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If Anarchy was instated, how would the populace deal with crime or civil disputes?

0 votes
If Anarchy was instated as the new form of "government", where no law existed, how would the populace deal with organized crime, civil disputes or even war, after the law and all enforcement systems where abolished?
asked Jan 18, 2011 by Bowshooter (120 points)
As the new form of government??
Okay, I think instead of saying, “There will be a 'variety' of responses." it would be more productive to discuss the 'variety'.

One possible 'variety' is killing someone for killing, another is exile, while another could be making a hell on Anarchist Earth for that individual. We can try to theorize out serial killers, rapist, and other assholes when we make our Anarchist Utopia, but if they still exist when Anarchy enters we might want to discuss the 'variety' a little less ambiguously.

I am a terrible Anarchist most likely. In fact, I see law as important. I maintain it is the organizational structure of the society that makes the laws, rather than being any obvious universal understanding. For instance, we can all agree that killing is bad, that rape is bad, and a host of other violent deeds. We can agree on this regardless of ideology and from this we can see that the commonality of these kinds of laws bestows a commonality in our societies. On the other hand, we can see laws that imprison people for “crimes” for which no one was hurt, with the exception of that society’s sensibilities. In this sense, it is not truly even a law, but an imposition of non-universal values on an unwilling population. This we can see, is how law fails an imperfect society and why I endorse Anarchy as a less imperfect solution.

The judging of such crimes is much more unique per society, and I feel as if Anarchy chooses to not cast judgment. I know that Bakunin said, "A man who makes plans for after the revolution is a reactionary" but I feel compelled to have this discussed further. Will each commune decide for themselves, if this is the case, could we have communes that judge in such a manner that is a contradiction to overall Anarchist principles and gives such a system a terrible nature?

I fear that the discarding of law is a waste, and a serious discredit to the proletariat. In this way, we allow bullying of the minority by the majority in any one society as some grievances will be addressed by many against one and cause all to live in fear of the commune’s policies rather than feel freedom in it.

Sound laws (i.e. against violence and others laws, which should be discussed line by line) should be maintained/created for the need to maintain freedom and for the understanding of judgment in breach of such laws. In no way do I advocate prisons (at least not in their current form), but judgment should be more uniform in the world and serve the needs of the society.

Currently, I find law to be despicable, because it comes from the font of powerful elites who send the police to enforce this absolute tyranny of the body and mind. But! From an Anarchist society we could begin anew, creating a set of universal laws to protect the individual from the masses and to judge in a way that shows our humanity. We should make it in a way that allows rebellion from the law as well. We should welcome the population to challenge laws and question their validity. We should allow for the rapid change of laws if they are seen as oppressive or unneeded, but we should still have laws from my perspective.

At least, it sounds good to me. I am new to Anarchy, so be gentle :)

4 Answers

+1 vote
(bypassing the questions of whether anarchy is a form of government--which it is not, of course, or whether such a thing as a populace would exist in an anarchist situation, or what exactly would be considered to be crime, etc...)

different groups of people would deal with problems differently, presumably.

some anarchists support the idea of a highly organized anarchist society, with federations and councils and federated councils.
other anarchists want a simpler, more accessible society, in which personal relationships are more significant than policies.

think of what it would be like if you and your friends could (and had to) deal with problems directly, rather than appealing to someone with more authority than you. consider, for example, that the reason that organized crime is as successful as it is, is because they buy off the people at the top. this corruption at the top is a big part of why anarchists believe in not having a top.
far from believing in the goodness of everyone (which we are sometimes accused of), we believe that anyone will be corrupted by having too much power, so we fight against the accumulation of power, rather than trying to make sure only good people have accumulated power.

edit: continuing the answer i guess...
bowshooter, i'm not sure, given your comment below, why you think i didn't understand what you were asking. but i will try to flesh out my response a bit.
a. i assume that most (not all) people commit serious crimes based on circumstances that would no longer exist in an anarchist society. the people who did act in ways that were seriously unacceptable to the group of people that they lived among would be addressed by that group of people. there are lots of ways to address messed up behavior, and one of the things that would be a mark of an appropriate culture is the capacity to address specific situations, including the characters of all the people involved, rather than having rules that have to be followed no matter what (three strikes and you're out would be an example of such a rule).
b. i don't believe that in an anarchist society it would be everyone in families against everyone else. or everyone alone against everyone else. i believe (i think most anarchists believe) that people want to and will live in groups of people with whom they pretty much agree and get along (this is one aspect of the "free association" part of the anarchist principles).
people wouldn't be "banding together against crime" because that implies crime as the cause of the banding together.
c. what does "adequate protection" mean? in this culture it means being forced to participate in allowing an armed force of people (including paying for them to exist)--who have no relationship to us, or care about us in any way--to occupy our neighborhoods, to commit violence against us that we are not allowed to combat, and to be the only recourse that we are supposed to take when problems reach a certain level.
ugh. i guess we need a question specifically about police?
answered Jan 19, 2011 by dot (52,030 points)
edited Jan 19, 2011 by dot

