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0 votes
I read in an anarchist 101 type pamphlet that anarchists are egalitarians who seek the creation (in a long term and immediate sense) of egalitarian social relationships and equality between people.  And yet in other places, I have read critiques of "equality" as an abstracting, limiting, and quantifying view of humanity tied to liberalism and capitalism.  I understand anarchism to be a critique of capitalism and liberalism.

Are anarchists egalitarians?

2 Answers

+1 vote
Egalitarianism and equality are not necessarily the same things in the way your are bringing them up. Egalitarianism as anarchists use it normally refers to social relations lacking coercive or rigidly hierarchical structures.

Often times when anarchists critique concepts of equality, they are referring to legal definitions of equality - affirmative action programs, state controlled redistribution of the wealth, and so forth. Often times equality as used in contemporary North American politics is either a code word for further state control or else is so detached of any real meaning (pay attention, if you can stomach it, to how campaigning politicians discuss equality for examples).

The critique of equality often also extends to ideas that all of us should have exactly the same social standing, which is both impossible and not really desirable. We are not all equal, but perhaps we can aim to live in ways where we don't dominate each other.
by (22.1k points)
i would just like to add to ingrate's answer that while we could operate on the understanding that the anarchists who promote "egalitarian relationships" and "equality" are just using the words in a good way (usually under the rationale that they want to be able to speak to people who don't think about the nuances that ingrate explains), it is also reasonable to be suspicious of people who ignore the problems of the words and concepts that are appealing in a repressive society, and to consider them demagogues.

i think that perhaps the most important thing that anarchists do (in various ways) is to encourage a deep questioning of the things that people take for granted, *especially* things that people think of positively, like equality, love, freedom, etc.

people who just play on those assumptions are usually trying to manipulate people, even/especially for "the people's own good."
+2 votes
I understand egalitarianism as either (a) no one has a privilege that everyone else doesn't also have, (b) everyone has direct access to what they need, (c) everyone has direct input in decisions that affect them, (c) diversity exists without power hierarchies and exploitation of labor.

Anthropologists distinguish between egalitarian societies, ranked societies, and class-based societies, and I find these distinctions useful. I don't like the term "equality" because to me it can too easily become a vehicle for authoritarian conformity.

Two texts I find useful here are "Egalitarian Societies" by James Woodburn, and "How Hunter-Gatherers Maintained Their Egalitarian Ways" by Peter Gray, both available online.

The wikipedia entry for "egalitarianism" has mentions one definition as "a social philosophy advocating the removal of economic inequalities among people or the decentralization of power", so we can see obvious parallels to anarchism.
by (8.9k points)