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+2 votes
In your opinion, is anarchism overly complicated?

If you have further questions, I'll try to explain what I mean.

I have no clue of how to tag this without mentioning anarchism in the tag, so suggestions on that matter would be great.
by (4.7k points)
ok. for now, this seems more a conversation rather than an answerable question. soooo. perhaps you'd desire to begin by illuminating 'complicated' a bit?
I was meaning difficult to understand the ideas behind the various strands of anarchism because it's somewhat abstract. By abstract, I mean theoretical stuff or vague.

Like all this social anarchism stuff, for me personally, just does not compute with my brain and seems bizarre and vague/implausible/contradictory. Hmm... probably not explaining myself too well?

aren't various strands of anarchism already abstractions of tendencies, rationalizations/'ideas', some people share with some other people, more or less?

i tend to see the various anarchisms as complicated only as much as they inhibit the process of anarchy for each person. this doesn't mean anarchy isn't complex, though, in more fluid, ineffable ways.

edit for added thought.

what i find complicated is how academic-oriented folks express their ideas about anarchism. and i am not just talking about formal academics.

why i find it complicated is that so much of what they express is in terms of (relevant, no doubt) historical individuals and how their ideas related to and influenced other historical individuals. often, the language of that period in history is used, and i often find it difficult to even want to try to understand what they actually mean. there is very little explaining of concepts in terms that can be understood by those who may not be familiar with those whose ideas they refer to constantly.

not nearly often enough, do i read something that frames anarchism in the context of actual, lived lives. (as opposed to some abstract concepts discussed in academic terms, usually in the context of what some long-dead white dude thought about some other long dead white dude's ideas, eg). that is why i have very little interest in what i think of as anarchism, the ideology. i am interested in anarchy; the process of creating and living a "free" life. obviously they are related, but just as classical music is related to a spontaneous drum circle, my interest is clearly with one more than the other.

yes, my borderline anti-intellectualism is showing...

funky@, my own use of 'anarchy' and 'anarchist' as self-descriptions really only rooted themselves after a playful, very intimate, and un-premeditated, encounter with a wonderful sunflower who, to nearly anyone else, would look so bent and broken, but whose flowers shined forth in such a way as to beckon me toward a sense of marvelous joy. in this instant, for me joy and anarchy became synonymous.

this will sound corny as hell to some of the more serious anarchists perhaps, and that's ok. i'll repeatedly embrace this encounter anytime over what i've gleaned through my more academic pursuits. there remain so many layers i've scarcely touched which i intimate will occupy a lifetime.

af, that's a great anecdote. and it speaks directly to the idea of one's life and the specific experiences that create it.

i just read the post that squee linked to in another thread, regarding existentialism. to me, that post is a perfect example of what i am talking about. there is much mention of famous names from history, and lots of use of the terms being addressed (existentialism, (post)structuralism, psychoanalysis, ...), but i could not for the life of me come away with any better understanding of the actual ideas being discussed. after reading that, i still have no idea how squee would define existentialism, or (post)structuralism. 

and believe me, squee is someone i have much affinity with, at least based on discussions elsewhere. 

yes, 10-15 years ago i sounded much the same as squee. wrote in a similar manner and, given what i've heard them say on FRR, sounded similarly as well. this isn't anything about age, nor is it about cutting on squee in any way whatsoever. quite the opposite, actually.

it's just a recognition that, for me, hearing what my world was saying to me was impossible as long as i remained locked in abstruse chatter. putting it another way, i was trying to listen with the wrong organ. i still err that way sometimes.

"hearing what my world was saying to me was impossible as long as i remained locked in abstruse chatter"

nicely put!

Basically what f@ said above is what I was trying to get at.
For me simplifying things in life is generally a good idea.
If you believe something is complicated, you can always try to simplify it.

Anarchism might be historically complicated, but what really matters about anarchy/anarchism is the core idea, its tenets and principles, not people in history, their names and birthplaces, exact dates of events etc.

In my opinion of history itself, it doesn't matter exactly when, where something happened back in time, but mostly why and how it came to that. If we understand those reasons, we can learn from history, not by reiterating names and dates of historical events... That's useful for nothing...

Also this seems interesting
I've simplified it to myself that can be summed up in a few words

The way it is presented to others, by others, seems fairly and overly complicated to me. Then adding the like 50 different "strains" of it adds to the complexity, in my opinion.
i think the society in which we live is overly complicated, which contributes to the problems with it that anarchists talk about
as someone with tendencies on both sides (desiring simplicity and--what i consider--an acknowledgement of complexity) i would say that this is an issue of bias.

we have all had experiences with people of bad faith who tended in one direction or the other, and i expect that is informing our tendencies. ie if we have had more exposure to people who falsely simplify things (like feminists talking about sex work, or most people talking about intimate violence), then we will tend to despise (false) simplification. if we've had more exposure to people like grad students-with-more-language-than-ideas, then we'll err against complication.

