecting various constructions of humankind which to tend to reproduce certain anthropocentric patterns only.

thus, for me, human's fly-fishing already contains some complication within a complexity of already interconnected emergent spontaneous patterns; humans, fish, the ecosystem of the mountain stream, the bioregion, and so on. perhaps for me the question at least partially hinges on some difference in spontaneity and rational (pre-)calculation or intent...?