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are really, really free markets a viable example for anarchist anti-economics?

+3 votes

let me start by pointing out that i am not using the word "economic" to refer to any and every interaction individuals might have. i reject that perspective completely, and for the purposes of this question (really, for any purpose) i am not interested in it. 

i think of really, really free markets (rrfm) as getherings of folks in a particular area, who come together to seek, share, gift and even exchange/trade/barter, in order to meet those needs and desires that could not be met otherwise (eg, diy). this could be a thing, an activity, ideas, anything at all i would think. a key element of exchange in this context is that there is no currency, nothing has any value other than the purely subjective value that the individuals involved in gifting/sharing/exchanging it choose for it to have in that particular moment. 

i would not call a rrfm a "gift economy", both for the obvious aversion to "economy" as a concept, and because interactions would likely not always be in that form. the ways in which people interact and meet their needs and desires would be dynamic, spontaneous, and completely up to those involved.

let me point out that in my hypothetical/anarchist world, the daily interactions of life would be in that very same vein, and so an explicit rrfm would be unnecessary. but practically speaking, since people would be in smaller tribes/bands/bolos (my bolo would surely be much smaller than the 300-500 recommended by p.m.), it is likely that some needs and/or desires would not be realizable solely within a single group. and so, rrfms could be a way to bring different groups together to gift/share/exchange. of course that would also be a time to share news, gossip, stories, etc with your neighboring clans.

what do y'all think...?

(dot, feel free to fix/change/add tags)

asked Mar 20 by funkyanarchy (11,960 points)
ba@ - count me in! i'll be one of those folks if we happen to be in the same geographic area at the time. i have very similar desires (i'd like my body left in the forest for the critters to do with as they will).
yes, funky! you can count me in for you too. i guess only one of us could help the other in that situation, so we'll need a couple more people to take care of both of us. thankfully, i know of at least one, probably two. :)

and when i said i'd do the same for someone else, i meant in whatever way the person would prefer, assuming i had the physical and emotional strength to do it....your preference sounds pretty simple...at least a little easier than digging a hole in the desert....
shit, you don't know how right you are! (re digging in the desert, especially where i lived...)
With the State still in place no freedom, market or otherwise is viable.

RRFMs may be an example of anarchist anti-economics. However, I suggest that, whilst perhaps well intended and operable at relatively small scales, neither (rrfms or 'anti-economics') are viable across large, complex modern societies.

I suggest anarchist counter-economics which embraces free exchange (but not capitalism) is more viable in our modern world because it can, over time, drain all the resources that the State uses to re-create itself.

"neither (rrfms or 'anti-economics') are viable across large, complex modern societies."

i would agree. i also do not think complex, modern societies are very likely to be viable without hierarchical institutions (eg, the state, economics, industrialism, etc). that is why i desire a very different world - of much smaller social groupings - and i try to live my life in that vein in spite of the complex, modern world that exists all around. waiting for the massive changes that are necessary for the world i desire is not something i care to do. i'd rather create my own life in the now, as best i can.

1 Answer

0 votes
I think this is easy to answer, actually. It strikes us as being viable/conceivable that human beings could live in this way because they once did and in a few places "still" do.

Something like this scenario was probably quite common in human history: smallish groups that mostly functioned either by direct personal exploitation or else by egalitarian consumption of natural wealth. When those groups came into contact with one another it would be either as enemies or as sporadic exchange partners.

In most such cases it seems like the exchanges were at least as much about negotiating these social ties as they were about satisfying material needs.

That this was a human possibility does certainly undermine many racist assumptions that the way things are presently arranged is necessary and immutable. That doesn't mean it is a more interesting or helpful example than any other precapitalist social form.

It can sustain itself as a fantasy mainly because it's become so far-fetched to think about, for people who have hardly any important personal social ties, no skills useful to survival outside the economy, and no wilderness to escape to.

It doesn't tell us anything at all about the possibilities immanent to capitalist society that would entail the end of that society -- which would require a different kind of investigation completely.
answered Mar 20 by asker (7,900 points)
edited Mar 20 by asker
indeed, asker. for many years (until very recently), i lived in an area of the southwestern u.s. where there continues to be gatherings of many indian tribes from all over the extended geographic region (extending into the plains), twice a year, for very much these purposes. and to one of your points, the social aspects of those gatherings seems to be predominant over material aspects, though i suspect that may have been different a thousand years ago. these gatherings (in that area) go back well over a thousand years.

ending capitalist society is not part of this particular exploration - that leans more to dot's thoughts about "atr". i have no delusions about the overall capitalist system being gone in my lifetime. however, gatherings like really, really free markets can and do happen regardless. such a scenario - pockets of anarchic living despite the larger context of a capitalist world - is not purely hypothetical. many of us have experienced it. i would like to take those kinds of experiences (including rrfms as they have already existed) and see how they can be ever more expanded and integrated into my life.

