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Is anarchism left or right?

0 votes
Is anarchism a left or right wing philosophy?
asked Jul 16, 2016 by Zer0 (300 points)

Geez, all I wanted to know was why you believe nationalism = right-winged. I've never heard an anarchist proclaim that everyone would be equal.

"Egalitarianism holds that all humans are equal in worth/social status. Anarchists agree with this."

first of all, what makes you think you speak for "anarchists"? second, not a single anarchist i have affinity with would agree with that statement.

so, most here know that the word egalitarian riles me up a little too. but i think that zer0's definition is fine, on the face of it.Egalitarianism holds that all humans are equal in worth (let's leave the social status part out, for the moment, as both distracting and not that relevant). that's a fairly inoffensive way to start out in the world, but no one really lives that way. we all value some people more than others, and some groups of people more than others. that preference doesn't matter that much if we have limited influence over each other's lives.

but "egalitarian" principles often go with bodies of people who are supposed to make or keep people equal, which is one purpose of a bureaucracy, for example--but ends up just prioritizing people who are comfortable following rules and paying attention to fine print.

now that i've typed all that out, i remember this, which is a better direction to go in.

http://anarchy101.org/2857/are-anarchists-egalitarians?show=2857#q2857

and perhaps this http://anarchy101.org/598/what-do-anarchists-mean-by-equality#c601

just to make sure i am being clear: when i said "not a single anarchist i have affinity with would agree with that statement", i did not mean how the term egalitarianism is defined, but the concept that "all humans are equal in worth/social status".
a short answer for me, personally....neither. i consider my desire for anarchy as letting go of left/right thinking.

8 Answers

+5 votes
 
Best answer

Historically, anarchism arose out of left wing movements, that ground has been covered in other answers so I'll leave that at that. However if you're intent on forcing all political ideologies and philosophies into this narrow framework of understanding, and somehow want to find some utility in it, I think it's also worth examining and understanding the history of this framework. 

The idea of there being a spectrum from left wing to right wing originates from the French Revolution, where those who supported the establishment sat on the right, and those who sought to overturn it sat on the left of the assembly room. Throughout history, movements, ideologies and philosophies have been categorised as left or right according to a large array of criteria - the definitions from Wikipedia are a pretty good summation of this array. Now if we look closely at that array of criteria for assigning the labels 'left' and 'right', the common threads that appear are that leftist traits tend to be opposed to the establishment, concerned with change and 'progress', where as the traits associated with the right wing tend to support the establishment, and are concerned with opposing change and maintaining existing (or reverting to historical) arrangements of social relationships. Even Fascism (which is another ideology which defies the right-left dichotomy) can be placed on this one dimensional axis using these boiled down criteria.

According to this analysis anarchism is broadly speaking a left wing grouping of philosophies, as opposition to hierarchal authority (which is the common thread uniting all anarchists) can't be reconciled with supporting the establishment or conserving existing social arrangements. Anarchism is inherently opposed to the reality we live in.

The question is why would you want to use a reductive framework to try to all-encompassingly organise the history and current reality of political thought when to do so you have to reduce the framework even further? The only use I can see is if you're trying to make sense of politics objectively, assigning essential meanings to the names of ideologies like 'anarchism' and 'communism' which are supposed to mean the same thing to everyone. The problem is that politics is subjective and can't be made sense of objectively, trying to do so is a particularly bad habit of westerners, and more specifically Anglophones. Maybe it's because we're raised in liberal democracies, and the political language of liberal democracy - the words, phrases and concepts that liberal democracy uses to define itself, and as it happens our native political language - doesn't allow for subjectivity. Liberalism after all is a child of The Enlightenment, a period of time when we became obsessed with science, assigning essential meanings to things, and naming them to add to our ever expanding lexicon of nouns; and so it makes sense that the political language (and intellectual technology) that our upbringing equips us with is with is unable to deal with the fact that ideas and their names mean different things to different people at different times, and so words and concepts like 'anarchism', which are highly disputed and whose locus of ideas (the desire to be not be ruled) doesn't have anything to do with the loci of the objective right-left axis (progress/change vs conservation/stasis), are something that we have trouble assigning essential meanings to.

