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+2 votes
Who is more attracted to Anarchism, intellectuals or ordinary people
by (560 points)

""I think it would make for a more desirable world if people who under int. stopped that shit than if everything was dumbed down to where everyone else can understand it".

Mighty compassionate. Why not just line them up against a wall, bang, bang. If schooling is dumbing down, can the students help but being dumb?"

while ill admit "stop that shit" was an oversimplification that ignores individuals strengths and weaknesses, as intelligence isn't everyone's strength, I was more trying to say what others are getting at here, that it isn't everyone's responsibility to dumb things down, its either you can get it with additional studies and using your noodle or you cant.

If you knew anything about Harrison Bergeron, you would know that I think killing all dumb people so everyone is smart is equally as great a tragedy as outfitting the strongest and smartest among us with devices to lower them to everyone else.

"What if they have little time due to the demands of their job, family commitments, or whatever?

Then Option 2 is probably their best choice."

Option 2 was: "don't participate in the discussion". That seems to me too exclusive, too cold and unwelcoming. What I was getting at is, why not have a simple overview, not dumbing down as some put it, just straight talking language. Why does Anarchism need an expansive intricate philosophy?

"Perhaps people want to join in a discussion to understand more, but the arrogance of your reply may in fact be very off putting.

If you're feeling put off, I'm perfectly fine with that. I'm not here to "convert" you."

I'm getting used to your sharp tongue, implicit put downs and the like. I know you're not here to convert, but sometimes it seems like territorial pissing.

"What is the purpose of Anarchy 101 Q&A if not for those who want answers to submit questions.

This is actually one area in which I kind of agree with you. Not to step on the toes of anyone who maintains this website, but I think that the title of Anarchy101 is a wee bit misleading."

The answer here I like, not just for content but for its humanity. A statement, but not laying down the law, and yeah, lacking arrogance laugh.

"A few seem to have way too many rules by which everyone should abide by.

How is your own lack of familiarity with a particular topic a "rule" that other people are imposing on you? You're the one who decided to jump into a debate that I was having with edclear and, when it became obvious that you were in over your head, you make me out to be the bad guy for not going easy on you. How does that even make sense?"

It doesn't make sense as I wasn't necessarily firing a shot at you, guilty conscience? I've been reading through much material here, some going back years, and there seems to be a recurring trend of closing down those who do not seem to agree!

And not so. I never felt out of my depth, just what you were saying was half irrelevant, and/or extreme, blunt, as I said before to you. So don't take this too personal.

We touched upon the the "ineffability of communication". I'm left wondering if we can ever develop a clear means of exchange with the written word.

What I was getting at is, why not have a simple overview, not dumbing down as some put it, just straight talking language. Why does Anarchism need an expansive intricate philosophy?

Here you go:


Cool, nice site. I'll spend a lot of time there. Even dictionary definitions for a dumbass like me laugh. Genuinely, thanks.

I would say sometimes anarchism can be overly complicated and can be a bit too abstract for me sometimes. Regarding if it's too "intellectualirized," I'd say no and one doesn't need to be an intellectual to grasp the basic ideas of it.

3 Answers

0 votes
perhaps, and I am basing this on the P-leftist idea that people are uninterested in anarchy for the same reason they don't vote or follow state politics. The ideological and intellectual discourse is, or atleast seems irrelevant, boring. and alienated from their daily lives. which I think is the basis for the PL emphasis on lived experience over ideology.

edit: as much as I hate to say it, and love to read dot and others words, many people are just too dumb to understand, to apathetic to care, or too lazy to read/not literate enough.
by (890 points)
DD, while you're certainly correct that there are plenty of intellectually lazy people in the world, i find that as a response to any particular thing (why more people aren't interested in anarchy for one off-the-top-of-my-head example) it's intellectually lazy itself. the anarchist version of "they hate us for our freedoms" (what bush said after 9/11 as a catch all reason for why anyone might hate americans). it's better for me personally (and the conversations i'm interested in) to be more challenging about why people do what they do (or don't do what they don't do, i guess). msr and frere dupont texts are really good examples of this.
and ingrate, i reject you calling novatore, et al non-intellectuals. they were absolutely intellectuals (a silly subjective definition of intellectual is anyone who reads and understands nietzsche... ;) ), and intellectual and academic MUST be separated. because fuck academia, obviously. but maybe you have some other association/definition going on that you could clue me in on?
you are saying that, blaming uniterest entirely on people being to lazy to read or learn was a bit lazy, and hasty of an answer when it is probably much more nuanced? checks out

indeed! ;)
–3 votes

Dot didn't write: "[Anarchism is] intellectually lazy itself."

