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Welcome to Anarchy101 Q&A, where you can ask questions and receive answers about anarchism, from anarchists.

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+2 votes
The point of anarchy seems to start with people being against authority. Likely, many rebellious types end up here at one point or another. I think anarchy is for something, not just against it. Would it ruin anarchy to put it in a positive term? Would the rebellious sort be turned off?
by (330 points)
i often think of it as trusting myself, my instincts, how i relate with other people and living things, and using my senses more and thinking authoritatively much less.

i do think of anarchy as primarily a negation of ways of thinking and relating, but that negation leads me to myriad possible ways of doing things and open-ended and dynamic really, that i don't think much about what is anarchy "for", even though i do imagine many beautiful scenarios.
For me, anarchism is for enterprise (I understand this is a different position to this forum's admins, hence I am only commenting). Where it does not I have to ask how preventing 'enterprise' would be enforced? With enterprise we can decide for ourselves if we will support an economic activity or not.
can you define enterprise in that context?

7 Answers

+2 votes
many people think of anarchy as a positive project. the traditional tenets are mutual aid, direct action, and voluntary association. there are some others that have been added and are a bit more controversial, like transparency in relationships and projects, and ends and means not being in conflict with each other.

that's on the daily practice as well as long term level.

but there are also people who urge prefiguration (building anarchist institutions right now, not waiting for a revolution), insurrection (attacking right now, not waiting for a revolution), etc.

there's more to say about this, of course. lol.
by (53.1k points)
Thank you. That is very clear. The 3 tenets would be for sure more difficult to put into a one word.
+3 votes

I am for the basic principles that dot mentions (mutual aid, free association, direct action). These are critical to how I at least want to live my life (I'm human and I fuck up... a lot), and are why I think anarchism as a lived practice is more than teenage rebellion (nothing wrong with teenage rebellion, but...)

Over the years I have come to see anarchism as much more of a negative project, by which I mean that I see my anarchism as a tool or a weapon for attacking the parts of the world and pieces of my life that I hate (I am trying to think of how to concisely define those in counter point to the three principles I mentioned above, but the closest I can get is capitalism, forced relations and mediated life, but I think there is a better way... halp!)

I'm often wary of anarchists who talk about prefigurative politics or who focus on the "after the revolution" side of things because we aren't there yet, and we don't know what that looks like. Certainly I have ways I prefer relating to others, and to the best of my ability I structure my life in conjunction with that, but I think trying to come up with a positive vision of the future (whether we are talking about feral bands of post-linguistic hunter-gatherers, or fully automated luxury gay space communism), while perhaps appealing, and certainly something that not-anarchists are always demanding, is also limiting, and I prefer to keep all the potential options on the table.

Also though, because I love Alexander Berkman, here is what he had to say about this (taken from the first issue of his newspaper The Blast):

"-Do you mean to destroy?

-Do you mean to build?

-These are the questions we have been asked from many quarters, by inquirers sympathetic and otherwise.

-our reply is frank and bold:

-We mean both: to destroy and to build.

-For, socially speaking, Destruction is the beginning of Construction.

Superficial minds speak sneeringly of destruction. O it is easy to destroy- they say- but to build. to build, that's the important work. Its nonsense. No structure, social or otherwise, can endure if built on a foundation of lies. Before the garden can bloom, the weeds must be uprooted. Nothing is therefore more important than to destroy. Nothing more necessary and difficult

Take a man with an open mind, and you will have no great trouble in convincing him of the false-hood and rottenness of our social structure. But when one is filled with superstition an prejudice, your strongest arguments will knock in vain against the barred doors of his bigotry an ignorance. For thousand-year-old superstition and tradition is stronger than truth and logic.

To destroy the Old and the False is the most vital work. We emphasize it: to blast the bulwarks of slavery and oppression is of primal necessity. It is the beginning of really lasting construction

Thus will THE BLAST be destructive

And THE BLAST will be constructive.