My solution has been to shed the political language that liberal democracy uses to define itself, to stop using it to try to understand ideas that are opposed to it, to stop trying to assign essential meanings to things and instead look at what things mean to me, what they mean to other people, and acknowledging any differences between the two, instead of trying assert an objective judgement of them. Of course I'll still assert subjective opinions, like 'anarcho-capitalism isn't consistent with anarchism', but that doesn't mean I have to assert an objective judgement - I can say 'anarchism means x to me, to me that is what anarchism is, even though you disagree' without asserting that someone else's anarchism is objectively wrong. Instead of trying to understand an ideology or philosophy from an external locus, I try to understand them by seeking out their own locus. I don't try to understand anarcho-capitalism by looking at it with anarchist concepts and frameworks in mind, I go to it's origin and focal point - classical liberalism. It's also why I use the term 'anarcho-capitalist' instead of some derogatory term, because it's the endonym anarcho-capitalists use to describe themselves. Anarchists have over hundreds of years developed their own frameworks of concepts and language to describe and discuss anarchism; they are the most relevant and useful frameworks to anarchism because they originated within it.

Sorry if that's confusing or hard to follow, I find it hard to talk about mental tools incisively and clearly XD

answered Jul 27, 2016 by Yosemite (5,660 points)
selected Jul 27, 2016 by dot

"Sorry if that's confusing or hard to follow, I find it hard to talk about mental tools incisively and clearly XD"

not at all to me.....i resonate with your answer a lot. especially this...

My solution has been to shed the political language that liberal democracy uses to define itself, to stop using it to try to understand ideas that are opposed to it, to stop trying to assign essential meanings to things and instead look at what things mean to me, what they mean to other people, and acknowledging any differences between the two, instead of trying assert an objective judgement of them.

and thanks for the background of the "left/right" designations.

+4 votes
Anarchism, as a recognizable tendency, unquestionably derives from the history of left-wing politics. The right is suffused with nationalism, capitalism, and institutional hierarchies; these primary attributes run directly against the foundational principles of anarchism.
answered Jul 16, 2016 by lawrence (18,030 points)
–3 votes
Anarchism is a left-wing philosophy but when referring to American Politics, it is like an extreme form of Libertarianism making it more towards the right.
answered Jul 17, 2016 by ElBravo_98 (80 points)
elbravo, i wish you'd flesh this out more. i wouldn't say that anarchism is an extreme form of the Libertarian Party (which your capitalization implies to me), but perhaps could be seen as an extreme form of libertarian thought... anyway, you haven't posted enough here for me to have a sense of where you're coming from, and i'm interested.
This as well: I don't run into many in our camps with right wing backgrounds and would be interested to hear more.

i have such a background, and i've been turning over various answers to my own question for some time now...

+6 votes
I like lawrence's answer as a starting point, but I would also argue that anarchism (as a lived practice as opposed to a rigid ideology) transcends the left/right framework which is, ultimately (at least to my thinking) based upon statist politics.

The concept of politics being limited to a left/right (and center?) is tremendously limiting, and like ElBravo hints at, anarchists do not fit neatly in the fenced in pastures of the left, having some places where our politics are more similar to the libertarian right (while not generally sharing any actual affinity with those people or their goals - they might call themselves libertarian, but when pushed, they are almost all minarchist, not anarchists, and they still hold tight to sacred cows like property, and worship spooks like the free market).
answered Jul 17, 2016 by ingrate (19,620 points)
Even if I don't provide "proof" that some say it is right-wing, why would you need it?

You want to know why some people would think that?

Example: http://politics.stackexchange.com/questions/10362/shouldnt-anarchism-be-far-right-since-right-wing-politics-opposes-big-governm
funkyanarchy and lawrence, some people think, left=big government and right=small government, and since anarchists want no state, they must be far-right. Simply different understandings.

that is a conflation of "smaller government" (which just means limiting the role of government to those areas considered appropriate by right-wingers) with the complete destruction of the institution of the state and its co-dependent institutions. even the most basic understanding of the term "anarchist" makes that quite clear. 

so to this: " total wingnuts, or ideologues ...", i guess i have to add: those with complete ignorance of what the term "anarchist" means.