Absolutely. As unfortunate as it is to admit, there is a strong current of populist anti-intellectualism within the anarchist milieu itself. The irony is that this same tendency can be seen within Donald Trump's core base of supporters, who have stylized themselves as these "John Q. Everyman, Working Class Hero" types who are taking on the globalist corporate fat cats who want to ship their jobs overseas. While I would agree that institutionalized academia definitely needs to be critiqued, critiquing it on the grounds that it's "too intellectual" is just code for saying "I'm too stupid to understand what those ivory academics are talking about." It's certainly a valid critique to say that academia as a bureaucratic institution reflects the capitalist mental/manual division of labour and, as such, reduces "the Intellectual" to a 'specialist' or 'expert' in intellectual activity. It also isn't entirely inaccurate to say that universities have, to a significant extent, become havens for self-righteous left-activist PC police who want to cram their sensibilities down everyone else's throats. 

However, it is nothing less than a celebration of idiocy to conclude from all this that anarchists need to be "less intellectual." If anything, it's an argument for highjacking the intellectual tools that universities make available and using them for our own purposes. It would also be a mistake to say that this anti-intellectual streak is the sole province of the 'leftist' contingent of the anarchist milieu because I've seen it expressed among certain segments of the 'anti-civ' tendency as well. Without mentioning any names, it is particularly common among those who refuse to even engage with certain concepts and theorists because they're deemed to be too 'Postmodern,' too 'elitist,' too 'esoteric,' etc. This attitude is particularly common among those for whom anthropology is considered to be the Holy Grail of the social sciences. ;) So, no, I don't buy the idea that anarchists are "too intellectual." If anything, they aren't intellectual enough and need to seriously ratchet up their intellectual game.

by (840 points)
edited by

thanks for demonstrating that i was unclear. i was TRYING to say that saying that people-are-stupid-because-they-aren't-interested-in-anarchism is lazy.

edit: thanks for the correction ;)

Well, this is embarrassing. frown Sorry, I didn't mean to put words in your mouth. But, in my defence, that's honestly how I interpreted what you were saying based on my best efforts to parse that sentence. And, for what it's worth, I agree that it's intellectually lazy to suggest that people are uninterested in anarchism because they're stupid. What I was trying to get at (and what I mistakenly assumed you were trying to get at) is that many people are probably uninterested in anarchism because they see it as intellectually lazy - and, in my estimation, there's probably a large degree of truth to that. Am I completely out of line for suggesting that there is a pronounced anti-intellectual tendency running through a large segment of anarchist discourse? I don't think so but maybe you disagree.

i think most people don't feel interested in anarchy out of fear. and i don't think reading a long, "intellectual" piece of writing will make them more matter how much thought the writer puts into it. i think most people get moved to act or think differently from their experiences of life that affect them in a deep, emotional way....including the stories of other people.

most all of the stuff i've read related to anarchy resonates with me, yeah, i feel the same way even if i never expressed it that particular way before, or maybe i didn't see some of the deeper causes of those feelings until reading someone's analysis....but rarely, if ever, do i read something "intellectually sound", and think, oh right, what was i thinking all these years, i didn't see any of this before, now i see the light!
BAA I like how you put that, I said something similar, except that people aren't interested because they are Intellectually lazy, its because of how you said more personal things are stronger motivators to act.


Personally, when I engage in any sort of intellectual debate, my goal is never to simply persuade others to my way of thinking. It's to challenge people to think more critically about their assumptions and hopefully have them challenge me to do the same. As I said to CB, I'm not looking to gain converts. However, it's been my experience that, when the people involved in a particular debate are working at cross purposes - i.e. when someone is trying to persuade and the other is trying to both challenge and be challenged - it usually just winds up going no where.

