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What are some Anarchist Critiques of Mutualism?

+2 votes
I've heard a lot of scorn towards the Mutualist theory of political economy as laid out by Proudhon, Tucker, Carson, etc, by individualist/post-leftist anarchists as well as by syndies and commies. I identify most strongly with the mutualist position and so I'd be interested in what other anarchists have to say about it.
asked Oct 18, 2014 by BloodyPeasant (240 points)
Yes, I believe in objective truth, but I also believe that it is much more complicated than ayn rand's objectivism. Truth is in the natural world, and our perspectives are grounded in the natural world. I believe that all perspectives are grounded in truth, you just have to use discerning methodology to determine natural truth from opinion. And natural truth is not an all-important, all-consuming concept, it is important for scientific discovery and the like, and it can be used to judge the efficiency and effectiveness of paradigms but it cannot be used to judge people, cultures, or beliefs, because none of those things are contained within the scientific paradigm. It would be like using quantum mechanics to argue that love isn't a real feeling, it's two entirely separate concepts.

Sure, the bandwagon approach and appeals to authority are very common in everyday thought and culture, but that doesn't mean that they are the true determiners of knowledge, they are useless. Just because this site isn't the exception doesn't mean that is justified. This all links back to postmodernism and its rejection of any kind of real knowing outside of oneself.

Finally, yes, I am a leftist collectivist. Being a student of the dynamics of culture and social interaction, I couldn't see myself being anything but a collectivist. I believe in the idea of superorganic, that of society being a concept greater than the individual. That does not mean in any way that the individual is not unique, it just means that realistically, all individuals are unique within their own cultures, they cannot escape the influence of culture.

The collectivist approach allows for the development of the unique individual in the context of society. The individualistic approach allows for the development of society in the context of the individual. Individualism is not a realistic foundation for an egalitarian society, because that emphasis on the individual CREATES a society, larger than the individual, that does not value equality, but competition.

The entire foundation of Adam Smith's "invisible hand" of the Capitalist market idea was based on the idea that individuals acting in self-interest would create a system of social relationships that were mutually beneficial. It didn't work.
lantz, i appreciate your attempt to address my comment. you have once again clarified your position on these topics. i think we all get where you stand.

i have to say in the above comment, except for a boring relapse in the last paragraph, you stuck to just describing your own perspective, rather than pontificating or misrepresenting various tendencies that you dislike. that i can appreciate. seriously.

you and i have hugely divergent perspectives. as epitomized here:

"The collectivist approach allows for the development of the unique individual in the context of society."


the only context i have for the concept of society is what i am surrounded by. i despise it.  i am sure there are other possible ways to define "society", but none of them are any part of my experience. the ways in which i see my life relating with the lives of others i could never possibly think of as a "society". as much as possible, outside society. or better yet, post-society.

but my response to that quote: i find that a more individually focused approach, in fact, best allows for the development of THIS unique individual, *especially* in the context of society. that's MY truth. :-)
I think a lot of the issue concerning the mention of society in contexts such as these is that political activists tend to have a certain idea of society: that society is some foreign structure that oppresses people and keeps them from achieving their goals. And they are right, those social structures do exist, and they do cause those problems.

However, looking at things from an anthropological point of view, culture and society are WAY more broad and WAY more pervasive. Society can NOT be escaped, no matter how you choose to live. The words we are using right now are shaped by society, the alphabet is a social construct, it's a system of communally agreed upon symbols with communally agreed upon meanings. The fact that you see 7 major colors, the ROYGBIV spectrum, is cultural. Some cultures see more, some see less, even though we all see the same light waves in the same range of frequencies. No matter what you do, no matter how you arrange your politics or community, society/culture will always be a thing, and it will always be bigger than you. Individualist anarchists often see that idea as oppressive, but it doesn't have to oppressive in the least, it can actually be very liberating.
believers are always sure that their beliefs - those ideas in which they have deep-rooted "faith" - are not only the right ones, but often the only ones. i am not a believer. i have "faith" in exactly nothing. you don't hear me saying shit like "an individual focus (rather than a social/group focus) is the only possible way ALL people can/should approach the world." i say that is what works for me.

you continue to misunderstand - or at least misrepresent in your words - the individualist leanings of myself and probably others. the fact that society is "bigger" than me has nothing to do with my hatred of it. weather and other natural forces and objects are infinitely bigger than me, and often can feel quite oppressive, and yet i do not despise nature.

and saying this:

" but it doesn't have to oppressive in the least, it can actually be very liberating"

is exactly what every believer says about their faith. every capitalist i have ever had such discussions with - and believe me, there have been many - claims exactly that about capitalism. every statist, every religionist, every scientist, ... those words could come from their mouths verbatim.

like i said, we have hugely different perspectives, and they are not very compatible. i am not trying to convince you that i am right, other than for myself. yet you continue to propogandize for your perspective, not simply for yourself, but for all of humanity (with the exception of most of that one comment above that i pointed out). that is an excellent example of one of the major issues that i (and probably many post-left anarchists) have with leftists and other political activists. you claim to know what is right for everyone. just like all faith-based believers. and like all believers, you would impose it on everyone, "for the benefit of all".

and now i think i have exhausted my ability to continue this discussion.

so lawrence, if you want to get this conversation back on track... :-)
funky@:"believers are always sure that their beliefs"

And none seemingly have 'faith' in being a living body. This is, in large part, why leftists (ex: lantz), capitalists, religionists, many anarchists, etc., will never grasp the deep implications of I@. They seem oblivious that freedom, empathy, love, etc., (as are hate, grief, etc) are not firstly *ideas,* but conditions of living experience.  They become ideas only retrospectively, fictitiously taken out of,separated from, their total context, and in our (post-?) Christian world tend toward the fetishistic for what I think are obvious reasons. Binary thinking (and the valuations presumed within it) is almost required to impress upon others a gravity and singularity which these experiences never hold in any one life, much less as 'ideas' separable from our lives.

