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What makes someone an anarchist?

+3 votes
If anarchists disagree with each other so much, how do you tell who is one, and who isn't?
asked May 16, 2012 by anonymous

2 Answers

+3 votes
Rejection of capitalism and the state (among other things - but the core points are being against political and economic hierarchies).

As long as there's agreement on those two points, there's anarchism.
answered May 17, 2012 by Rice Boy (8,680 points)
Some of those other things to consider are work and civilization.
Yep! And opposition to forms of, ah, "social domination" I guess you could say - institutional and individual racism, sexism, heterosexism, etcetera etcetera. . .

But I think these things come as very slightly secondary to capitalism and the state. If an anarchist happens to be kind of a sexist douche, they wouldn't necessarily be called "not an anarchist" but maybe "not an anarchist I would like to be around". On the other hand, if someone were to defend the necessity or desirability of some level of capitalism or statehood, then people would probably be pretty quick to say that that person is not an anarchist at all.
i would add religion as a core institution to reject as an anarchist. i see the state, capitalism (or any form of institutional economy), and religion as the primary pillars of the modern world (or even civilization itself). they are all institutional hierarchies, they are completely co-dependent and incestuous, and i would critically question anyone claiming to be an anarchist that supports any of them.
Not every religion has to be hierarchical and I am convinced that some aren't. It's not even every religion requires it's followers to convert others.
name a religion that is not hierarchical? or that does not require the individual to submit their will to that of some higher power or cause? unless you are defining religion in some new (-age) way... which would make this discussion completely uninteresting to me.

i said nothing of conversion attempts, as that is far more widespread than religion. jews don't try to convert others.... does that make them anarchistic?
funky, like you, i reject religion, although i perceive aspects of taoism that have appeal for me.

from Wikipedia:  In general, Taoism rejects the Confucianist emphasis on rituals, hierarchical social order, and conventional morality, and favors naturalness, spontaneity, and individualism instead.
baa: i wholeheartedly support (and practice) the idea of taking whatever makes sense, from any school of thought/philosophy/etc, and tossing the rest.  and sometimes what makes sense may not be clearly anarchistic in nature. i don't see things as black and white, and sometimes the gray areas may not be what i most desire, but rather what i see as the best choice in that context.

that said, i have a hard time thinking of the term "religion" in the context of anarchy.

from merriam-webster:

"the belief in a god or in a group of gods

an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods"

from britannica:

"human beings’ relation to that which they regard as holy, sacred, absolute, spiritual, divine, or worthy of especial reverence."

i know some folks have considered various strains of taoism or buddhism to be more philosophies than religions. i don't know enough about them to have a strong opinion.

but ultimately, i don't really care what others "believe". as long as it does not impose on me or those i care about. if it is someone i care about, i may well challenge them on those beliefs. and i guess it just annoys me when someone that believes in a "higher power" calls themselves anarchist.

faith, belief, religion... those terms share a certain underlying implication for me, which makes them ultimately uninteresting.
funky, i believe (as a result of experience, so maybe some wouldn't call that belief) in unseen power, but not a "higher" power.

i don't know whether or not most people consider taoism a religion, but the description of it i listed as "rejecting hierarchy and morality" and "favoring individuality" appeals to me. Alan Watts wrote a few books that speak to taoist concepts, and when i read them i didn't experience much (if any at all) dogma surrounding it, like the religions i've encountered over the years.

my knowledge of taoism and my belief in unseen powers doesn't seem to me to conflict in any way with anarchy.

like you, i don't care what others "believe" unless someone attempts to impose those beliefs upon me.
+3 votes
The following test is remarkably accurate:

1. Does the person in question consider him or herself to be an anarchist?

2. If the person in question encounters another randomly-selected anarchist, is the latter likely to want to attack the former if they have a fairly comprehensive knowledge of their ideas and actions?

If the answers are "yes" to 1 and "no" to 2, the person in question is an anarchist. Otherwise, they are not.
answered May 17, 2012 by anok (18,980 points)
anok, the relational aspect of this answer is fantastic. so much more thought provoking than anything i was coming up with.
of course, the "fairly comprehensive knowledge of their ideas and actions" could be a real sticking point for this, but a great thought exercise anyway.
you're only a real anarchist if the answer to both of these is yes.
asker: LOL!
you're right too, of course!
i see a possibility that the answer to both could be no, and someone could still be considered an anarchist by another person. for example, i didn't identify with the label at all for the majority of my life, yet i think my ideas and actions during that time of non-identification would very likely be perceived by others as anarchist. looking back, i see it that way myself.

edit: when thinking about anok's answer and my (and others') comments, i feel like i'm inside an endless loop...yes/no/yes/no/yes/no/yes
...