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Is opposition to coercion hypocritical? A Series of Questions

–1 vote
Is anarchism opposed to all coercion? (using the wikipedia definition: "Coercion is the practice of forcing another party to act in an involuntary manner by use of intimidation or threats or some other form of pressure or force")

If so, is it hypocritical of an anarchist to assert their interests if they are contrary to those of others? For example, would it be hypocritical to forcibly stop someone who wants to cause you or those you care about harm? It would certainly be forcing that party to act in an involuntary manner by use of force.

If anarchism is only opposed to certain kinds of coercion, where is the line, and is there a non-arbitrary justification for it?

If anarchism is not opposed to coercion, then why does it criticize hierarchy and oppression?
asked Nov 7, 2014 by anonymous
"is it hypocritical of an anarchist to assert their interests if they are contrary to those of others?"


how could any form of life ever sustain itself without asserting its own interests, often in contrast to those of others? anarchists are not *that* different from other life forms. if that is being hypocritical, then it is not possible to live without being so. kind of makes the question moot.
"Some people are averse to competition and allow the words 'co-operation' and 'humanism' to drool from their mouths, apparently meaning thereby a large blob of protoplasmic homogeneity that lacks all individuality. It is not individuals and their liberty that concerns them, but rather some sort of well greased squirming mass that would seem to be analogous to the brains from which such amorphous 'ideas' emanate." - Laurance Labadie

2 Answers

+3 votes
i agree that this question is sort of sophomoric, but that doesn't mean it's not an appropriate question for this site.
i consider it sophomoric (not in a pejorative sense, but in the sense that it sounds like it comes from someone who has a certain level of exposure to philosophy and life) because it takes things in the abstract as if they are removable from specific situations (something that most regulars on this site go out of their way to reject).

another way to say this is that the question posits too broad a definition of coercion. "asserting interests" doesn't have to involve coercion (smooth slip there btw), even when contrary to the interests of others. "asserting" can mean a wide variety of things.
there is also a reification of "involuntary" in the question (i think the wiki def is wrong here too).

but to more or less bypass the first part of the question, and accept enough to directly address the question of what kind of coercion do anarchists accept...
for the nth time, it depends on what kind of anarchist you are.

some anarchists like the rule of meetings, and think that decisions should be made in logical, systematic ways that go through a conscious group process.
others think that different groups of people will have differing ways to decide how people solve problems, and that that diversity is the best we can hope for.
there are probably other models, but that is sufficient for the moment.

and the last part of the question could be another way of getting at different understandings of power. some people define power as a bad thing by definition, some people (post foucault) think of power as something that exists everywhere, and is only bad under certain circumstances (power-over vs power-to-act). in the same way, if you want to define coercion so broadly, then hierarchy and oppression are coercion-used-excessively, or coercion-inherent-in-systems (rather than flexible and relevant to specific contexts).

i think my response here is confusing because i can't decide whether to accept your premises or not. but it was more fun for me that way, so... good luck. :)

edited for typos
answered Nov 7, 2014 by dot (50,790 points)
edited Nov 7, 2014 by dot
"i agree that this question is sort of sophomoric, but that doesn't mean it's not an appropriate question for this site."

yeah, agreed.  i need to remember that this is 101. unfortunately i never completed the prerequisites.  :-)
+1 vote
Yea, like dot suggested above "Coercion" here seems not defined so much as stretched a bit. I always understood coercion to mean more precisely 'the threat of [eventual or conditional] force' which interestingly, therefor, seems more meaningful to anarchists since it infers something like a standing army, ergo a state. This threat is constant and occasionally backed up with force, but not always. It creates a political climate or a social condition that is designed to compel self regulation, compliance, and conformity. Thus, since the principal values of an anarchist are "opposition" to the institutions of state and capital, that alone does not imply hypocrisy. Temporarily formed initiatives, determined by fluid relationships (based upon anarchist desires) leveled against fixed institutions; that all seems quite consistent with anarchist values. Illusions of grandeur can be falsely attributed to some anarchists, but for many besieged by every-day struggles, such would be but little more than an insignificant straw-man assessment.

Drawing "lines" and determining "justification(s)" are but futile endeavors whenever devoid of any subjective and/or self-organised context. It is just such hi-minded and moralistic ideals which more readily lend themselves to hypocrisy.
answered Nov 8, 2014 by skitter (4,110 points)