Edited for clarity (?).

1 Answer

+1 vote
Proudhon received a direct anarchist critique during his lifetime from the early anarcho-communist Joseph Dejacque. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_D%C3%A9jacque . In that article there are included the reasons for this criticism from Dejacque which included the sexism and support for traditional family forms by Proudhon as well as his adherence to the labour theory of value while Dejacque rejected it while defending anarcho-communism, but in his case flavoured by the influence of Charles Fourier.

From the article "Alain Pengam" Anarchist-Communism
www.theanarchistlibrary.org/HTML/Alain_Pengam__Anarchist-Communism.html#toc2

"In 1843, under the Rabelaisian motto “Do what you will!”, and in opposition to Etienne Cabet, Théodore Dézamy’s Code de la Communauté laid the basis for the principles developed later in the nineteenth century by communist and anarchist-communist theoreticians such as Joseph Déjacque, Karl Marx, Fredrick Engels, William Morris and Peter Kropotkin. These principles involved the abolition of money and commercial exchange; the subordination of the economy to the satisfaction of the needs of the whole population; the abolition of the division of labour (including the division between the town and country and between the capital and the provinces); the progressive introduction of attractive work; and the progressive abolition of the state and of the functions of government, as a separate domain of society, following the communisation of social relations, which was to be brought about by a revolutionary government...However, it was above all the house-painter Joseph Déjacque (1822–64) who, up until the foundation of anarchist communism properly so-called, expressed in a coherent way the radical communism which emerged in France from the 1840s as a critical appropriation of Fourierism, Owenism and neo-Babouvism. Déjacque’s work was an examination of the limits of the 1848 revolution and the reasons for its failure. It was developed around a rejection of two things: the state, even if ‘revolutionary,’ and collectivism of the Proudhonist type. Déjacque reformulated communism in a way that sought to be resolutely free from the dogmatism, sectarianism and statism exhibited by those such as Cabet and La Fraternité de 1845...For him, ‘government, religion, property, family, all are linked, all coincide.’ The content of the social revolution was thus to be the abolition of all governments, of all religions, and of the family based on marriage, the authority of the parents and the husband, and inheritance. Also to be abolished were ‘personal property, property in land, buildings, workshops, shops, property in anything that is an instrument of work, production or consumption.’ Déjacque’s proposed abolition of property has to be understood as an attack on what is at the heart of civilisation: politics and exchange value, whose cell (in both senses) is the contract.... Déjacque’s general definition of the ‘anarchic community’ was:

    “the state of affairs where each would be free to produce and consume at will and according to their fantasy, without having to exercise or submit to any control whatsoever over anything whatever; where the balance between production and consumption would establish itself, no longer by preventive and arbitrary detention at the hands of some group or other, but by the free circulation of the faculties and needs of each.”

Such a definition implies a criticism of Proudhonsim, that is to say of the Proudhonist version of Ricardian socialism, centred on the reward of labour power and the problem of exchange value. In his polemic with Proudhon on women’s emancipation, Déjacque urged Proudhon to push on ‘as far as the abolition of the contract, the abolition not only of the sword and of capital, but of property and authority in all their forms,’ and refuted the commercial and wages logic of the demand for a ‘fair reward’ for ‘labour’ (labour power). Déjacque asked: ‘Am I thus... right to want, as with the system of contracts, to measure out to each — according to their accidental capacity to produce — what they are entitled to?’ The answer given by Déjacque to this question is unambiguous: ‘it is not the product of his or her labour that the worker has a right to, but to the satisfaction of his or her needs, whatever may be their nature.’

The ‘direct exchange’ theorised by Proudhon corresponded to supposed ‘abolition’ of the wages system which in fact would have turned groups of producers or individual producers into the legal agents of capital accumulation. For Déjacque, on the other hand, the communal state of affairs — the phalanstery ‘without any hierarchy, without any authority’ except that of the ‘statistics book’ — corresponded to ‘natural exchange,’ i.e. to the ‘unlimited freedom of all production and consumption; the abolition of any sign of agricultural, individual, artistic or scientific property; the destruction of any individual holding of the products of work; the demonarchisation and the demonetarisation of manual and intellectual capital as well as capital in instruments, commerce and buildings... Déjacque’s general definition of the ‘anarchic community’ was:

    “the state of affairs where each would be free to produce and consume at will and according to their fantasy, without having to exercise or submit to any control whatsoever over anything whatever; where the balance between production and consumption would establish itself, no longer by preventive and arbitrary detention at the hands of some group or other, but by the free circulation of the faculties and needs of each.”

Déjacque’s communist anthropology was based on the liberation of needs, including the need to act on the world and nature, and made no distinction between natural-technical necessities and human ends. Although its vocabulary was borrowed from Fourier (harmony, passions, series and so on), it aimed at the community of activities more than the organised deployment of labour power: ‘The different series of workers are recruited on a voluntary basis like the men on a barricade, and are completely free to stay there as long as they want or to move on to another series or barricade.’ Déjacque’s ‘Humanisphere’ was to have no hours of work nor obligatory groupings. Work could be done in isolation or otherwise."
answered Oct 27, 2014 by iconoclast (3,380 points)
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