Too long have we been patient under the whip of brutality and degradation. Too long have we conformed to the Dominant, with an ineffective fist hidden in our pocket. Too long have we vented our depth of misery by endless discussion of the distant future. Too long have we been exhausting our efforts and energy by splitting hairs with each other.

It's time to act

The time to act is NOW!

The breath of discontent is heavy upon this wide land. It permeates mill and mine, field and factory. Blind rebellion stalks upon highway and byway. To fire it with the spark of Hope, to kindle it with the light of Vision, and turn pale discontent into conscious social action - that is the crying problem of the hour. It is the great work calling to be done.

To work, then, and blasted be every obstacle in way of the Regeneration."

by (22.1k points)
(shit, i need to read more berkman)
yeah you do. :)
I Can see why you like Berkman. Powerful.
I Lost an earlier comment and just lost another one. Frustrating.

Anyway, you all have given me lots to think about. The book(?) /PDF on sacred economics looks very interesting.

I Think technically, I am an @. Not sure I want say just what I am. Haven't really studied any theory to be able to say.

I Would say I am a prefigutive type no matter what the form. There may come a time that a theory of community living appropriate for the # of people alive can take over en mass but I think that would only work if there were enough functional communities already active.

As an aside, I was reading this article about totalitarian leaders of cults. This to me suggests one reason change is so hard. Our state system has enough cult features that people are brain washed. And we know, in general, how hard that can be to effect.
+3 votes
For my own practice, it's about being committed to the ongoing confirmation and clarification of consent, in all the relationships of my life.

Not something that is achievable as a fixed goal, but the process has compelled me to consistently interrogate power and try to address harm (both in myself and others)- and that's lead me to have a much deeper sense of trust and engagement with the people around me.

If nothing else, it makes the world feel less shitty.
by (190 points)
I like the concept of "forcing" (lol the ironicism in this) someone to clarify what they want or not
Not sure where you're getting the 'forcing' from, care to clarify?
For me it's a personal commitment in how I try to communicate- from there I seek to engage with others that are willing to reciprocate. If someone is unwilling to confirm and clarify consent (ie. be clear with what is expected from me and ensure that I am committed to fulfilling those expectations) then I'll keep my distance, I'm not willing to enter potentially coercive situations if I can help it at all.
On a social level, it does lead me to challenge those that are using power to do harm, but that's a matter of pushing back against those that are doing the forcing- with the commitment to keeping check of my own actions while doing so.
0 votes
If we know that sitting on a pin causes a pain in the butt, we are not against pins, not against sitting, not against anything. To be against, is ignorance and causes needless pain... to self, to others.

Can there be an authority? That is the question to ask. Can one person, or a group of people hold all knowledge, all understanding of life?

Those who submit to another are making a huge mistake. They are simply submitting to ignorance, confining themselves and all others to one possibility of many, walking down a narrow fearful way.

Consider this scenario... in present day, Law is the authority. The judge, interpreter and executioner, and the cops agents of such.

Laws are the creation of men, therein is the underlying fallacy. Judges judgement is not always sound, not always based on real evidence, not giving total consideration of the full facts, dependent upon his/her mood, etc. In itself, a huge failure. Cops are as maladjusted individuals as anyone they wish to control.

So all in all the basis of authority can be seen for what it is, another feeble attempt to create order which merely ends in ever more disorder.

Laws do not address the real issues, neither do any of those involved in such. The whole system of Law is corrupt from the outset in the simple sense that "we will have our way, they will not".

So those who create laws decide they know better and all must abide by their better comprehension of life. Now if I say, why shouldn't I kill, take whatever I please, enslave others? Their answer is a banal "it is Law". If I push further, "on what base do you ground this Law", they'll come out with utter nonsense such as God, Civic Order, etc.