funky: "i would like to take those kinds of experiences (including rrfms as they have already existed) and see how they can be ever more expanded and integrated into my life."

yes!

in my life (particularly the last several years), i've tried to give and receive as much as i possibly can without using money. this has led to me feeling lighter, more creative, more in conscious contact with life...the people, places, creatures, stuff, around me.

yep, living a life without - or with minimal - money is a huge liberator for me. i have to say that in my interactions with most anarchists, i have been sorely disappointed in their ability to think outside that (economic) box. i have had much better luck having anti-economic relations with folks in my nuclear family - none of whom are remotely anarchistic in general - than with self-professed anarchists. i do have to acknowledge that trust can be a huge issue in establishing such relations (where giving and receiving is done without rules, currencies, debts or expectations), and obviously some folks have more trust issues (often justified) than others.
yeah, very similar for me too. and i agree about the trust issues. at the same time, even when people use money, i don't think a lot of trust exists. i think the use of money generally creates distrust....and ultimately a lack of trust in oneself - in the ability to know who you can trust and who you can't, in your ability to do things for yourself, in your ability to find others who want to come together to do something. we no longer even know how to "entertain" ourselves....we need to accumulate money to pay someone else do it (and still often feel "ripped off" when we do).
In that case I don't see the need for it to be a model/example, conceptually, since you aren't trying to demonstrate anything that we don't already empirically know.
ba@: yep. i'd go even further, and say that a primary reason money exists is lack of trust. i guess the same could be said of laws, contracts, etc. but this could be a slippery slope, discussion wise.
asker, i'd say that we may already know it, but this way of relating has slipped from our consciousness....and from our daily experience of life. so the experiences in life that have become monetized far outweigh those that haven't.

funky, yes, and yes. but perhaps not a slope as much as a soup.....because i see all these aspects as related.
asker: i'm not sure what your point is? that rrfms should not be in this discussion? that a real-world example should not be used as fodder for envisioning/creating a different way of living and relating? not being antagonistic here, just wanting to understand.
I don't think we disagree that much. I just mean that there are limits to what can be done with positive real-world examples.

You're saying that it's possible and desirable, to some extent, to replicate what you've seen of the gatherings that Southwest indigenous groups are doing. Who are themselves attempting to replicate and keep alive practices that have nearly been impossibilized b/c of colonization. You're admitting that you don't see this as a way out, only as an immediately experience-able thing within the capitalist world. I agree with that, since I think it's in the nature of capital to break its local bonds and dominate everything in the world - but not in the nature of exchange ceremonies to exert the same kind of force.

Where we disagree is that I think however appealing and interesting a local alternative structure might be, no such structure can tell us about the end of capitalism -- and unfortunately capitalism is going to continue destroying these structures and the conditions of possibility for them if it is not itself destroyed.

Also, I guess I'm skeptical that people's consciousness can be altered by local/temporary events in the way you're describing. The commodity world feels so objective, it will reassert itself very quickly.

asker: i am not saying it is desirable to replicate anything, rrfms or gatherings of the tribes. i am saying (or asking if, in the context of the original question) those are examples of ways humans can (and have, and do) create ways of interacting that aren't completely subsumed by the capitalist world around them.

i desire for those to be examples not of temporary events, but examples of different ways of relating, particularly around meeting one's needs and desires. 

i would much rather find and create different ways of relating in my life, on an ongoing basis, than to not do as such because capitalism still exists. i want capitalism gone as much as anyone, but i also have a life to live; one i will not subvert to some unforeseeable future revolution that eliminates capitalism, the state, etc. i used to think that way, and all it got me was more anger, stress and hatred - and not one iota closer to a world without those institutions of domination. so i realized that i could actually do things in my own life that distance me (and hopefully, at least some of those i care about) from that hellhole. not ideal by any stretch, but a fuckload better than living my life for some future i doubt will ever exist (and i'm fairly certain it won't in my lifetime).

you seem to think that anything short of the end of capitalism is a pointless exercise. i don't. doesn't mean we don't both want the end of capitalism, it just means we will be doing very different things in our here and now.

kind of an aside:

i see having temporary events that exemplify strong desires in life as kind of like the escape from "real life" that so many look forward to in "vacations". kind of like folks that bliss out at a rainbow gathering for a week every year, then spend the rest of the year at their workaday lives.

i never understood why so many people only spent a week or two a year being somewhere they love so much. i never had much in the way of vacations, but i always thought: if i ever find a place i love that much, i want to live there, not save up all year just to be there for a week. i found that place over 16 years ago, and i left my somewhat typical urban life to go live a super simple, off-grid life there. i could not possibly convey how liberating that was, and i have lived that way ever since (though circumstances just recently caused me to leave that particular place and find a similar life elsewhere).
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