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–3 votes
By forcefully supressing the existence of a government, aren't you essentially "oppressing" those who would like to create one? Forgive me if I'm wrong, but isn't this a form of hierarchy? Before I get the good ole' "it's less hierarchical than the hierarchy it puts an end to" argument, you should remember that a statement like this really does no argumentative work whatsoever; it just begs the question. Why not? Why is it less hierarchical? Anarchists are against democracy, so how would it be qualified? How would hierarchies be compared and evaluated?

Let's examine a hypothetical to further prove my point. There exists 2 men; Man A, and Man B. They are fighting over a peach. Either Man A can consume the peach at the cost of Man B, or Man B can do the same at the expense of Man A. Ideally, the peach would go towards whomever needed it the most; anarchist philosophy, on the other hand, would point at the idea that either no man, or each man should receive the peach, so long as it is not necessarily preferable, bult rather equal. Shouldn't utility be put before equality? Wouldn't you rather a striving city with minor bits of inequality, as opposed to a mud-shack without any?

Hopefully, over the course of this entry I have helped to explain why: 1. Hierarchy isn't always undesirable; and 2. Why there must be some form of governance to evaluate hierarchies.

edited to add tags
by (310 points)
edited by
ba@: indeed, that is a good book (mine is falling apart). i have actually worked with michael smith, one of the co-authors (and another fantastic cob expert). the intentional community he lives at in northern cali is quite impressive in some ways. i spent some time there maybe 12, 13 years ago.

i would also suggest "clay culture" by carol crews (self published). it is all about earthen plasters and finishes.

speaking of outdoor kitchens, a neighbor out here does insane rock work. he built the coolest outdoor kitchen, steps down into it, 2 cooking areas, storage, etc. it fucking rocks!

ok, sorry to hijack the thread with unrelated gossip. :-)
@dot: well said. thanks for actually putting some relevant thoughts into words, rather than just laughing, as i did.

@ad: you are right, i somehow missed (or rather misunderstood) the part where you said "or each man should receive the peach". my bad.

Wow, you built a mud-oven, baa. I've seen them out in the SW when I spend time there, but couldn't decifer how they were made. I'm feeling technologically inferior to y'all as all I can build is a wood shack/blind and a simplistic rock oven. Mud or cob huts and oven seems way too advanced for me. :)

@ad, I could've sworn this site is a question/answer site and people give their own opinions on whichever question. Not a site dedicated to converting people by giving answers that you deem as acceptable. I actually lol'd out loud when you claimed this site's purpose is to convert people.

"Hear, hear; I definitely should have thrown that in. Oh wait a minute, I did. How about learning how to read..."

Or you can be more clear of what you meant by "or each man should receive the peach" instead of getting all pissy. This can easily be misinterpreted. When I read that, it wasn't clear to me on how each man can receive the peach.

Maybe sometime you could read what f@ writes. F@ doesn't seem, as far as I can tell, interested in creating this grand society that you envision, ad.
human, the mud construction feels simpler to me than a wood shack! i generally don't feel that confident in any type of (currently) conventional building...but the mud stuff comes much easier to me.

basically, you just mix water and dirt - trying to get the right amount of clay and sand and water - and then press the stuff together. you can add straw or other things too, but i didn't for the simple oven i made. i didn't use any tool other than a butter knife. :)

3 Answers

+1 vote

if you have spent any time reading various after-the-revolution questions on this site, you will know that people here mostly promote variation and diversity, so that people who want to live with other people telling them what to do, can do so. as long as other people (like me!) get to live away from that paradigm. if someone tries to rule me, then i get to stop them. edit: embedded in my answer is my assumption of states (and capitalism) as expansive and invasive, so by my (tacit) definition, those institutions/social relations never leave me/us alone to do my/our own thing. (thanks asker!)

as for your example, it's reminiscent of every an cap example that's ever been on this site. all about individuals taking food away from each other. jeez.

by (53.1k points)
edited by
Merely existing governs people, as I consume food that others could have and dirty waters that others drink from. Without any sort of coercive ultimatum, there is no way in which these conflicts could be mediated between. How do you plan to objectively resolve disputes when the legitimacy of governance (i.e. eating a pear versus smearing my balls with battery acid and taking a dip in the local lake) is completely subjective? If you call something compulsory governance, you are oppressing the man attempting to do it. If you do not, you are oppressing those being affected by it.
The anarchist cause is not the pursuit of absolute physical freedom for the individual, but maximum possible social freedom- this means a society in which people do not impose more hassle on one another than is necessary to ensure the means of survival are met for all. All other interaction would be voluntary.
The reason I say this is because all living things impose demands on their environment, which means that coexistence demands that these demands are met. In other words, social freedom comes after the survival of the members of that society has been assured. In order for this to happen, there has to be some form of a democratic constraint; otherwise, people would impose on each other freely as there would be repercussions for doing so.
Edited & reshown.