I'm not naive enough to think that emotions don't play a substantial role in the views that people hold or even that those emotions don't have a certain degree of validity. However, when they are used as an excuse to bury one's head in the sand and insulate oneself against critique, it starts to become a problem. I'm not interested in just reading things that re-enforce what I already think, I'm interested in reading things that challenge me to think in new ways. Nor do I only want to talk to people who will tell me what I want to hear. However, there's a huge difference between someone who challenges you through the strength of their argument rather than the dogmatism with they cling to their own perspective.

no worries MD, i totally get that my writing can be anaerobic. and i only (strongly) disagree with the global nature of the comment "anarchism is intellectually lazy" (since anarchism is so many things, many of them are worth defending, imo).


I have to admit that I was, at least to an extent, deliberately overgeneralizing in order to provoke a more spirited discussion. With that said, I should probably clarify the precise sense in which the overgeneralization was intended. The statement "anarchism is intellectually lazy" doesn't necessarily imply that any body of ideas that might be grouped under the heading of 'anarchism' is intellectually lazy. And, even if it did, this wouldn't imply that anarchism isn't worth defending. Intellectual laziness enters the picture at a more fundamental level than the ideas themselves - i.e. the fact that people continue to speak of 'anarchism' as an exhaustive and self-contained doctrine despite the fact that it clearly isn't one. Like you said, anarchism isn't any one particular thing, it's a whole bunch of different things.

This ties into the distinction between 'anarch-y' and 'anarch-ism.' Up to a point, we can probably blame the limitations of Language itself for the tendency to speak of 'anarchism' as a self-contained doctrine, but I'm not convinced that this puts the matter to rest. To say that people who uncritically don the label of 'anarchist' only do so because the restrictive nature of Language doesn't provide them with any other options strikes as intellectually lazy in itself. The tendency to cling to a label like a life raft runs a lot deeper than the finite number of available labels that people might use to describe themselves. 

For quite some time, I've believed that an 'anarchist' is someone who wants to create a world in which the existence of anarchists is no longer necessary. I'm not sure how this can happen as long as people remain so attached to the 'anarchist' label that it clouds their ability to think intelligently and critically about how the social identity of "the Anarchist" is yet another reified social role that is produced within the matrix of global capitalism itself.

MD, i never said i like to read what i already think, but that reflect what i already feel. and the reading can then further my thought, or deepen my understanding of those feelings (and sometimes not).

in my experience, people usually challenge their thought patterns as a result of what they feel....most commonly, pain, frustration, despair, sickness, anger, etc.....not that those emotions automatically lead to change (or pursuit of change)....most often people don't change the way they look at life much at all...but if one does desire to alter their thoughts or ideas, it usually gets preceded by deep emotions, some sort of dissatisfaction, or by a desire for something different (joy, balance, creativity) than what they currently experience. and i think what most overrides the willingness to look at life differently (despite pain and suffering) results from fear....something authoritarian thoughts, people, institutions have done a great job of instilling.

DD, thanks, i appreciate your comment.


Do you think there's anything to be gained from reading something that directly contradicts what you already feel? Speaking purely for myself, if I'm having feelings that are based on distorted perceptions or otherwise aren't serving me well, then I'd like to know if that's the case; and that can't happen if I'm only reading things that re-enforce what I already feel.

MD,, in personal situations or relationships, sometimes, yes....especially if i want to understand another individual, or if i want to sort out feelings and emotions i experienced in relationship to them.

but when it comes to institutions and ideology, almost always, no. for example, the feelings and reactions i had when forced to go to school...feelings of resentment, of being controlled and constrained, it doesn't matter how many essays or articles i might read about the necessity and "good" things about compulsory school in terms of changing my view. most everything i read already comes into that category. so i look to read things that speak to those emotions i had, and then i often read in depth critiques or different points of view regarding that institution that perhaps i hadn't thought of before....some of those things i reject, while others open me up to other aspects i hadn't considered.

generally, i trust my feelings and instincts.


getting back to anarchy/ felt like such a relief to read stuff that spoke to my emotions related to hierarchy and authority, that i wanted to read everything i could about it. 

up to that point, almost everything i'd ever read, heard from friends, strangers, seen on t.v., etc. did contradict what i to begin reading more that i resonated with emotionally, and then getting unique perspectives on everything behind those ideologies of authority helped me feel more alive and able to act on those feelings.

with most people i know, they actually do read a lot of things that contradict what they feel, just like i did, even though it doesn't contradict what they think. and they usually suppress those feelings in order to go along with what they keep hearing from authority that's why i say i think it comes down to an emotional awareness first, before someone will read and think about things in a different way (no matter how "intellectual" the writing).

