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In an anarchist society, what would happen with public services?

0 votes
Since there would be no government, who would pave the roads, or take care of waste management, etc. etc.? Would there be groups of people dedicated towards that, or would somebody just sat "Fuck it, I'll do it!" when it gets too bad? What are your thoughts?
asked Sep 29, 2014 by BlackFlag1999 (130 points)
I always prefer to see questions like this posed in a more positive manner instead of like the scenario of a slacker roommate who never does the dishes.
So a better way might be:
If we want there to be paved roads and waste disposal (to say nothing of sewage treatment), then first of all we will need to figure out ways to accomplish these things without denigrating the tasks. Such important aspects of urban infrastructure need to have the fun and prestige attached to them that any other playful activity has. Think of how Tom Sawyer got the fence whitewashed, but without the duplicity. Aside from turning around the idea of socially necessary labor, there could easily be a rotation of tasks to give everyone who's willing and able a share in the maintenance of said urban infrastructure. The reward is having smooth roads, organic mulch, and clean water.

"din't think about that, didja?"

Crass was over-idealistic, but this song actually nails the answer to this question.
I like Lawrence's comment about showing some respect for the work that lets you stay alive.

i found something interesting in a profile on one commune (they weren't anarchist, but described themselves as 'egalitarian').  When they formed, they expected to have difficulty getting people to do the 'dirty work', so they thought up all manner of complications to compensate for the jobs people didn't volunteer for.  What they found was that once their population grew to a given point, people just did what was needed, negotiating amongst themselves as necessary to get bodies when and where they were needed.  Eventually, they just abandoned the labour accounts as a waste of effort.

This shouldn't be surprising, we all have daily tasks we enjoy, that we tolerate, and that we despise; and those personal perceptions are different between everyone.  I like mucking in the garden, i'll muck out the sewers once in a while without complaint, but i hate washing windows - but someone else relishes a clean window and runs screaming from earthworms.

There is something to be said of social conditioning here too.  City people, i've found, are conditioned to expect that basic civil services will be provided by some level of authority; if something needs done, their default mode of action is to petition various authorities to 'do something'.  The further people are from centers of power and authority, the more haphazard are the provision of services by those authorities, and the more indifferent the responses of those authorities to enfringements upon that authority; so when something needs done, people may be inclined to say 'fuck it, i'll do it myself.'
(It should be noted that some communities in the heart of major cities, are as far from the seats of power as any rural backwater, with the result that services are haphazard but the monopoly of violence is ever near and immediate.)
That sounds really interesting, mind if I ask the source?

um... who in the thread was your question directed at, and which subject?

2 Answers

+1 vote
but seriously:

You assume anyone would do or want to maintain those things. If we need roads probably they will not become overgrown because people use them. If we live in groups that require us to manage our waste hopefully we will either get e. coli so management isn't a problem, or we will work it out in ways that are sustainable (we might also work it out in ways that aren't; those will eventually come back to bite us, either as a species or as anarchists, if not both).
answered Sep 30, 2014 by ingrate (20,520 points)
e.coli?  e.coli...
oh!  did you just tell all the townies to eat shit?!!  :P
+5 votes
An answer to the question, not the details. Public services, like most services in present society are a result of hierarchy, institutional cooperation, division of labor and many other relationships that separate individuals from a full relationship with themselves and the territory surrounding them.

Rather than talk about how a future society would figure out how to keep public services running, it would be perhaps more interesting to consider how anarchists would hold a relationship with the territory around them. Using subsistence as a starting point, what must be done to ensure you and the individuals surrounding you to find or create the necessities to subsist? How can the land become a habitat for life instead of a utility for consumption?

Even here I am bothered. Emile, an Anarchist News Dot Org commenter brought up the idea that we are user-takers without a relationship with our surroundings. Yet I am still compelled to fear the future and hold a desire to manipulate the surroundings to ensure my own survival. Perhaps I lack the language I need to express what I'm thinking, but the manifestation of civilization could be seen as spooks finding material form. Much of what has been created could be used, manipulated, destroyed, ignored or some other interaction that I haven't considered.

What we are left with is for the future to decide, but I would assert that what we know as "public services" would play no part in any land where free people reside. Our vision of the future can be shaped by us accepting our individual context and surroundings. The closer we are to seizing our lives, the closer we become to seeing our future played out. I hope to see a better answer than mine on this topic, but I figured this might be a good contribution for thought.
answered Oct 2, 2014 by hpwombat (3,910 points)
(good to see you back, i've missed your thoughts here.)

I like how you linked public services to hierarchy, i'd missed that connection consciously, while given an example of it.  Doh.

As for  "the idea that we are user-takers without a relationship with our surroundings" - this puts my hackles up;  while i can appreciate the sentiment that our society takes from nature without regard to the consequences, this ignores the tiny detail that our surroundings can reciprocate our abuse in subtle but real ways (often the cancers that kill us in ten or twenty years after we do something stupid.)  An abusive relationship is still a relationship.  Or maybe i'm just playing stupid games with stupid words.

Be well wombat.
I like the point you bring up about relationship, cb. In a sense, we only exist in relationship.

Perhaps what hpwombat was saying is that we lose sight of those relationships, thinking we exist independently of other people, "surroundings", animals, land and water, etc. The water that is a part of all life becomes a "public service", and bowel movements become "waste management". Those are stupid word games that obscure and separate. And your comment helped make that clearer, imo.
"How can the land become a habitat for life instead of a utility for consumption?"

well put, hpw!  that question could probably replace virtually every 10,000 word post emile puts up on @news.