pity those of us with intimate knowledge of both! ;)
well, what i was trying to say about "society overcomplicating things" was more or less a reference to bureaucracy and the tendency to take issues and make them as far removed from immediate reality as possible...but i guess this also manifests itself in oversimplification like with the feminist movement, trying to make their struggle a good vs. evil thing against "the oppressor"

in my experience, i always got really frustrated in school when both in the classroom and out (i went to private school most of my pre-adulthood, which has an intellectual arrogance more rare than in public schools) and often you'd be presented with certain kinds of logical reasoning, and if you didn't understand it you were a lazy idiot, which to me is both overcomplicating things and being lazy yourself in not trying to find a way to explain things that make sense. On the other hand, what is an equally common trend i've noticed throughout my life is to turn certain matters into emotionally charged sound bites, not unlike what politicians do constantly, which is encapsulates the feminist movement thing too...i always just get confused as to how people can be so terrible at taking a look at themselves, i don't believe the majority of people do this on purpose, there is just this blind that they can't see through....cops will unfortunately continue to act the way they do without any questioning of the premise of their job (the self-righteous harassment and taxation, and this even occurs with cops who know how stupid the whole system is, for example, the cops who made the show "the wire" (which i by the way, think is great show regardless) will always see a need for policing period, and having seen every episode they seem to think that the problem is just the particular crimes cops are politically motivated to prosecute...

well, there's my rant on bias...
@dot: you make a great point.

over-simplifying is no better than over-complicating. i am not sure if this is what you meant, but the kind of simplification you describe in that comment sounds like what i think of as reductionist thinking. (i am also not sure if i use that word correctly). as one who desires simplicity (and surely acknowledges complexity as a real and necessary aspect of life) as much as possible, i constantly try to check myself on exactly that: am i being reductionist?
i'd perhaps throw into the pot that the conditions within which we speak have a great deal to do with this, so funky@ i cannot reduce you to reductionist. :-)

many aspects of our communion with others are outside of our control in varying degrees: placing and timing; writing, speaking...singing(?); and so on. writing in any form, for instance, necessitates far more abstraction and distance than does sitting around a fire and chatting, although i know surrealists attempt to greatly reduce, if not undermine, this consequence with communal automatic poetry.

1 Answer

+5 votes

this is a good question.

my initial answer:

no, the concepts behind anarchy (even anarchism) are relatively simple, even to me (a simpleton). one might say they are a (not the, but a) "natural" way of being and relating in the world.

however, what makes anarchy complicated where the rubber meets the road - living our lives - are the multitude and magnitude of indoctrinations and ideologies that the world we currently inhabit imposes upon us, from the moment of our conception/birth. all (or most) of which are intended to ingrain in us principles and desires that are completely contrary to anarchy.

so, we have this kind of innate sense of wanting to be free, yet we are constantly told that we should want something else; authorities, social contracts, law and order, etc. and of course, those things are imposed on us regardless.

add to that what human mentioned above: the different flavors and ideological leanings of anarchism, and the tendency for those talking/writing about it to be overly verbose, intellectual, and reliant on historical writings (which adds yet another level of mediation due to language and style differences between timeframes). 

then, yeah, i can easily understand how one might see it as complicated.

in general, i think people tend to complicate things rather than simplify them. and when it comes to communicating ideas, i wish people would more often aim for conciseness and simplicity, rather than verbosity and complexity. and i know that ain't always easy. especially for those that attended the academy.

by (13.4k points)
i'm drawn to most of your answer funky@, but the last paragraph i wonder...

for one, i don't equate complication with complexity. i don't see academic thought necessarily complex, although complicated; nor those all-too-rare occasions of open-ended, deep conversations among trusted friends as complicated, but complex.

the former's tendency toward generalization (often in the form of logic/reason)  is often at base fairly simplistic due to their inherent reliance upon generalities. complication arises often enough solely as retrospective justifications.

the latter takes far more time, often mixes story, emotion, reason and, again, trust as its plaited together, say, around a fire. there often isn't any need for justification, although one may be asked to provide some. i see in this, complexity.

all in all, in complication i see more of a controlling, managed cognitive approach. in complexity i tend to feel conscious, semi-conscious, non-conscious threads, as well as many unmanageable and perhaps ineffable traces at play.
I can't answer for f@, but complexity adds to it being more complicated, at least for me. Something being complex on it's own, per se, doesn't necassarily mean it's complicated, as complex just means, in my view basic understanding, involving a lot of parts and what not. Adding all these different parts and what not makes it more complicated to explain than it needs to be.

So, like for example, when I try to teach someone to fly-fish, I don't get into the specifics for why they need to form the loop when casting or how the flies are tied because it'll over complicate the matter.

With anarchism, in my experience, when one asks or is curious about anarchism, the person is usually told to read Peter Kropotkin or Mikhail Bakunin after it's briefly explained of what anarchism is.

Did that make any sense whatsoever?
ah, fly-fishing. some of the few, and best, memories with my father...:)

yes, some sense was made, although we may just be speaking past one another a bit. after all, the internet only complicates what could perhaps, in other occasions, emerge as a shared conversation as an evening unfolded.
af, i definitely agree there is a difference between complexity and complication. and i like the examples you used to demonstrate that. in that last paragraph, perhaps i could have used "complication" instead of "complexity".

then again, i also agree with human that complexity tends to increase complication.
funky@ and human, i do think i see what you're saying and it's difficult, if not impossible, to fully separate the two meanings i'm getting at. i'm sorta using 'complexity' in a way reflecting the emergence of self-organizing patterns (an echo of f@'s 'natural' way of being) and 'complicate' in a way reflecting various constructions of humankind which to tend to reproduce certain anthropocentric patterns only.

thus, for me, human's fly-fishing already contains some complication within a complexity of already interconnected emergent spontaneous patterns; humans, fish, the ecosystem of the mountain stream, the bioregion, and so on. perhaps for me the question at least partially hinges on some difference in spontaneity and rational (pre-)calculation or intent...?