The idea that left=big government and right=smaller government is a rhetorical trick of neo-cons, and didn't begin to gain traction until the late 1970s/early 1980s -- and then, mostly in the US and the UK. This was the phony mantra of anti-Communists, deregulators, union-busters, social safety net plunderers, industrial polluters, and warmongers... the coming to power of the anti-Welfare State/anti-New Deal ideologues. The so-called libertarian tendency that grew in the Reagan/Thatcher era reduced the discourse to big versus small government to distract people from the actual agenda: curtailing and/or dismantling government oversight (EPA, FDA, OSHA, NLRB, etc) while increasing overt and covert military destabilizations to gain access to overseas resources. It requires a fear of so-called socialism -- the fake idea that government will somehow intrude into your ability to make money, as if agricultural and dairy and fuel subsidies weren't a form of government assistance... Geez, you have me sounding like fucking Chomsky
Zer0, on some levels i can understand your questions regarding these silly (non)distinctions. the region i live in is rife with such rhetoric particularly over use of so-called 'public lands' (really stolen lands via genocide and deceit). one side favors extraction industry the other outdoor recreation industry. like lawrence and funky@ point out the former (so-called right wingers) use the language jeffersonian america and are seeking a sort of states rights approach to undermine federal control (except they have this penchant for being warvangelicals, pro-cop, pro-militiary and american global domination). their liberal opponents have labeled them 'anarchist' with every bit as much ignorance as the right on the subject of anarchy given that states' rights is no more anarchistic than Obamaland to those who live in such conditions.

the common ground between them is Economy. they both speak of the land in economic terms, of lives and relations as 'resources,' of development, etc. the liberals simply don't want to witness the destruction first hand: aluminum & titanium mining in asia/africa, shitty factories in asia, the huge amounts of fossil fuels involved, and so on, involved in their chosen industry. because of this underlying belief in Economy i see barely any difference between the two 'sides' where i live as such a belief is inherently conservative. oh, and both seem to uphold their property value uber alles at the end of the day.
–7 votes
I asked this question, but I decided to give a response. Fitting political ideologies on a line with A or B can lead to problems. Anarchism and many other ideologies may not fit neatly on the left-right binary, but considering that the right is capitalism and nationalism(institutional hierarchies), and the left is socialism(collective), communism, etc, i would associate it with the left. People on here have a huge problem with the left-right dichotomy though.
answered Jul 20, 2016 by Zer0 (300 points)
oh..ok. you have fun with that then.

"but considering that the right is capitalism and nationalism(institutional hierarchies)."

@Zer0, I suggest you read the article F@ (funkyanarchy) linked to and maybe this on nationalism. Now, if I understand you correctly capitalism is right-winged, so socialism would be left-winged as it's kind of the opposite of capitalism. I don't believe anarchism on its own proclaims it to be socialistic.

I know in the past, their have been "celebrities" of anarchism that some idolize today, that have been socialists, while there have been others rejected socialism.

I'd say anarchism is neither of the two and doesn't belong on it. Hasn't this question been asked before

"capitalism is right-winged, so socialism would be left-winged as it's kind of the opposite of capitalism"

i realize that is a common perspective, and in some ways i definitely see how they can be viewed that way. but i personally don't see them as opposites. i see them both as socio-economic institutions that are based on common assumptions: mass society, mass production and consumption, ownership (particularly of the "means of production"), the unquestioned value (and definition) of work, the mediated relationships that are required to function within such systems, etc.

they have more in common than they do in contrast, imo.

I see socialism and capitalism as just being the same shit (work, a lot of meetings, production, and other shenanigans), but with different owners. Simplest way I can put it. :)

I'm just trying to figure out Zer0 A & B binaries, with capitalism being right-winged and i assume they feel socialism is left-winged. I'm not sure what they consider the left is, but that's my guess. I didn't really add Zer0's assertion that nationalism is inherently right-winged because that really went nowhere on them showing that it is.

edit: Nevermind Zer0 straight out said the left is socialism/communism in their answer above. So, it's possible Zer0 is a social anarchist that sees anything outside that view as wrong. That's my feeble's mind guess. :)

If nothing else, outgroups tend to become conceptually flattened, perhaps as an corollary to the availability heuristic, so it may be that everything not under the label "socialism/communism" looks the same to them.
0 votes
While Anarchism is broadly, and historically, associated with the political left, as Lawrence explained, I am confident there are trends and tendrils that can be accurately described as right wing.

