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What is Individualist Anarchism?

+5 votes
The title. I'd like an answer that is primarily sympathetic to Individualist Anarchism with perhaps a criticism on the side to reflect on. For your information, I am loosely familiar with Stirner, Armand, Novatore etc.
asked Jul 31, 2014 by anonymous
one great place to start, imo, is with the recent book "enemies of society". while there are some very useful pieces in the book itself, i found parts of the introduction to be fantastic at answering exactly this question.
I like to second funky@'s recommendation of 'enemies.' Also, I'd recommend both the intro *and* the glossary prior to the meat of the book.

3 Answers

+3 votes
Best answer
Part of the reason I'm drawn to Individualist Anarchism is very simple. I perceive individuals. I cannot see 'society,' 'humanity,' 'community,' 'morality,' 'ethics,' 'rights,' 'the future,' etc. This may not seem a complex answer, and perhaps will further justify the uncritical notion that I@ only draws unthinking knuckle-dragging primates...as opposed, of course, to more enlightened socially-oriented primates. But, please hear me out...

One might say I see anarchy as a phenomenological process, rather than a program. We already inhabit so many different levels of power relations, and each has its  logic of self-justification. In turn, each require, and have a long history of, abstraction, logo-centrism, metaphysical 'truths,' moralities, identities; all which attempt to provide a calculable, digestible, intelligible world in the form of ideology. This provides for some potent barriers of policing, imaginary though they are, between you and I. Some are self-policing and some require cops, most require a mixture of both. They share the common feature, however, of  inherently distancing us from the immediately real. We base our judgments of one another on these preconceived standards. We glace askew at one another, if we bother to glance at one another at all. Worse still, we prize these abstractions, which we cannot see, over that which can be seen, touched, smelled, heard, and on occasion, tasted. They are articles of faith by which we come to devalue appearance, presence, embodiment. It's a form of asceticism, world-renunciation. And they always serve the logic of power.

(you) and (i) are bodies. As bodies, living bodies, we act, interact, we relate. you -and - i. 'And' may seem a separation, but in the very activity of perceiving one another, we interact. This interaction, mutual perception, does not precede (you) and (I), as the ideologues would have it, but is possible only on condition of (you) and (i); as different  bodies, become a mutually recognized (you and i). Here, 'and' is the very matrix of sociability between (you) and (i), so as to form an instance of (you and i).*

For me, the more socially-oriented anarchists miss the mark much of the time because they place their primary focus upon idealism, and thus distance themselves from the immediately real. Put another way, they tend to mediate reality by way of idealism, lies we tell ourselves in the name of certitude/intelligibility. As stated above, this strikes me as a form of asceticism, and given the history of social-anarchism, has also led the way toward martyrdom and fanaticism which both characterizes and carries on the tradition of  ye olde tyme religion in political form. What I can do is encounter you, and from here, we may travel together, part ways, or interact ('socialize') in many other possible ways.

I  realize this answer is incomplete. :-)

* So as to ward-off some confusion here, I'm using parenthesis and hyphens in order to make my meaning a bit more perceptible.

Edited to clarify; grammar; typos (again)
answered Oct 21, 2014 by AmorFati (7,780 points)
edited Oct 22, 2014 by AmorFati
stunning analysis!
i am bummed that people downvoted iconoclast's answer. the historical/association lists are useful too, and are good for a more rounded sense of how to interpret and answer the (any) question.
i agree with you. i upvoted it, though the comment came across to me as kinda silly and rather petty.
labeling something can certainly be a distancing tactic, but presumably that's ok.

and it might be obvious to you that something is subjectivistic (i have never heard that word before), but it might be helpful to someone else to have a name for the personal perspective of the kind you describe. there is no need to assume bad faith, afaict. unless it's fun for you ;) .
no bad faith assumed necessarily, only prior experience with this person elsewhere (i'm about 99% sure it's the same person given the name and style used). they, or anyone else, can label away. it's easy enough to do via the webz. :)
+2 votes
Individualist Anarchism above all is the assertion that Anarchism and other such ideas are things that are to be used BY the individual, as opposed to an idea that one must strive for, like some future revolution. If one cannot fulfill their own desires for the sake of "being an anarchist", then what's the point? It is then just another moral code to be lived up to, that you will NEVER live up to because it's not YOURS.

