Note that the site is in archived, read-only mode. You can browse and read, but posting is disabled.
Welcome to Anarchy101 Q&A, where you can ask questions and receive answers about anarchism, from anarchists.

Note that the site is in archived, read-only mode. You can browse and read, but posting is disabled.


+1 vote
I see a lot of "anarcho" capitalists throw this question out there and I never seemed to figure out an answer for it.
by (180 points)

2 Answers

+3 votes
First, there are quite a few "How do you stop [x, y, or z] in an Anarchist society" questions on this site, and they may be helpful in thinking through the premises and possibilities. I don't feel like rehashing that here, though someone else may. Here's a sampling:

Second, as to capitalism specifically, arguably capitalism is impossible in an anarchist society, if the terms are properly defined. Capitalism relies on the state to the extent that state forces are what keep people in (or returning to) capitalist relations. For example, the reality or threat of police violence, imprisonment, and other coercive measures keep people from subverting, abandoning and destroying capitalist means of relating. (There is a sidebar here about people's willingness or even desire to participate in their own subordination, which I will leave for another time/place, and not because I don't think it's valid!) This has been argued before on the site, including here:

With this understanding, we would see that "anarcho-capitalism" is not really anarchist in the sense that it relies on police and prisons which, even if they are privatized, are not substantially less statist than other means of social control.

It is probably clear how this all relates to your question. It is entirely possible, if we reject the idea of Anarchist Social Revolutionary Totality, for anarchist groupings to inhabit a world that is also inhabited by capitalist groupings. Well, that is the reality today, but we could also, as outlined in Desert, see a shift of power and a slippage in social control that would allow anarchists and others to have more regions of autonomy than are present today, but without a total annihilation of capitalism. In that scenario, there are a lot of ways the capitalist hubs could be hindered, deserted, weakened, destroyed, and so on, as influenced by the limits and possibilities and ingenuities of the situation. I just don't think there is any way to say "This is how capitalism would be stopped" in a generalized hypothetical world, and moreover it is a game I do not want to play, as it asks the argument to step into the realm of more-or-less state policy, or pretending to be 'anarchist' generals, politicians and bureaucrats.
by (20.5k points)
good answer.  and this:

"With this understanding, we would see that "anarcho-capitalism" is not really anarchist in the sense that it relies on police and prisons which, even if they are privatized, are not substantially less statist than other means of social control."

... is key in specifically responding to a typical ancap argument of "protecting private property is not done by the state, but by private security firms".  the fact that enforcement is not done by a state, but by some other institution, is somehow supposed to make it all "anarchist" and shit. lol!
'Ancaps' love to tell us two things: 'anarchy' means 'no state'; while it actually meant 'no rule(r)"; they also tell us that 'hier-archy' can be 'an-archy.' Rule by a 'high-priest' (hierarchy) is not a condition with no rulers. Recall the Pharaoh, yo.

It's just the 'high-priest' and the priesthood itself has changed masks, and Leviathan-the-world-eater keeps munching away while they get rich off it!
But anarcho-capitalists do not have that understanding and in fact they think it is incorrect. Anarcho-capitalists define capitalism as the ability to freely associate and form contracts with one another, but not necessarily to concentrate capital disproportionately.

Enforcement of these contracts does not require the state or police or even private firms. One can imagine all sorts of social constraints and informal groupings that might serve the purpose without being incompatible with anarchism.

Now the real problem, to get back to the original question, is that capitalism as agreements between people which will be enforced by those people and/or their friends and family does in fact seem to hard to avoid in any type of society, and without specific forms of hierarchical control to stop it, it seems like it will unavoidably turn into capitalism as the disproportionate concentration of capital and power into a smaller number of hands and the formation of institutional forms of enforcement such as courts, police and prisons.

So maybe a better way to think of this question is how do you stop capitalism from arising in the course of your anarchist relations with others? This is easy to answer today when anarchy is a narrowly delimited aspect of our lives and we continue to rely on the existing capitalist relations for most of our needs. But in a world in which no capitalist system was there to supply us with anything, it seems harder to answer.
Sweater Fish;  my dear Sweater Fish;  (sigh).

"capitalism as agreements between people " - (sigh)
You can as well define astronomy as 'fairy frosting upon the stars'; that doesn't make your definition not fucking nonsense.  [Not that i dislike nonsense, but i prefer to keep it closer to home, and out in the sunshine, thank you.]

Capital.  What part of Capital do you not fucking understand?
Capital - the accumulation of resources through violence; the holding of those resources, through violence; the expansion of those resources, Through Violence.  What part of Capital do you Not Fucking UnderStand!

Now if you were to call your "agreements between people" something like 'customary economics' or 'agreements between people (not enforceable by some imaginary sorta-state)' or something vaguely else, well fine.  But when you take a term like 'Capital', so loaded with history and blood....
Capital is that which keeps the hungry from the food that will be thrown in the dump, which keeps the homeless from the houses left forever empty, which...
Capital is that which i long to drive my knife into its neck, and burn its rancid corpse.

Call it what you will; it is dieing, and we will send it well on its way.
How do you stop "capitalist acts between consenting adults"?
+2 votes
there would be no need to do so, because an anarchist society (whatever that means) could not possibly include capitalism. if it did, it would not be anarchist.
by (13.4k points)
Yep. Perhaps an even more concise way way to answer this the question would be to simply ask "How did it start?". If it's really an "anarchist society" then....