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Anarchism and equality

+1 vote
Hey guys, this question might be a bit more basic than most of the others, and might display a sense of ignorance, so you must excuse me!

From reading generally about Anarchism, I understand that anarchism (at least most strains) envisions removing the government and state controls to ensure equality. I'm sure this is oversimplified, but correct me if I have it wrong.

My question is how can equality be ensured. Without regulations, what's to stop exploitation, classes etc. In one discussion forum it was argued that someone in the 1% who has money, property etc. would have their wealth and power wiped out with anarchism. How? Regardless of a state/government, they will still own their property and money won't they?

Thanks :)
asked Oct 30, 2014 by Jason82 (130 points)
My perspective is that anarchy is not intended to "ensure" anything. That's what hierarchies promote - ensuring and insuring.

I think it would be helpful if you gave a definition of equality. There may be some assumptions behind the word as you're using it. I'm not sure what you mean by it, but it sounds like it's mostly related to money (and its associated power in the world).

Without the state, there would be no centralized monetary system. So, basically, there is no concept of money (as it stands today - interest/debt based, government controlled) in anarchy. You might want to read about gift economies. I'd be glad to expand on this if you're interested, as it's something I've thought about and researched a lot, and something I'm also trying to live as much as I can.

Then there's the concept of property, which to my knowledge, most anarchists (including myself) don't believe in perpetuating. Again, a definition of the word as you intend it would be helpful. Most people today refer to "property" as defined by the state - legal documents, money, boundary lines, enforcement, etc. With that definition, property wouldn't/doesn't exist in anarchy.

Something else to consider is that anarchy can't be enacted with a wave of a wand - it would take a hierarchy to make that happen, which would mean it wasn't anarchy! So the idea of the 1% being wiped out in a single transaction would be a sort of imaginary exercise (barring a zombie apocalypse or a singular catastrophic global event), but not the way I see anarchy taking hold in the future (or present).
Thanks for your answer!

I guess I was conceptualising equality as a more-or-less equal accumulation of wealth across society. If not measured through money, then measured through fixed or physical assets such as property, motor vehicles, precious metals etc.

From what I understood, one of the advantages of a system of anarchy is that it will lead to equality (or at the very least, will reduce the high levels of income and wealth inequality that are prevalent in western capitalist states). From my further understanding, this will be so because the concept of private ownership and wealth will become meaningless since no government or central authority can legitimate its worth.

My question is how anarchism would address factors that give rise to inequality. For e.g. some people would possess personal employment skills that are more in-demand and they would thus be compensated at a relatively higher rate, certain people would still be able to exploit others for personal gain, and wealth could still be passed down from generation to generation
You're welcome. Thanks for asking. :)

Many of the things you mentioned - property, assets, income, employment, and so on, are all constructs of the hierarchical institutions. In anarchy, those things don't exist. A "system" that "addresses" things is what we already have...anarchy is the absence of that system, not a replacement system.

A large disparity between people in the accumulation of material things wouldn't be possible without monetary and legal systems enforced by a coercive state (or other entity).

Maybe the question you're really asking is "if the entire world lived in anarchy, what would stop hierarchy, and the concepts of money, property, etc. from being re-created again?".  If that's the question, I don't know that I have an answer.

edited for clarity

1 Answer

–6 votes
Anarchists do not wish to abolish government, as much as they wish to include everyone in it. The state, being a centralized institution with a monopoly on legal violence in a given area, which has a governing body that controls it, is what anarchist want to abolish. aka, no monopoly on legal violence, no police. Police would be replaced with voluntary security forces, that wouldn't have coercive authority over anyone. As for inequality, I, as an Anarcho-communist, believe anarchism with markets can lead back to capitalism. I've read critiques of anarcho-mutualism, which is market based, talking  about how the inequality between the competing collectives can cause a class system with elites that can have enough power to recreate wage labor, and by necessity, a state, to maintain private property. Private property should not be mistaken with personal possessions.. personal items you can justify having as means to directly enhance your living conditions. Private property would be like 100's of acres of land owned by a corporation.. The capitalist class would be abolished under anarchism, so to answer ur question about the 1%, if a revolution took place, and succeeded, the capitalist class, while maintaining their possessions,  would have their production land collectivized.
answered Nov 22, 2014 by S.w.i.m and a Bum (260 points)
swim, this thread (anarchy and equality) doesn't seem like the best place (nor discussing an off-site video the best way) to be exploring what you consider anarchism to be. there are a variety of threads that ask questions directly about what anarcho-communism is, or here...
Lol. All I have  to say now is, LOL.
saab, I don't understand why you're staying fixated on redefining the word "government". I haven't ever heard or read anything by anarchists that says they'd like any form of government. Even among the many non-anarchists I know, the overwhelming majority of them have a negative connotation of government.

Why not just explain the desires you have and the types of relationships you would like, rather than trying to redefine a word that almost everyone agrees (except those who believe in the existing system) has a meaning that is undesirable?
Laugh all you wish, but words actually do have meanings, which can be charted according to the history of their usage. All proper anarchists understand and acknowledge that government as a theory and practice should be abolished. Changing the definition of government to include the things you desire in the name of anarcho-communism is aberrant, ahistorical, and idiosyncratic. I do not acknowledge your pseudo-postmodern idiocy that "meanings of words are subject to arbitrary notions." You're just echoing (channeling?) a famous character from English literature: "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less."
"All proper anarchists..."

uggggh.  lawrence, i almost always agree with your general points (including here). but that phrase...  fucking yuck, dude!