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+3 votes
Are anarchists opposed to government?/Is government the same thing as a state (if not, when does government become a state?)?

Please excuse the multiple questions in one, I feel they are related enough for a comprehensive answer. This question came to mind after various people have expressed the belief that any organization between people is inherently a form of government, and thus not anarchy.
when you can't opt out.

i like the question and have some more thoughts to maybe add later.
"various people have expressed the belief that any organization between people is inherently a form of government"

i guess i'd have to ask how those people define "organization"? when i see the words "any organization between people", it seems pretty vague and potentially so broad as to be useless. is a romantic/sexual relationship "organization"? is collaborating on any kind of project "organization"? is a group of friends having a party "organization"?

voluntary association is core principle in my own anarchic perspective (thumbs up to ba@'s response). at what point does "association" become "organization"?
if anarchists have a correct analysis of the state, then the issue of coercion looms large. those who control various state institutions have the capacity to coerce others with an implicit threat of violence and/or the periodic deployment of that violence. if Max Weber had a correct analysis of the state, then the issue of violence looms large; he posited that a state is an institution (i would say, echoing dot, that it's a set of interlocking institutions) that reserves for itself the exclusive use of legitimate violence. so to get to the heart (i think) of your question: an organization that does not have coercive or violent mechanism(s) cannot be a state or a government. naturally this opens a rather large can of worms, since coercion and violence exist on a continuum, but the basis of each is a belief in the so-called naturalness of hierarchy. so to refine my perspective further, an organization that does not have coercive mechanisms, that does not engage in violent activities, and that is explicitly against hierarchy cannot be a state or a government. there's this concept of "self-organization" that might be interesting to examine...
boles, that comment could probably be an answer.

"a belief in the so-called naturalness of hierarchy."

that belief scratches at the roots of my own anarchic perspective.

1 Answer

+1 vote

yes. anarchists are opposed to government. i recognize there are people who say that self-government is the anarchist ideal, but i reject that for precisely the confusion it sows about what governance means. i would call government an aspect of The State, which is an amorphous thing that includes history, psychology, culture, rigid hierarchy, etc.
For Deleuze and Guattari, then, the state is an abstract form or model rather than a concrete institution, which essentially rules through more minute institutions and practices of domination. The state “overcodes” these dominations, stamping them with its imprint. Therefore, the state has no essence itself, but is rather an “assemblage,” or even a process of “capture.”

that's quoting metalist from http://anarchy101.org/8403/the-role-of-state-today?show=8403#q8403

i would say, bouncing off of that, that a government is a concrete institution, a manifestation of the abstraction that is The State. and that by definition it involves alienation of people from acting for themselves. there is some space between how people join groups to work together (anarchist), and how people also band together to associate themselves with people who are doing things (less anarchist? not anarchist? to the extent it is about representation), or associate themselves with ideas without necessarily much doing at all.

as f@ alludes, some of these definitional questions just move the space in question. association is certainly one that comes up for me, here, also.

this could easily be a comment. i just felt like committing this morning.

by (52.8k points)
edited by
dot, would you say that "self-control" is a better term and "self-governance"? I personally don't like either term, i think there is a big problem with the way people now adays view control, to elaborate i might have to steal some quotes from lao tzu about being yielding like a river lol
Lao tzuuuuuuu ayyyyyy my man
LXXVII or 78?
in the world there is nothing more weak and yielding than water.  yet for attacking that which is hard and strong nothing can surpass it.

XXII or 22
yield and overcome;
bend and be straight

or as it is translated in my version

bowed down then preserved;
bent then straight

which is a touch less approachable :|

sorry I'm high, saw Lao Tzu, and got excited
happy you posted this, nothing like vague poetic expressions from the ancients!

i guess what i am trying to say is that an anarchist would recognize that control in this world we live in is a double edged sword, you might be able to go wall street and make millions of dollars, but then you are working much of the time and don't have much of a way to spend your money, so the extra power that you've gained through working is futile in some ways.