I understand that Anarchism is not a form of government, I only used "government" for a lack of a better word, but to further explain my question I think it would be better if I set up a senario. Lets say, for example, that a social revolution has occurred, and there is now no central government or accompanying laws or enforcement agency. And that now, with the removal of the law enforcement agency and prison systems, people are now robbing and killing of free will. The question I had was that if you or I where living in that country where social revolution had occurred, how would we deal with crime on a large scale? Its safe to say that after a social revolution there would be some kind of crime rate and that without an organization built to handle the crime it would essentially be every man for himself, unless people decided to band together against it. Simply stated, if I told you that you where on your own against criminals and you didn't have the means to protect yourself, what would you do? Besides, would we honestly want to leave ourselves or our families without adequate protection?
"Simply stated, if I told you that you where on your own against criminals and you didn't have the means to protect yourself, what would you do? "

(not to digress, but "criminals"? in a world without government or laws? what does that even mean?)

i would look to those that i have trusting/trusted relationships with to assist me when i need it, as i would be assisting them when they need it.  if together we could not prevent these untrusted "others" from doing what we do not want them to do, i/we would obviously have to come up with a different strategy (build impregnable barriers, move, feign submission, etc).  ultimately, if i had no choice but to submit to some oppressor that was taking away more of my life/happiness/freedom than i am willing live without in that moment, i would probably take my own life, hopefully along with as many of them as i could.

also, "adequate protection" does not in any way imply a state, government, police, or any other inherently oppressive institution. it often means simply having the tools and techniques for achieving one's goals in the face of attack or whatever. this is something that many independent folks (particularly those that live rurally and are already "marginalized" and less dependent on institutional structures) already think about and do, regardless of their perspective on anarchy. granted many or most of them are probably anti state in some form or another, but they would not necessarily be my allies.
+1 vote
I think that the most important aspect to consider when contemplating how a post-revolutionary society deals with anything is that, for once people will be free to make these decisions for themselves.  

So to answer your question, i think anarchist responses to problems will be a diverse as the problems themselves. There is no single answer.
answered Jan 19, 2011 by john apolo (320 points)
0 votes
As an Anarchist without adjectives I definitely agree with John Apolo and dot that there would be no set way to handle crime. There are so many schools of thought in anarchy, from Anarcho-primitivism to Anarcho-Collectivist, that one solution to all crime seems to be impossible.

I have personally always envisioned anarchists separating into colonies based on philosophy, the collectivists banding together, the individualists  forming trading unions between themselves. Then these colonies would come together under a system similar to Medieval Iceland.

That would handle crime and civil disputes but I can not see any anarchist society dealing with war, unless it is from a separate state that is not anarchist. Besides being an Anarchist without adjectives I am also an Anarcho-Pacifist as I believe most anarchists are so like Medieval Iceland a war from outside non-anarchists would certainly be the destruction of an Anarchist society.
answered Jan 21, 2011 by Tolstoy's Disciple (130 points)
0 votes
The absence of debt in a stateless society could render the exaggerated need for production unnecessary, thereby minimizing, if not eliminating, criminal activity for gain (organized crime). The false scarcity of basic necessities could then be as nonexistent as capital.

The effects a revolution upon the social landscape could pose unforeseen and unpredictable challenges to any outside criminal predator not familiar with the various affinities groups and the places they inhabit.  If sedentary, the land in which the revolution was to have taken place could be socially fragmented, or rather seem as such by comparison to the once centralized (but socially atomized) state/society. Targeting one group could result in the chaotic response of many.

Should these criminal or pathological behaviors be exhibited amongst known individuals in the various groups, then this too can pose even more difficult strategic problems for the criminals. The surviving victims of the predation would be free to respond according to their needs and ability.       

Given the overall success of a (possible future) revolution, and the resultant influence of anarchist ideas upon those receptive, the principals of the latter could be adopted in their everyday relationships. Those whom attempt to maintain relationships and actions which run contrary to these principals identify themselves thereby. No need for professional investigators, especially if the people in a group already know the perpetrator and his or her motives long before the fact. Prevention is possible in such a setting.

Furthermore, as this and other answers have suggested, "law enforcement systems" do as much to (sometimes unwittingly) assist "organized crime" if not more than it ever can to prevent it.  That these agencies (along with state and capital) exist at all amidst a society that also harbors organized crime is proof of their impotence (if not completely intentional).
answered Jan 21, 2011 by skitter (3,950 points)
edited Jan 21, 2011 by skitter
Peter Gelderloos provides an excellent starting point for discussions on this topic, from his book Anarchy Works, which you can download here: http://zinelibrary.info/anarchy-works-peter-gelderloos

Of particular relevance:

5. Crime
"Who will protect us without police?"
What about gangs and bullies?
What's to stop someone from killing people?
What about rape, domestic violence, and other forms of social harm?
Beyond individual justice

7. Neighboring Societies
"Could an anarchist society defend itself from an authoritarian neighbor?"
"What will we do about societies that remain very patriarchal, or racist?"
"What will prevent constant warfare and feuding?"
"Networks not borders"

edit to make it a comment (due to it being entirely a link to another site)
Curious, why downvoted?
I was mistakenly thinking this answer was too much like an advertisement. I realize now I was wrong about that.
Ok, thanks for explaining that. A lot of these questions seem like they need thorough, lengthy responses and I figured it would save me time to post a link to a scanned version of something that I read in print and found useful. If I only had a print version that cost money then I would try to scan and upload it.