For the sake of a starting point, here are the opening lines from the Wikipedia entries for both wings.

"Left-wing politics supports social equality and egalitarianism, often in opposition to social hierarchy and social inequality."

"Right-wing politics hold that social stratification and social inequality are inevitable, natural, normal, or desirable, typically defending this position on the basis of natural law, economics or tradition."

Taking a look at the opening for Right Wing politics, it is not necessary for one to advocate for social stratification and inequality, but merely to consider it to be inevitable or natural. In this sense, some modes of post-left anarchy would be closer to the political right than left, and texts like Desert are understandable as strictly right wing in themselves, whatever the politics of their authors. Nihilist positions that find "humans" to be foundationally unequal or incomparable are also right wing. Some individualist positions, and certainly Egoism also fall onto the right in this description.

Laying aside the definitions for the moment, simply put there are also self identifying anarchists within what we'd call the Libertarian camp whose politics are not reducible to anarcho-capitalism as well as libertarians whose politics, when properly understood, are just post-left anarchy by radically different names.

Source: I came to anarchy through extreme far right state communism without ever passing through the left.

It helps to imagine the circle of American politics as positioned on a sphere. Go far enough in any direction and you can end up anywhere else.
answered Jul 21, 2016 by StrawDog (1,390 points)
just curious. when you say 'extreme far right state communism' are you speaking of so-called national bolshevism?
No, I wasn't an adherent to any formally defined trajectory.

"Go far enough in any direction and you can end up anywhere else."

i kinda like that.

StrawDog, If I believe that social stratification and inequality is inevitable and natural but advocate for a society based on left-wing principles, then would I be right or left?

People on the right do advocate these things(like capitalism and some may support social inequality), they view it as a good thing and don't have an issue with it like the people on the left do. People on the right believe these things are inevitable and defend this position. 

Communism is left-wing, not right. Your referring to the western concept of communism? 

You'd probably be engaged in some sort of self-deception, which is a normal mode for humans so not really a thing to be derided. Ostensibly you either don't really believe that it's inevitable or you don't really advocate for egalitarianism, or potentially neither as the holding of two conflictual beliefs is a good psychological strategy for protecting a third, different, belief. Of course, it is also conceivable that you really are divided against yourself, perhaps each hemisphere of your brain champions its own conflictual politics, but none of the aforementioned is really determinative of your actual politics. Personally, I'd ignore the content of your claims and look at your actions to suss out what might pass for the real of the matter.

It is true that there are people on the right who advocate these things, it is after all one of the markers in the definition in my answer, however the Right is by no means limited to this. It's worth noting that not all people on the left take issue with Capitalism, and in America the bulk of the mainstream left openly supports it, they only quibble about how to manage its excesses.

It is true that communism is generally associated with the left, but I can't imagine it is that difficult to conceive, for example, a communist politics that takes as a starting point that social stratification and inequality are normal, natural, and inevitable.
+3 votes

Personally I find these labels 'left' and 'right' monotonous at best. They march one's worldview, activity, and lifetime right into a narrow field pre-plowed for politics and battle. Left, left, left, right, left...The muster called, the inspection over, identity complete...off to war. *

To illustrate in brief: like some 'right-wingers' bandy about , I desire to be left alone, unmolested by others coercing me to conform to their way of life. Like many of those on 'the left' I seek more conviviality and intimacy which adds to my life and I'm greedy for more. However, I have no love for  the idiotic reifications used in place of my living relations, such as 'sovereignty' and 'community' respectively. I have even less patience with the nagging morality and fractiousness which accompanies them.

(Edit) I'd like to add here that each desire, for being left alone and for intimacy, are always at play as me, but definitely become emphasized, more pronounced, depending on context.

