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What is liberal pluralism? Is there an anarchist pluralism?

0 votes
asked Apr 2, 2014 by anonymous
I could wager an answer to this question, but it would help to know how you are thinking about these terms, how they came up for you in reading or conversation or otherwise, etc.

2 Answers

+1 vote
As anok suggested, it would be very helpful to know in what context you're considering these terms, and what aspect of liberal pluralism you're trying to draw an analogy with.

In the meantime here's my attempt at an answer:

The narrow formal definition of liberal pluralism is something along the lines of  'the idea that a liberal democratic state/society should tolerate the existence of 'illiberal' groups that are part of it', but the term 'pluralism' when used in the context of liberalism and/or democracy often just refers to tolerance for the existence of different opinions, groups, values, ideologies, parties etc.

For example, Barack Obama hasn't tried to outlaw the Republican party or send Republicans to prison for being Republicans, doing so would contravene the idea that the plurality of political beliefs within a liberal political system is something that system should uphold as legitimate, and protect.

Of course the protection of liberal pluralism is often unevenly applied, and outright denied to those who reject the legitimacy of liberal democratic state - people like anarchists for example.  Just as a side note, the argument that pluralism shouldn't cover groups that seek to undermine pluralism is the basis for the 'no platform for fascists' position.

So is there an anarchist pluralism?  Well insofar as anarchists often agree to disagree on stuff and still work together towards common goals, yes; insofar as there being a tolerance for beliefs and behavior that are 'un-anarchist' within groups or communities constructed on anarchist principles, generally no (although that's contingent on what the group defines as anarchist, and the degree of intolerance depends on the group).
answered Apr 12, 2014 by Yosemite (5,820 points)
0 votes
If I interpret this to mean "can anarchists work with others with different perspectives?" I would say yes. Typically it is because of this rather common practice among anarchists and perhaps a reason there are so many anarchists. While some anarchists might get a ton of ideologically similar people together, most times this is not the case. Most times anarchists work with non-anarchists or with anarchists of many widely different viewpoints.

I'd say this is both a strength and weakness of being an anarchist. Through our very actions, we attempt to influence others, so when compared to other segments of the population, anarchists are known for being active in just about everything with some level of subversion in it. But it also leaves anarchists open to manipulation, being co-opted and just general political problems when they work on popular issues the left (and sometimes the right) has already gotten involved in.

Many times anarchists want to be relevant, want to attract people through being active to being an anarchist. Or they become an anarchist because it makes the most sense, surrounded by many people that also call themselves anarchists. Or they just are like minded about anarchy, no trust in the political system, no loyalty to parties, no belief that voting really affects things. But whatever the reason, anarchists do seek each other out just as much as other people and try to get things done in some sort of way. Anarchists believe through action, they can affect something.

The post-left critique is the questioning of this kind of pluralism. It asks anarchists to look at what has happened in the past and question if anarchists should get involved in institutional struggles (unions, community organizing, activism) as well as militant struggles that ask us to sacrifice ourselves in the name of a movement. I could go further, but I'd recommend just searching the post-left tag on this site or check the web for more information on the post-left critique.
answered Apr 13, 2014 by hpwombat (4,070 points)
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