All of which ignores the issue that their God is completely absent, that their order is a continuance of disorder, that every individual going thru their system is in fact a result of their system due to the fact that their system is dog eat dog... or at least have a nibble now and again.

Authority is simply an assumed position, and not merely assumed, but one enforced. That is the failure of all authority.

If the structure of a society, collective knowledge, or whatever, was truth, there would be no need for authority as it would be so self evident as not to need any Laws, Dictates, Credo's, etc.

The fact is, men have attempted to impose a false system of values via nothing more than fear... and all fear is the result of ignorance.

Rebel indeed, against ignorance and its many offshoots, of which is a tangled mess.
by (420 points)
Anarchy is for the principle that individual consent can be withdrawn without violent consequence. It is for the the 'non-aggression principle' (do not initiate violence).
The circular non-aggression principle doesn't have much to do with anarchy. Perhaps it does with liberalism or that incoherent thing called anarcho-capitalism, but not with anarchy. Besides that isn't really an answer.
dotnetspec, anarcho-capitalists do not answer questions on this site. you can question or comment, just not answer. thanks.

How is the NAP circular? It is important to anarchy because many people are fearful for their personal safety without the State to 'protect' them. Knowing that the principle of non-aggression lies at the heart of anarchy as an ideology is an important component to making it rational and plausible.

Adding qualifiers to our characterization of anarchy is redundant. It is either anarchy or not.

The question is 'what is anarchy for?'. I answered 'anarchy is for the principle ...', 'it is for [NAP] ... '. How have I not answered the question? (of course, you may disagree with my answers but that's a different issue).

dot, this is your forum and I will therefore respect your rules. As a bit of feedback I was not aware of this stipulation and I feel it should be made clearer on signing up as people are being directed to the site as an introduction to anarchy in general. For that the Wiki might be an alternative starting point.

it's on the about us page.
–1 vote
anarchy is for collective acceptance of reality, a highly conscious society. anarchy is nothing but living like yourself without authority in all aspects of life. anarchy is a solution to all problems, answer to all questions. anarchy should be experienced.
by (80 points)
"anarchy is for collective acceptance of reality"

"anarchy is nothing but living like yourself without authority in all aspects of life"

those 2 statements sound to me like they contradict each other.

and then more of that anarchy-as-religion?  anrchaos, instead of abstract generalizations like "anarchy is a solution to all problems", maybe you could describe how anarchy is a solution to some particular problem you experience in life.

i'd also appreciate some explanation of what you mean by "conscious".
0 votes

ive got a more unorthodox take atm, in that i dont think that anarchy is 'for' or 'against' anything.  to me its more of an observation, my take on the way things flow in this world.   my observations inform my desires, and how i respond to the world, but i think that an acknowledgement of what i desribe as anarchy wouldnt necessarily result in a person who i would want to spend time with.  people are diverse and diverging, with many varying interests, and there are many ways to react to the anarchy and chaos.  no reaction is morally or ideologically ''superior''.  no, not even nazis.  if you could debate a nazi away, they wouldnt exist, so that shouldnt really be that controversial.

doesnt mean i aint down with a little bit of antifa action, or what socialist types call 'organizing', just means i would only do it for personal reasons, not some sense of ideological purity.  the fewer nazis there are, the better

by (2.1k points)
+1 vote

for me, anarchy is more than anything a way of relating. i find it describes relationships far better than it describes actors in those relationships.

i like dot's 3 starting point tenets (mutual aid, voluntary association, direct action), and they fit well with the kinds of relationships i want in my life. there is something about autonomy that i think belongs in there as well. i think i use autonomy the way some folks might use the word "freedom"; i just find freedom to be way too vague and broad a term, with far too many possible interpretations. not that one probably couldn't say the same about autonomy, but i personally find it more fitting.

i also wonder how context fits in this discussion. it doesn't seem specifically related to anarchy, yet it is such a fundamental aspect of my perspective, i have a hard time leaving it out.

by (13.4k points)