'Merely existing governs people,'

no. at least not in the way a nation-state does, which makes me think you're equivocating just a tad. so far you've given us two different senses of 'govern.' how 'bout picking one and using it consistently.

' I consume food that others could have and dirty waters that others drink from."

who? which others? are we speaking of humans only (as in your thought-experiment) or ants or bears?

but, as dot alluded to, you thought-experimenters are a ravenous lot.

"How do you plan to objectively resolve disputes when the legitimacy of governance ... is completely subjective? "

what the fuck does it even mean to "objectively resolve disputes"? i for one reject the very concept of objectivity in this context. please explain how a dispute between individuals can be resolved objectively without an authority. subjective perspectives are how disputes come about, no? 

when two individuals, each with their own subjective perspective, have a dispute and then resolve it themselves (ie, no "objectivity" authority), that does not mean they reached some objective resolution. it means they reached a resolution that both of them, subjectively, can live with. there is a huge difference.

"Merely existing governs people, as I consume food that others could have"

wow. that is stretching things beyond the breaking point. i agree with af, you need to come up with a definition of "govern" that makes some kind of sense, and then stick with it.

"Edited & reshown."

Poor decision governance. It seems that all you're trying to do with this "merely existing governs people" stuff is pull a 'gotcha' by doing something like this. "Existing = govern. Any action an individual takes = governance. Haha anarchism is flawed, prove me wrong suckers." I mean, if you wrote, an existing individual influences their environment, I'd agree. But no, you use terms like "govern" and governance" instead and in the most absurd ways.

dot, maybe I'm not understanding this answer correctly, but:

it seems like saying "people who want to live with other people telling them what to do, can do so" is perfectly right, so long as we're clear that this is not the same thing as systematic, permanent hierarchy (i.e. the state).

the thing is that the person who's asking this question wants to insist on some kind of like ontology of "rule", or whatever. so in that context your answer is confusing me a little bit

also good work everyone on turning this into a conversation about mud :-)

actually, i'm not sure that it can't mean systematic, "permanent" hierarchy. if there is a non-expansive group of people who that wants to live that way, and there continues to be the possibility of people leaving that group whenever they want, then i guess that's ok with me? hard to imagine, but i read a lot of science fiction ;)

also good work everyone on turning this into a conversation about mud.


Hmm, I'm not sure how I feel about this, but I don't know how to give a full response. (I suppose my discomfort here has to do w/ how much this question is forcing us to engage w/ hypothetical scenarios).

I guess I'd feel more comfortable w/ saying "this isn't my problem" rather than "this is acceptable to me, as an anarchist. this meets my criteria for a properly anarchist situation."

i agree, it's an interesting (aka discomfiting) hypothetical. i would never say that such a society "meets my criteria for an anarchist situation," but i would say (am saying! eek!) that a larger context that allows for that as one of many other possibilities does meet my criteria.

i think.

and the point about it "not being my problem" is absolutely relevant. i don't want to/frequently can't appropriately judge other people's options based on my own life and understanding. they have to figure their own shit out. the most i can do (at best) is help them do that for themselves.

i think.


I wonder though about what perspective you adopt when you say that a larger context that "allows for" this or that, would meet your criteria. I suppose, abstractly, this isn't something that bothers me (having neighbors w/ a fetish for paperwork and organization, or something). But when am I in a position to even worry about this, unless I'm like an urban planner or a sci-fi author??

I guess I'm taking issue with the whole idea of having "criteria" or of thinking in terms of a "scenario" because for me the whole point is that I aim to act and think in a way that opens up possibilities which are to be fulfilled in a way that I can't possibly imagine in advance.

