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what is the relation between individualist anarchism, social anarchism and anti-civ

+2 votes
a friend of mine recently said that they considered (although not strongly) individualist anarchism and anti-civ to be the same. my other friends and i disagreed. after a lengthy discussion we pretty much all came to the conclusion that, while there is overlap, there was some intangible difference. we just couldn't put it into words. the main problem seems to stem from an ambiguous definition of all terms.
asked Nov 13, 2016 by seraph9888 (330 points)

1 Answer

+4 votes

There are certainly overlaps between individualist anarchism and anti-civ, and there are also overlaps between what could broadly be called social anarchism and anti-civ anarchism. You are correct that these lines are not particularly easily defined, but I will see if I can try to suss out somethging more specific.

Many current North American individualist anarchists also have some sort of critique of civilization (which makes sense, since civilization is completely predicated on maintaining the smooth functioning of various social relations and contracts). Individualists aren't necessarily against being social, it is more about where their priorities lay, and what sense of freedom they give primacy to. Examples of anarchists I might consider both individualists and anti-civ would include Wolfi Landstreicher, Peter Lamborn Wilson, post-leftists like Bob Black, and, so far as my reading of it, the editors of the old egoist papers Sovereign Self and My Own.

There are also anti-civ anarchists who have a much more social anarchist perspective, or social anarchists with an anti-civ critique of one kind or another. Here I think of groups like crimethinc. (not necessarily explicitly social anarchists or anti-civ, but both do play roles in their overall critiques) many anarcho-primitivists (I would argue Zerzan is, at base, arguing A-P from a social anarchist perspective, even if not a left-anarchist perspective), the (now defunct) Phoenix Class War Coalition, and authors like David Watson (and some of the other Fifth Estate folks).

And a lot more folks are going to be harder to pin down to specific vectors like that.

answered Nov 14, 2016 by ingrate (20,130 points)
edited Dec 17, 2016 by ingrate

your comment on priorities is interesting; what do folks think of these definitions:

individualist anarchism: a philosophy that regards individual freedom as essential to mutual aid

social anarchism: a philosophy that regards mutual aid as essential to individual freedom. 

i've long felt that this was a silly dichotomy (like most dichotomies). now i think i understand the "difference". 

Being an anarchist doesn't mean you reject being a social animal nor does living in civilization mean people are civil. Idealism is for those who didn't watch the right cartoons. Sometimes the brightest lights are left on because nobody is ever home.
i like your answer, ingrate.

s9888: i don't know about those "definitions".  mutual aid and individual freedom - while both are clearly major aspects of any anarchist perspective i have affinity with - are for me not nearly so co-dependent as those imply. i also find both definitions far too limited. you seem to be using those 2 terms as correlaries for each other, and i don't see them that way.  but i strongly agree with your dichotomy sentiment.

for me (very broadly speaking), a key difference is that individualist @s see the individual as the primary/central actor and priority, while social @s see the social grouping (community, collective, whatever) as the primary/central actor and priority. both can value mutual aid as well as individual freedom, without one of those being dependent on the other.
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