Once my own life, which (need I really say this?) includes those I resonate with most, comes to be regarded as comparable and/or identifiable with an ideal, a sort of Feather of Ma'at, I realize quickly that my life has, and my desires have, just become devalued accordingly, since at the end of the proverbial day, that Ideal will always be held in higher regard than me by those who weight it against their fictitious feather.

(Edit: Addendum)

* Why monotonous, one might ask? The left/right spectrum boils down to  one tone, an economic view, who gets what  and how they get it

Economy seems to me the raison d'etre of the  nation-state formula in that  it provides both the very opening ('market,' 'agora') and regulatory function (policing, laws/rules of the game, schooling). 'Left' and 'right' may be different moral sentiments regarding the logistics of moving 'things' around and where, that is, whether this ought to be more or less competitive or cooperative. However, neither 'wing' questions the notion of 'thing' which is the basis of 'commodity,' 'resource,' 'value/price,' 'standard of living,' and all the rest of economic conceptualizing. 

It is perhaps here where I vigorously reject the distinction between 'left' and 'right' and the whole meta-concept of political economy within which this opposition arose and remains relevant to this day.

answered Jul 23, 2016 by AmorFati (7,780 points)
edited Aug 4, 2016 by AmorFati

funkyanarchy,

ingrate said this- "I like lawrence's answer as a starting point, but I would also argue that anarchism (as a lived practice as opposed to a rigid ideology) transcends the left/right framework which is, ultimately (at least to my thinking) based upon statist politics."

This is what I mean.  Anarchism indeed transcends the statist politics in democratic countries, but not the left-right framework. 

Zero, you seem to be taking it as some kind of insult insofar as you steadfastly refuse to engage with anyone's explanations of why they don't like the left-right spectrum model, or any such kind of analysis, and instead you've defensively asserted, without any real evidence and despite protests to the contrary, that some of us are asserting that anarchism is in a position of heirarchy above the left-right spectrum model. Since no one but you has brought up this idea, and you did so defensively, and you've ignored what people are actually saying to push this idea, I can only conclude that you feel insulted or alienated by the fact that most people here have expressed a dislike for something you like and find useful. Maybe if you explained why the left-right spectrum model is so important to you other people could better understand your position.

Edit: 'Transcend' isn't  always used mean 'above', it can be used to mean that something has substantially changed to the point of not being relevant to something it once was relevant to.
lol. in episode 28 of the brilliant (can anyone tell that i'm catching up on my podcast listening?), there is a strong indictment of left/right, not that i expect anyone to be convinced... ;)

http://thebrilliant.org/podcast/episode-28-what-are-we-for-part-ii/
Yosemite,

Doesn't have to be because I am so "defensive" about this construct.

The left-right spectrum is just a construct to fit ideologies in it, there is no "transcending" it if it was created to fit ideologies along with anarchism in it.

If I ask "Is anarchism left or right?", it doesn't mean the left right spectrum is so important to me.
The left-right spectrum wasn't 'created' to do anything, it's an expression that emerged to describe the political landscape in France in the late 1700's.  Anarchism wasn't even around yet, so it certainly wasn't deliberately created as a model to classify ideologies, anarchism particularly.  It emerged as a way of grouping representatives that advocated similar things within a specific temporally-bound political context. The reason it hung around is because the concerns it grouped and represented were common concerns across early European democracies, and the rest of Europe generally. By the 1930's it was already obsolete, with the advent of Fascism, which was (and is) neither right nor left - it sought to overturn elements of the establishment for the sake of palingenetic ultranationalism and corporatism, concepts which were and are out of the bounds of the left-right spectrum.

Asking whether anarchism is left or right doesn't necessarily mean that the model is important to you, but rigidly insisting that anarchism can be placed on the left-right spectrum, that the model is always applicable, while ignoring all the arguments for why it isn't always applicable or desirable, and offering no real argument for why it is applicable or desirable, does indicate that you're somehow emotionally invested in it.
–5 votes
I propose that anarchy is a right-wing philosophy. Here I mean how ordinary people who associate themselves with right/left see the world as opposed to what the leaders who pretend to share feelings of ordinary people actually do.