(The other problem of course is that we're imagining groups that "live the way they want"... what are we, vulgar hegelians or something? what we want is produced and conditioned by real circumstances that we already inhabit!)
"Merely existing governs people..." No. The conflation of force and authority is an old dodge, traceable back to at least Engels, but it simply misses the point of how anarchists have defined "government."
+5 votes
I'm uncertain if others have noticed an all-too-common, yet unspoken, sleight-of-hand lurking in this question: a leap from mass-society (nation-state) to a hypothetical example of individuals interacting in a very narrow way. (Like others, I can only smell the churchiness of Ancapism, mainly due to the Crusoe-like qualities therein, but, I don't wish to be hasty...)

This maneuver is important to recognize for a few reasons. First, it superimposes the abstractions through which state/economy conceives  individuals: these are so-called incentives, exchange, etc, which make for so-called rational actors. The question arising immediately in the scenario would be: what is the quality of relations between the two people involved? Then, can these relations be considered 'rational' (ex: for mutual benefit)?

I would imagine this relation isn't nearly as abstract and/or rational as it's made out to be here for its explanatory power, that is, the power to persuade and convince. The people involved probably know each other (perhaps even intimately), interact with some regularity, thus have some history as well as overlapping relationships with others, etc, you know, like real living humans do.

As far as I can tell, it is the construction of the nation-state which has continually fractured the variegated relations we have with one another to create an anti-society of strangers of the type posed in the question. We find our lives under threat of constant enclosure, a continuing process of 'primitive accumulation,' within and without simultaneously. So, in one way the question undoes itself, since it is the very processes of a State which create the type of people/relations posed in the first place!

In addition, there are some surviving societies, as well as many more recorded examples non-extant (thanks to the dominant nation-state paradigm attempting now to go global super-state on us), in which telling anyone what to do is taboo, a no-no, if even conceivable at all.

That's where I'm inclined to go and how I wish to live in terms of this question and all it's underlying premises. While I realize this will not be 'absolute' or 'perfect,' I actively seek out places and people where this is ever more realizable.

Lastly, I have no good reason to equate, subverting, undermining, and disrupting this top-down paradigm with any kind of 'suppression' for what I think by now are obvious reasons following the above.

edit for clarity; and again
by (7.5k points)
edited by
i like the answer, and anyone answer that points to the narrow-minded dichotomy of working within a nation state and individuals taking shit from each other mercilessly....but the thing about the above question is i ultimately feel depressed because reality set in after becoming an anarchist that living without the current imposed structure would be somewhat difficult for me and those who live around me, and trying to convince them to abandon those structures has proved to be impossible :-/

rs666: "i ultimately feel depressed because reality set in after becoming an anarchist that living without the current imposed structure would be somewhat difficult for me and those who live around me"

i heard that. i started feeling that depression long before i found my own groove with anarchy. i would suggest that "living without the current imposed structure" becomes less difficult the more you remove yourself from it. it is not a dichotomy of living a life either completely immersed in, or completely separate from, ... the system (for lack of a better word at the moment). of course the latter is likely impossible, but there are many ways to minimize your interactions with it. knowing what your priorities are, and then modifying your life to better fit with them, is key. not necessarily easy (though it was fairly easy for me), but key.

the problem i have found, in terms of others that i care about likewise wanting a life outside of this civilized shitpot, is that most people are unwilling - often based solely on personal desires - to let go of certain aspects of their lives that require the machinations of civilization. that is a matter of priorities, and i try not to judge those whose priorities keep them explicitly bound to the structures you refer to. i admit, sometimes that is difficult.

i like the answer too....and your discussion, rs and funky.

i feel the frustration too (and sometimes feel pretty down) regarding the imposed with another person who desires anarchy certainly has helped me to feel better (more sane, less down)...but i can still easily get swallowed up by almost everyone around me - friends, family - who don't want to let go of those structures to even a small degree (even when they experience a ton of pain from them.) sigh....

this place helps me too....thanks for the thoughts all of you...whether you intended it or not. :)
ba@: i too have a best friend/landmate/lover who desires anarchy, and there is no question in my mind that has made certain things much easier for me. but it also constantly raises questions of ... insularity? almost the only time i ever get to have face time with other @s (at least, ones that i find interesting and critical thinkers) is when i go back to the pnw to visit friends.