A quote by Renzo Novatore sums up individualist anarchism perfectly:

"You are waiting for the revolution! Very well! My own began along time ago! When you are ready — God, what an endless wait! — it won’t nauseate me to go along the road awhile with you! But when you stop, I will continue on my mad and triumphant march toward the great and sublime conquest of Nothing!"
answered Aug 7, 2014 by anonymous
+2 votes
Individualist anarchism is a tendency within the anarchist movement which focuses on the individual person mainly advocating individual freedom in both body and mind. The diversity of interests and positions is big within individualist anarchism but all individualist anarchists will share this basic general perspective.

Most reliable sources will point to the origins of individualist anarchism to activists and authors such as William Godwin, Josiah Warren, Max Stirner, Henry David Thoreau and Anselme Bellegarrigue. From these early individualists we can indentify certain strong currents within individualist anarchism in general.

Godwin´s enlightenement rationalism and anti-authoritarianism points forward to rationalist and freethought currents which tended to be critical of organized religion and advocated non-authoritarian forms of education and spread of culture. Warren points to a current which, alongside Proudhon and Benjamin Tucker, seeked economic social change away from corporate capitalism protected by state intervention and which advocated a non capitalist market economy based mainly on self-employment and cooperative enterprises out of a criticism of wage labour relationships. Max Stirner developed a proto-existentialist individualist philosophy which advocated individual disobedience and sabotaje of outside limitations on an individual´s liberty and proposed the concept of "union of egoists" as a free form of association between free individuals. Thoreau projected a living example of a refractary lifestlye from the rising institutions of modern mass society and an ecologist sensibility which coexisted with a generally pacifist civil disobedience perspective.

Individualist anarchism in the United States has tended to have a strong tendency that keeps the focus on economics until today with contemporary authors such as Gary Chartier, Kevin Carson and Roderick T. Long who have updated the economic views of Tucker and Proudhon. It also has contained a strong freethought current critical of religion which was spread through publications such as Tucker´s "Liberty or "Lucifer: the Light Bearer" and individuals such as Voltairine de Cleyre or Ezra Heywood who interesected with the feminist movement and free love currents. Also there was a current which inherited the intentional community and lifestyle experimentalism of Warren which continued with Stephen Pearl Andrews and later american communalist currents. Stirner has also motivated an american "egoist" current in personalities as different with each other as Tucker, Enrico Arigoni, Hakim Bey or Feral Faun/Wolfi Landstreicher.

On the other hand individualist anarchism in Europe has seen a stronger influence of Stirner while the previously mentioned economicistic current has not been very important there. But it has been associated also with freethought and atheism. It has contained a tendency which emphasizes lifestyle experiments such as free love and intentional communities (Emile Armand, Adolf Brand), naturism (Emille Gravelle, Henri Zisly), aesthetic and artistic expression (Oscar Wilde). On the other hand, especially within France and Italy, it motivated illegalism and insurrectionist anarchist positions (Bande a Bonnot, Renzo Novatore) which emphasized living outside the law in constant combat with and avoidance of repressive state forces using violence as a form of resistance. In contrast there also emerged an individualist anarcho-pacifism inspired by Thoreau and Leo Tolstoy (Andre Arru, Charles Auguste Bontemps) but which could also associate itself with the existentialist anti-authoritarianism of Stirner and Friedrich Nietzsche (Georges Palante). In the case of spanish individualist anarchist Miguel Gimenez Igualada we could find both an ilegalist lifestyle in his youth in Spain and later an embrace of anarcho-pacifism in his main theorectical work "Anarquismo" from 1968 in his exile in Mexico away from Franco´s dictatorship.
answered Oct 5, 2014 by iconoclast (3,380 points)
edited Oct 5, 2014 by iconoclast