Personally I find spectrums, binaries and generalizations helpful in trying to make sense out of nonsense. Sure, just imperfect constructs, illusions -- but that's all I have to work with.

I think we all know what ideas are generally considered right-wing and left-wing here in 2016.

Why do I propose right-wing? Among the main items on the public-discourse agenda today we find

(1) immigration: granting citizenship and privileges to arrivals from outside the territory. Generally, right wing is opposed to this, left in favor. I, as an anarchist, don't think ANYONE should have any citizenship or priviledges; obviously includes newcomers. So I'm on the right.

(2) religious tolerance: (kind of related to immigration in Europe): Should society tolerate intolerance? Right-wing says Islam is rotten, left-wing says it is great. I say all religion is rotten. So I'm on the right.

(3) gun control. Obvious. What anarchist is in favor of gun control? anyone?

(4) taxes. Up or down? I would prefer they be zero, so I'm on the right.

(5) centralized or local decision-making? I would prefer all decision-making be local to the point of individual, so I'm on the right.

(6) free-trade. I think free trade run by multinationals and their investors is possibly the most urgent problem. At this point, right-wing appears generally more opposed to helping corporations trample freely around the globe. Maybe just because they have nationalist tendencies. Whatever. I'll lean towards whoever makes life more complicated for multinationals.  THIS is a major point where I think anarchists and libertarians will differ strongly in opinion.

I could go on and on, and in pretty much every issue I think it would be easier to convert a right-winger to anarchism than a left-winger.  The typical left-wing ordinary person fully accepts the idea that government can and should exist and intervene with programs, regulations, etc. The typical right-wing ordinary person prefers government just stick to protecting people from each other and from rapid change: slow the stomach-churning flow of so-called "progress" to a manageable pace. Granted, that protective, conservative mission, in the minds of many right-wingers, is a huge job requiring huge government effort. However, it would be relatively easy, in my opinion, to convince a right-wing ordinary person that (a) he/she should fear the establishment super-villains more than he/she fears other ordinary people, and (b) nothing would slow the forces of change more than cutting the legs out from under the insatiable shareholders of the giant marketing companies of mass-consumption.

I propose that today's right-wingers are more likely to become anarchists, therefore anarchy is a right-wing philosophy. (to get this, you have to forget what right/left has meant in past decades or centuries and just think about your own personal acquaintances).
answered Aug 26, 2016 by Syrphant (530 points)
like bond I actually enjoy them shaken not stirred and with far more vermouth than most people i know.
human,

This doesn't have to do with people disagreeing with me(or downvoting). Your just assuming that. I definitely got more of a bad rep, and people are indeed stirred up because of the question. Actually, partially because of me as well, since I was defending the left-right spectrum. I referred to dot as narrow minded because nothing I say says anything to him.
"Stirred up" is generally an idiom for making people either excited or angry. I wouldn't say anyone, minus you, is all that excited or angry at your or you question, but that's just my opinion. There have been comments directed at you trying to engage you, whereas you're not really engaging them back or writing much, except being needlessly repetitious, like way above. Some of your responses, in my opinion, to dot and others are really brief and don't explain much. In my opinion, when a question is asked about whether some philosophy is this or that, the question is flawed as it doesn't allow for answers that are neither or something else. I stand by my comment and that's all I have to say on the matter. Just chillaxers, yo.

Like AmorFati and Bond, James Bond Jr., I prefer my drinks shaken, not stirred. It mixes it better.
human,

If people are very active in the comments discussing/arguing, they are indeed stirred up, call it what you want though. I am not saying that it is a bad thing either. You people are refusing to engage as well. Instead you try to point out all the flaws you think I make. Honestly, it has been me as well(of course), I argue back, and you people jump all over.
"You people are refusing to engage as well."

absurd. i have read numerous responses to you that directly address the content of your posts. that is precisely people engaging you. the fact that folks engaging you happen to disagree does not make it any less of an engagement. i give you credit for continuing to try to engage, but you lose most of it for your pointless whining about people disagreeing with you. engage or disengage.
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