this place is great in its own way. but - i'm sure like you and some others on here - i desire more real life relations with others that share some of my perspective. and from what i can tell, there are several folks on here that i would love to meet and spend some time with (aside from the few that i already know offline). maybe someday...
funky, it does raise questions for me (us) as well...although i don't think i'd call it insularity, in my case. i could easily see it heading that direction without awareness of it...but my mate and i both tend to like to mix it up a little, and we often talk to strangers about our thoughts, ways of living, experiences, etc. just yesterday we ended up hanging out (in the pnw) with a guy from holland and we talked for over 4 hours after intending only to have a beer by ourselves.

with the family, a different dynamic seems to occur....and we often feel isolated, or alone (together) within the family, or rather, somewhat on the outside of it. and we mostly feel alright about it, or at least an acceptance of it as something we've chosen.

and sometimes we start feeling like "us against the world"...and i don't like that feeling much.

so yeah, i guess it takes constant effort (attention, awareness, re-evaluation, letting go) to navigate yourself against the prevailing systems and culture, whether by yourself or with a trusted friend. and like you, i'd like to have a few more people around me who want to share that effort together, if even only for a few hours.
Well I'm glad the two of you have anarchist lovers, that would be a beautiful thing. I don't think I could deal with someone who'd hate me for not having a career or a definite
+1 vote
I actually think this raises an interesting question, (one that I don't quite know how to answer) though I think the way it's posed is disastrous, embarrassing, and stupid. (very apt tags, by the way)

It seems like that if we (anarchists) are aiming to make a complete + thoroughgoing critique of hierarchy, then on some level our critique has to be total, right?  (If only because capitalism is a totality.)

What I mean is that I think we evidently can only get so far via partial/localized struggles, before we encounter some kind of limit, because capitalism will never just back off and give you breathing room to make a permanent alternative arrangement. In the extreme case, you take over a city (i.e. the Paris commune) but if sympathetic revolts don't happen in the rest of Europe, then everyone's getting rounded up and shot or transported, basically.

By saying this I'm not trying to denegate the usefulness/relevance of localized types of struggle at all. But what I am saying is that the stakes of our project (I'm pretty sure) ultimately have to do with the fact that capitalism is going to destroy the entire planet and so our response has to find a new way of becoming adequate to that. :)

So for autonomy to be a possibility at all, I think that capitalism + the state do have to be dismantled in toto.  So here's, for me, the tricky part.

We've kind of definitively rejected the idea of a revolution as it used to be construed (replace one system w/ another). This is, ultimately, why the question doesn't make sense -- because really no one here envisions some kind of planned anarchist utopia that would either "rule out" or "allow for" minor elements of hierarchy. (AmorFati's answer gives a much more detailed series of correctives)

However we don't yet have a theory of total social change, only an intuition that separate, willful, hyperactive struggles are more commensurate with what we actually want (though it's unclear how far this will really get us).

So the question that I am stuck with (maybe we are all stuck with it) is, how can we conceive of the complete up-heaval of the social order (I feel like we kind of have to think this) without, as the person asking this so vulgarly suggests, becoming monsters? I really don't know that this has been addressed by anyone. (I'm not talking about in this thread, but, like, in the whole world)
by (8.0k points)
edited by

asker, i appreciate your struggles on this, for sure.

i personally don't find a need for "a theory of total social change". for me, it is quite enough to dynamically and continually find/create ever more space for myself and those i care about (and choose to share aspects of my life with) to live as autonomously as possible given the context of where/how we live. 

as for those who see those of us who want the destruction of this "system" as monsters: i can understand their horror at what is being suggested (destruction of civilization/capitalism/the state/etc without a known "safety net"). but practically speaking, they only have to look more deeply at the world as it is to see that only monsters (to use their word, i guess) could have created this shit. if they still want to perpetuate it, then at least i know where they stand.

right, and I think this is a good approach so far as it goes. but my concern isn't about the lack of a safety net for when civilization fades and we are left to our own devices (in fact I think the lack of a safety net is part of the point, and why such an outcome would be desirable). My worry is quite simply, how can we possibly bring this about? is this a possibility and if so how do we even think about it?

i realize that the lack of a safety net (seems like i could have found a better term) is not your concern; i was pointing it out as theirs.

the question of what is possible and how to realize it, is a massive one. i personally have long since given up on trying to deal with things on such a macro scale, but i definitely understand (at least some of) the desires and motivations driving those that choose to pursue things on that scale. 

we all choose our battles (at least i do), and as i have aged i find that different battles take priority for me (than when i was younger).