Personally, I'm not entirely convinced that thoughts and feelings can be so easily separated. The thoughts that a person chooses to have are, to a large extent, selected on the basis of feeling. That being the case, the idea that something can contradict what you feel but not what you think doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. Like you, I also trust my feelings and instincts, but part of trusting my feelings and instincts is a willingness to admit to myself when they might be causing me to see things unclearly.

regarding the feelings not matching the thoughts....and in my discussion here, i mean to keep relating this back to the desire for anarchy vs. authority.....

for example, many people think that school, jobs, money, government will make them feel happier, safer, secure, etc......but the feelings they often get from those concepts - pain, fear, frustration, anxiety - contradict those thoughts....yet the thoughts of wanting to keep those concepts alive persist, despite the feelings.

for me to understand you better, perhaps you could give me an example where you radically changed your thoughts/perspective on something that was not initiated by emotions and feelings. and i'd find it interesting to know why you changed (or even had the desire to change) that perspective.

in my life, i came to read about anarchy once i really started giving more attention to the pain i felt from authority...something i did often as a young person (i tried to escape first grade during my first week, i skipped almost every class in my second year of high school, i ran away from home, briefly, at 16), but then i gave in for a while to the dominant thoughts of authority and control. once i began to acknowledge those feelings again (and they began mounting one on top of the other as i rolled into my early 30's), i started seeking out people and writing that also expressed those feelings, and i read stuff that delved into how these thought patterns came about, how they persist and get reinforced, and used that to deconstruct the language of hierarchy, to find ways to talk about it, and to act on those feelings. had i not given my senses and emotions that attention, i doubt i'd be on an anarchy site spilling my thoughts into cyberspace right now. :)

"for me to understand you better, perhaps you could give me an example where you radically changed your thoughts/perspective on something that was not initiated by emotions and feelings."

I'm not saying that emotions should be sacrificed in favour of intelligence. Quite the opposite, actually. I'm saying that there is no binary choice between intelligence and emotion. To choose intelligence over emotion would be no more intelligent than choosing emotion over intelligence. What you call "feeling," I would describe as intuition. To me, Intellect and Intuition are not opposed to each other but are, instead, complementary aspects of one and the same process - i.e. "Thinking" itself. Valuing one aspect over the other would quite literally be valuing one hemisphere of the brain over the other.

When I said in my previous comment that "part of trusting my feelings and instincts is a willingness to admit to myself when they might be causing me to see things unclearly," this doesn't mean that I can't use those very feelings and instincts to help me discern the lack of clarity and how I might overcome it. However, I can only accomplish this if I make use of an intelligent intuition rather than choosing one over the other. This false opposition is precisely what so-called "Enlightenment" rationalism got wrong - and it is long overdue for Intellect and Intuition to be placed on complementary rather than oppositional footing.

i didn't say there was a binary choice between emotions and thoughts, or that they are opposed to each other. that's your interpretation of what i wrote, but far from my meaning.

i don't sense we're much closer to understanding each other here, or that you're interpreting my comments in the way i've intended them.. it seems like we're having our own separate conversation about different i'll bow out for now.
I think this is what you'd call a two-sided miscommunication. But, yeah, I think you're probably right that we're talking about completely different things. No worries, it happens.
+2 votes

i do not think the fundamental concepts that constitute the basis for anarchist thought are in any way complicated or require any particularly intellectual skills or approaches to grasp.

i do think that many of the writings (and often discussions) that attempt to express and elaborate on (or in far too many cases, "define") these concepts can be over-intellectualized. i think of that as a "feature" of the education/academic institutions that this system/society relies on for its own perpetuation. and of course just the differences in individual makeup, desires, etc.

i often refer to a good friend and neighbor of mine, who had a 6th grade "education", and a very rough life. he was considered (by the more educated/academically inclined) illiterate and stupid. my friend and i had many, many hours of interesting discussions with him, particularly around the concepts of anarchy and how the government, capitalism and mass society relate to them. he had absolutely no problem understanding everything we talked about, and needless to say, he had strong anarchistic tendencies. in fact, to this day i have never met anyone who embodied the phrase "live and let live" more than him. RIP greg.

by (13.4k points)