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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)
Downvoted for this sentence: "Anarchists do not wish to abolish government, as much as they wish to include everyone in it." Although talk of "voluntary security forces" also makes me a bit wary (on the other hand, without further details, I might just be reading into this my own narrative).

Anarchists do, indeed want to abolish government. That isn't the only thing we wish to destroy, but it is pretty central to our praxis. I'm not an anarcho-communist, but I think you are doing anarcho-communism a disservice by starting an outline of what anarcho-commies are for with that assertion.

If we seek to destroy the abstract of the state that, in fact, does place us in opposition to government as part of the infrastructure that maintains it.
I downvoted for the same reason(s) as ingrate. Government is something that I don't ever wish to be a part of...and "security forces" don't appeal to me at all, voluntary or otherwise.

I suppose those things (government, security forces) could be completely redefined in some context (in which case I might be interested), but generally speaking, I don't like to use existing words and phrases to mean something fundamentally different - especially when the existing concept is something I want no part of.
I should of phrased this better... Look at it like this, people in a decentralized collective,  using direct consensus democracy to distribute goods, can be considered a form of government... We're not against government, what we're against is unjust hierarchy like the state...  I think my adhd kept me from presenting that in a way that would make sense to other people in the first post. My bad, Ill learn to be more clear.
and by voluntary community security "forces," I'm not talking about the ancap security forces that just serve the purpose to protect property.. the voluntary community "forces" would be made of community members, to protect people not property.
Decentralized collectives with justified (natural?) hierarchies, distributing goods (and presumably services) with an allegedly voluntary community force to protect people.... Sounds exactly like feudalism. Count me out. Wish we could downvote comments too.
s.w.i.m. i appreciate that you're trying to be open (and to clarify) but your clarifications don't help the issues i have with your answer.
first, anarchists are absolutely against government. if anything that is more basic to anarchy than being against the state (as some broader, and thus more vague, entity of social relations, etc).
second, using the word government if you mean something other than government makes your point needlessly difficult.
are you talking about people managing (not a great word here either) their own lives? then why would you call that government? are you talking about people managing other people's lives? then you may not be an anarchist.
This is where I first heard the term government from an anarcho communist... he says it within the first 3 minutes and explains what he means by it.. please watch that part for me!:) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSrvxbWdITc
 I'm sorry but your just simply wrong.. I don't believe you know the definition of government. Government doesn't have  to be hierarchical... THAT'S WHY I SAID DECENTRALIZED... Please tell how decentralization = hierarchy?? LOL ITS THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF HIERARCHY. There doesn't have to be voluntary community security "forces"..thats why its called voluntary lol.. notice I put "forces" in quotes.. They aren't  an actual force, they're just community members watching out for their community, to protect against anti social behavior, that would probably already be hugely diminished by everyone getting what they need.
I realize now, my answer would be incredibly confusing for anyone who basically wasn't me. I'll be sure to be clearer, and try to not use words that bring up a previously conceived notion about such word.
Reminds you of feudalism... really? HAHAHA OKKKAAAY! Someones never looked into Anarcho-Communism... lol.. I think you kind of need private property for feudalism. Distributing goods based on need, though the workers control, who actually made these products, or services, reminds you of feudalism? Feudalism, in which a ruling class holds land, and forces residents to pay up some form of bull shit rent... I really don't see your connection here..
Damn. I think that after the revolution I'll make my way to Croatan.
from the video "a government is an organization which has the authority to make political decisions within a specific area"

no no no no

Aw geez, here we go...
"Government doesn't have  to be hierarchical..." Let's leave aside this outrageously idiosyncratic statement bereft of analysis. Let's leave aside the Greek "anarkhos," which means "no rulers" (and what is a government if not a body of rulers?). Let's leave aside the generations of anarchists (syndicalists, communists, individualists, and whichever other qualifiers you can come up with) who have understood and defined themselves as being explicitly against government -- in theory as well as in practice. Yeah, let's leave all of this actual history and tradition of anarchism aside. The question remains, Where/when has there ever been a government (minimally recognizable as a set of institutions where certain people decide upon and control the distribution of power in a given territory, propped up and reinforced by a segment of the population that is armed, whose use of armed force is meant to protect the privileges of those in government; you can start by looking here: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/government) that is *not* hierarchical? Merely stating that such a beast might be possible is thoroughly inadequate.

Examples of decentralized hierarchy: feudalism is the best historical one from a European context. Various contemporary economic analyses of capitalist efficiency and cost-reduction schemes focus on decentralizing (or sub-contracting) "soft" decisions within a context that is explicitly hierarchical. If you believe that capitalism is an inherently hierarchical system, then any experiments to create smaller or larger scale  self-management schemes are ways to (re)produce decentralized tangents within the context of a hierarchical system. It's really not that difficult to understand that decentralization does not automatically mean a challenge to -- let alone an abolition of -- hierarchy.

We can leave aside you flip use of the notoriously authoritarian phrase "anti social behavior." That conversation would also reflect rather poorly on the issue of your poor understanding of hierarchy; the declaration of any kind of deviance is part of what defines an authoritarian social structure.

You didn't previously mention "Distributing goods based on need, though the workers control, who actually made these products, or services." If you had started your discussion with this, it might have strengthened at least a few of your points. At least that sounds like the the partial economic parameters of anarchist-communism. But it is lost among your idiosyncratic understanding of what government actually is.
Your argument is arbitrary. Dot, I love how you totally miss the first thing he says using the word government... "Yes we do advocate for the distribution of  goods and services based on need, through direct consensus democracy, and that can be perceived as a form of government but what we are against are social hierarchy and states, not governments "  What video were you watching man? he continues later, 2 minutes in the video, with "[A government] can include all members of the community, I don't see how governments are inherently oppressive or anti anarchist...what we basically want is  a government that includes everyone so that no one can be oppressed."   Like for real dot? I expect a little more from an anarchist... Like did you even really watch that shit? Lol
a. i didn't make an argument. i just rejected the idea that anarchists would be for such a thing. a rejection is not an argument.
b. lack of explicit commentary doesn't mean i missed something. could just mean i didn't find it worthy of (additional) comment.
c. why on earth would you write so much on my basically empty response, and not reply to lawrence's more thoughtful critique?

edited to remove inappropriate snark.
Lawrence, your definition of government is arbitrary. Decentralization keeps any minority from having a centralized power.. Capitalism creates hierarchy through centralized power structures.. Feudalism is a very poor example of decentralization, though I like you brought it up. feudalism creates hierarchies through private property, which is inherently hierarchical... It gives power to those with land, and reduces anyone who only has their labor to sell, to be  forced to work for the land they live on... How does this at all relate to Anarcho-communism where matters that concern everyone, would be voted on by everyone? Dot, to say that video isn't anarchist is just laughable, he has some of the most in depth videos on anarchy. The black rose, Libertarian socialist rants, The left libertarian, all great for learning about anarchism. Didn't find something worth additional comment my ass, man. You cherry picked what you wanted, and wrote it down to try and discredit me, based on my own video.. my own in the sense i shared it here, as I have no part in the making of black rose's videos. I honestly don't care if you like black rose or not... How about someone of Anarchistic Importance?? As Bertrand Russell noted, the anarchist "does not wish to abolish government in the sense of collective decisions: what he does wish to abolish is the system by which a decision is enforced upon those who oppose it." [Roads to Freedom, p. 85] I've come to realize none of you are anarcho-communists nor have an understanding of it... Honestly it makes me sad how fellow Anarchists are pretty closed minded, and simply refuse to acknowledge that meanings of words are subject to arbitrary notions.
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!